In celebration of its release half a century ago comes Small Faces‘ Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake 50th Anniversary Edition (Charly/Snapper), a lavish 3-CD/1 DVD collection honoring that classic album. Decades since its original release in 1968, the album was the band’s pièce de résistance, a wondrous collision of whimsy and sonic magic, immaculate song craft and hazy experimentation, traversing a wide and eclectic array of styles numbering hard rock, pastoral folk, jaunty vaudeville, space soul and power pop. Today, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake is hailed alongside other groundbreaking concept albums as The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper, The Pretty Things‘ SF Sorrow and The Who’s Tommy as a watershed musical statement.
Inventive and soulful, the album offers a deep bounty of pleasures. The power pop rush of “Afterglow,” wields massive explosive energy and a passionate Steve Marriott vocal that can peel wallpaper. The vaudevillian pub rock sing-along numbers “Lazy Sunday” and “HappyDaysToyTown,” supercharged power rock of “Song Of A Baker, which sports a spectacular Hendrix-flavored solo by Marriott, folk speckled “Mad John,” the space rock experimental jewel, “The Journey,” and the snake charmer blues rock boogie of “Rollin’ Over,” a sonic precursor to Marriott’s next band, Humble Pie, are among the gems found on this magnificent record.
Housed in a beautiful hardback book packed with rare photos and archival ephemera and incisive informative text, This exceptional new collection includes the mono and stereo version of the album plus a disc of outtakes showcasing alternate US mixes, session takes, backing tracks and alternate versions. The DVD presents the group’s legendary June 21, 1968 performance on the U.K. music show Colour Me Pop, showcasing renditions of seven songs culled from the album plus the original Immediate Records promo for “Lazy Sunday.”
This classic album has been reissued many times through the years but this definitive presentation of the record earns high marks. Highly recommended.
We spoke with Small Faces drummer Kenney Jones who reflects on the group’s legacy.
How did being mods come into play for the Small Faces?
Kenney Jones: We were all mods before we were in the Small Faces. We had all identified individually with what we wanted to be before we had actually met. It was absolutely amazing that when we all bumped into each other we had absolutely similar fashion senses, similar outlook. The reason is because we were the first young generation after the war. I remember growing up as a kid in black and white. And really, everybody wore black and white, and we were the people to wear color, and it was amazing. We started to wear all these bright things, and it was all right to dye your hair then. A lot of mods actually dyed their hair blonde. It wasn’t called dyed, it was called bleaching your hair then.
How did things change for the Small Faces with the move from Decca to Immediate Records under the guidance of Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham?
What happened was we were given more studio time to do what we wanted. Andrew Oldham would just encourage us to stay and play and do what we want so we did. We had a lot more time to just experiment.”
Once the band moved over to Immediate Records, with Glyn Johns overseeing the sessions, you began to use Olympic Studios as a sonic workshop to hash out ideas and record new music.
In Olympic Studios there was an echo chamber room with one speaker and a mike. Glyn and I used to love it. We used to go down there and re-position it and come back up and feed it through the desk and you’d get this lovely ambient sound. That’s how Glyn got that great big sustained snare and tom tom sound, which is fantastic and we were the first to do that.
In what way did Glyn Johns contribute to the band’s sound?
We had the good fortune of working with Glyn Johns as an engineer and he progressed with the sound—new tape machines, more toys. I hated hanging about in the studio so I’d be downstairs working on my mini outside the studio nine times out of ten because I hated waiting about. And a roadie would come down and say, ‘Right, okay, Steve’s got it down now, you can come up and do the drums now’ and half the time I never even heard the song. We’d just run through it once or twice and we’d get it.”
What made The Small Faces stick out from your fellow British rock brethren?
One thing I like about The Small Faces is the arrangements are so different and so good. Some people call us a rock and roll band. Well, we never ever played rock and roll. We wrote songs and we played them. We didn’t have a rock and roll style. We were unique. It’s a bit like The Beatles; they were not a rock and roll band. Rock was an element that was a thread that ran through what we were doing but mainly the songs were brand new, fresh and inventive.
Small Faces never made it over here to play live shows. Looking back, was that a mistake?
I bitterly regret we never conquered America. We were watching The Beatles do it, The Stones, The Who and The Kinks. We should have been alongside there. If we’d have gone to America we would have made it big and probably stayed together and our music would have changed for the better in America. All we wanted to do was get rid of our teenybopper image and we could have done in America.
The Small Faces and Faces were inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame concurrently. How did the success of The Faces in the U.S. lead others to get turned onto the Small Faces?
I think when the Faces first went over to America, people wanted to know more about us and did their homework and realized three of us were in the Small Faces. So in many ways the Faces put the Small Faces on the map in America.
If the Small Faces had stayed together and Steve hadn’t left, what direction musically do you think you would have gone in?
I think we would have been messing around with the same music we played between us all. As a new instrument came out, we would have been using it to our advantage. Who knows? I think we would have done wonderful stuff! I think the Brit-pop movement now are doing it for us. They’re taking the best elements of Small Faces, and they’re making a new flavor of ice cream.
Are you flattered by the respect the band gets now?
I can see a lot of bands, a lot of drummers, playing like me, which is really strange. I’m incredibly flattered, and I can see similarities in Ronnie, Steve and Mac in the look of the bands now. Of all the bands in the ’60s, the biggest-hyped bands were the Stones and the Beatles, basically, but we were right there and we were quite big at the time. The record company kept releasing these poppy records—but it was our fault, we wrote them. So nobody would listen to the album tracks, and the album tracks were bloody great. We were a lot heavier band than people gave us credit for, but we could never lose that pop image—which, funnily enough, I’m actually quite proud of now, because there is strength in the pop side of music. I think it’s actually been abundantly clear now, people have actually realized it’s not just pop, it’s just a commercial record. Pop is just a term and you can actually still be heavy under that label.
What’s the legacy of the Small Faces?
We were way before our time. When young people discover the Small Faces today I’m pleased to know the songs stand the test of time. And that isn’t surprising, as the songs had great meaningful content. The songs tell the truth and the proof lies in the songs, the performances and the creativity of the band. None of us knew how good and ahead of our time we were.
Retro-Active is written by Ken Sharp, who can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 818-986-9715