The Small Faces

All or Nothing

Wolverhampton Grand


They say if you remember the 60s you weren’t there, but I was and I do, at least some of it – I was even at the 1966 World Cup final at Wembley with my mate Jimmy Rosser, sat almost opposite the goal line for that disputed score.

It was a time when youth, and England, ruled the world, or we thought we did, when imported US music from the likes of Bill Haley and Buddy Holly were joined first by British rock ’n’ rollers such as Cliff Richard and then bands such as The Who, The Kinks, The Beatles and The Small Faces.

You were either a Mod or a Rocker, at least that is how newspapers and TV saw youth culture and The Small Faces were definitely Mod, sharp dressers and dedicated to R&B.

All or Nothing is one of the better jukebox, biog musicals which all too often have a paper thin plot with no real story leading to a second act tribute band concert.

Here there is a story which could stand alone and which is cleverly told by writer Carol Harrison by having Steve Marriot, the driving force behind the band, as both the young driven musician, played by Samuel Pope, and as his older, and less angry and up-tight ghost, played by Chris Simmons, acting as a narrator.

small faces

Stanton Wright as Ronnie Lane, Stefan Edwards as Kenny Jones, Samuel Pope as the young Steve Marriot and Josh Maddison as Ian McLagan

The older Marriot starts on beer and progresses to harder stuff and cigarettes of, perhaps, a herbal nature, as the show progresses towards its sad end and an emotional acoustic All or Nothing. Slowly, scene by scene, he becomes more drunk, words slurred, in a lovely, measured performance.

The Small Faces was a band, like so many, ripped off unmercifully by agents and managers, in this case Don Arden, played, among other lesser roles, by a sinister Russell Floyd, and then taken for a ride by a drug addled Andrew Oldham, played in a laid back style by Joseph Peters.

Peters also plays Jimmy Winston, the original keyboard player in the band sacked ostensibly because he was not that good but more likely that he was trying to take some of the limelight off the very touchy Marriot.

His departure brought in Josh Maddison as Ian McLagan to join Stanton Wright as Ronnie Lane on bass and Stefan Edwards as Kenney Jones on drums and the roller coaster of their short career.

We had Marriot’s early career as an actor. He was in Oliver! And even recorded the Artful Dodger’s vocals on the West End cast album, but music was his love and when he gave up a promising acting career an almighty row with his mum Kay, brassily played by Carol Harrison, saw the young Marriot leaving home.

The band had hits amid the turmoil with songs such as Whatcha Gonna Do About It. All Or Nothing, Lazy Sunday and perhaps their best know, Itchycoo Park.

Along the way we had Juke Box Jury and Ready Steady Go, with Daniel Beals popping up as Sonny Bono – Katie Faye was Cher - Tony Blackburn, Stanley Unwin, a Northern Club MC and anyone else needed while Sophia Behn weighed in with Dusty Springfield, Cathy McGowan and Marriot’s first wife, Rod Stewart’s ex-girlfriend, Jenny Rylance.

But with such a volatile, driven character as Marriot, it was never going to last and after forming the band in 1964 Marriot walked out, mid-performance on New Year’s Eve in 1968.

Oldham had given the band unlimited studio time and they had created the ground-breaking Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake album with its circular cover. But relaxed, if productive, time in the studio had dulled the raw, frantic edge of their live music. They were no longer playing their music, as Marriot saw it, and if they couldn’t do that it was no longer worth doing.

The musical ends there. The band went their separate ways. Marriot formed Humble Pie with Peter Frampton who he had tried to bring into The Small Faces, leading to another row with the band.

Lane, Jones and McLagan joined with two members of The Jeff Beck Group, Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart to form The Faces.

Over the years there have been reunions, the band reformed for a while, with changing personnel, but it has never achieved the heights of the four years they were up there with The Who, The Kinks and Rolling Stones.

Drummer Jones is now the only survivor. McLagan died of a stroke in 2014, Lane died in 1997 after a 20 year battle against multiple sclerosis while a drunken Marriot died in 1991 in a fire at his home believed to have been caused by falling asleep in bed smoking a cigarette. He was 44.

The quartet, plus Winston, are all fine musicians and manage that hard edged, unsophisticated sound of the band which is the spine of the show as well as the devil-may-care attitude of the band, with bravado and even insolence from the rebellious Marriot.

There is excellent support from the rest of the cast on a simple, effective and flexible set from Rebecca Brower with the drums and keyboards on a truck which rolls through the back wall to ensure no break in the action.

A nice touch too that the guitars have long leads back to amps – this was the mid-60s when wireless was what you listened to the Light Programme on.

Another period touch was authentic looking costumes from Charlotte Espiner and typical TV dance moves created by choreographer Cameron Hall. Peter Small’s lighting fitted in well and Chris Drohan has done a good job with the sound, making dialogue audible and music loud enough to evoke the era but not enough to engender deafness.

For many in the audience this was a trip down memory lane, for the younger ones, it was a chance to see, even second hand, what a musical revolution really looked like. To 24-06-17

Roger Clarke


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