Friday, 30 July 2010
Small Faces "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake" (1968) (News, Views and Music 69, Revised 2014)
You can now buy 'All Our Yesterdays - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of The Small Faces' in e-book form by clicking here
Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake/Afterglow (Of Your Love)/Long Agos And Worlds Apart/Rene/Song Of A Baker/Lazy Sunday/Happiness Stan/Rollin’ Over/The Hungry Intruder/The Journey/Mad John/HappyDaysToyTown
The Small Faces “Odgen’s Nut Gone Flake” (1968)
Are you all sitting comftibold two-square on your botty? Then I'll begin once upon a fully titto. Again. Stanley was surprised a most to see his story writty down by four small faces looking down at him and winking the way that only psychedeli all-a-frenzy bands can. 'But my search for the moon and dangly was just a joke' he cried, 'I know it dissa-pear-pates every month as that's a cyan-terrific principal all green and un-coloured. Don't make out it to me be an ultra maroon. I was just getting happy merry on the sherry brought in by Little Miss Tuffet after she'd thrown away her curds and whey and bought a casio digital synthesiser.' 'We know' the four teeny-tiny faces replied looking back at Stan through a small lit sky through his charabanc moon-hole. 'The speaking whispering to a fly and giving of it your mincey meaty foodage rather gave away that it wasn't a true true story. But we don't mind. Fiction is stranger than truth and truth is madder than lies if you get our drift'. 'For why turn me into a lengthy-playing record then and only fill up half a record with a tale of my sufferings and understandings?' 'Madness John took out an injunction against us and forbode us against releasing the rest of the story' they replied. 'He wanted an entire share of the profits - he's not as maddenifying as he looks!' 'So', ruminated Stanley ruminatedly like a smackero blurredy, 'the good people at home in wisdom-land never got to hear my full story? Where at man? Where at man? Oh dear!' 'But you're eternal' the Stevie wonder Marriott replied 'You'll live forever and ever and ever, long after Mad John's cave has been turned into a tourist attraction and Happydaystoytownnewspaper land is in need of repairs'. 'You're loved by millions' the little boy who lived down Ronnie Lane added, 'the bestest of bestest characters we ever did draw.' 'You look cool too' said the organ player in a Mac. 'I'll be in The Who one day you know!' said the drummer. And that made Happiness Stan very happy indeed. What a joy of a tricly howl and I hope your turn out is three quarters as half as lovely. Stay cool won't you?
Man, that tobacco on the cover (the closest The Small faces could get to showing the drugs they were really taking in this period) must have been pretty powerful stuff. Small Faces album number three and they’ve only gone and changed style again, making the songs longer, less confessional and more fairytale like – even the ones that don’t come from the album’s much talked about second side concept. Revealed many years after this album became a best-seller as a ‘piss-take’ on what everyone else was doing in 1968, it nevertheless manages to make high art out of a difficult situation with The Small faces so desperate for money they use every trick in the book to make this album as fashionable and of-0the-moment as they could (no mean feat for a band who had spent their career escaping being pigeon-hold till now). Usually when a band does things against their will for money it’s a disaster, but somehow the new concept gives the band a direction and focus they’ve never really had before and the result is another album quite unlike anything else in rock and roll – but on a grander scale than ever before. The Small Faces, you could say, are smoking on this album like never before, even if the struggles trying to follow it up and the dramas that take place I the scene months after release mean that this record will ultimately spell the end of the group too, just as it is all coming together at last.
Ogden's Nut Gone Flake is a special record, much loved by fans, containing many of The Small Faces' most famous songs, a much-discussed tobacco album sleeve (the world's first to be fully 'round' rather than square and thus liable to fall off the shelf if you didn't stack it just 'so' – no wonder mint copies are so expensive!) and the band's one real chance to record an album from beginning to end without getting interrupted by record company shenanigans (whether by Decca or Immediate). Unlike other 'concept' albums from the late 1960s somehow 'Ogden's has managed to grow in stature with age, perhaps because it's 'nonsense' narration and comedy story doesn't belong to any era, even though the sound most definitely does. I'm not quite so sure as some fans that it's the band's masterpiece (nobody ever seems to rate the first album the band made for Immediate, which must surely be simply because most people don't know about it), but 'Ogden's is a very likeable album, delivered with The Small Faces' typically mix of earnest seriousness and knees-up raucous comedy. Since its release fifty-odd years ago its come to be seen as the ‘missing link’ in concept LPs (neatly bridging the gap between half-albums like 'Sgt Peppers' and double-LPs like 'Tommy'), the start of comedy in music (for those like me who don’t see why people laugh at the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band anyway) or simply one of the greatest collection of songs ever made. Like the tobacco displayed proudly on the album's subversive front cover 'Ogden's is powerful, classy - and just a little bit nutty.
One thing Ogden's isn't is cohesive. While every other Small Faces album has a distinct 'sound' (they only ever made four albums - the last of these unfinished - but every fan can tell you in seconds which album each song belongs to they have such a distinctive sound), Ogden's has two, possibly even three. Side one of the record is business as usual, un-connecting songs strung together by nothing more than mood and style. The biggest changes since the last time around, however, are that the running times of the songs have got longer and that there's a bigger divide between the out and out 'serious' songs and the 'comedy' ( 'Eddie's Dreaming' and 'Green Circles' from that last album, for instance, manage to be both). This side alone accounts for one of the most eclectic albums of the 1960s: the title track is pure soul, 'Afterglow' is the most 'real' and emotionally devastating song the band make after classic single  'Tin Soldier', 'Long Ago and Worlds Apart' is keyboardist Ian McLagan's dizzy lament for past years, 'Rene' is a sleazy song about a dockyard worker who in one of this album's most quotable lines has been 'groping with a stoker from the coast of Gualalampur', 'Song Of A Baker' is Ronnie Lane somehow combining a protest song about poverty with a setting from Trumpton and 'Lazy Sunday' is a fun comedy about annoying your neighbours. Earthy and other-worldly simultaneously, it’s all very Small Faces and a logical progression from where they have just been, if in less confessional mode than the last time out. Annoyed at their growing teeny-bopper fanbase), The Small Faces are clearly trying to be more grown up and adult across this album, but their natural charisma and humour get in the way (Immediate's decision to release 'Lazy Sunday' as a single - against Marriott's wishes - didn't help. This is, after all, a band who risked everything on the promise that they wouldn’t be told what to record or release and when, but Immediate’s financial difficulties meant they weren’t going to let an obvious hit go so easily). The band are caught firmly between the ‘light and fluffy’ image both Decca and Immediate kept trying to promote on the band’s best known singles ( Sha-La-La-La-Lee,  Itchycoo Park and this album’s Lazy Sunday) and their much tougher, almost angry brand of R and B (As per  ‘I’ve Got Mine’ and  ‘Tin Soldier’). The pull and tug between the cockney knees up aspect of the band and the sincere and tough-as-old-boots sound will drive Steve Marriott in particular to distraction and all but breaks up the band during recording for Ogden’s ‘follow-up’, but one of the reasons this record is as loved as it is is that, on this first side at least, The Small Faces get the mix more or less right.
That's nothing on side two, however, which is a 'concept' work about 'Happiness Stan' who lives in a Victoriana charabanc 'deep inside a rainbow'. He's been wondering why the moon gets smaller and smaller (had he not noticed before? The moon does this every month, but then perhaps rainbows don’t have windows have point in that direction). He then befriends a talking fly, feeding him at the beginning of the story and being helped near the end because of it (a Medieval storytelling device which was once called a 'Grateful Dead' - this is where our fellow AAA band get their name from). Stan then meets with a hermit named Mad John who tells him the truth: that the moon is positioned from the Earth at such an angle that it seems to grow and fade (one day I'll write a thesis about tramps and hermits in 1960s songwriting - especially the psychedelic era when they become 'people who saw the truth of the world and turned up, tuned in and dropped out'. Then follow it up with another about the significance of the moon in psychedelic works representing something alien but nearby. This is, no doubt, where The Small Faces got the idea too given that they considered this second side a joke based on all the clichés of the era). That problem solved, the hermit then does something rather un-hermit like and invites all his friends over for a big party! Depending what mood you’re in – and perhaps how much acid you’ve dropped – this analogy is either one long laugh-out-loud joke or one of the greatest musical metaphors for our reason on Earth (we’re fooled into thinking we should worry about something outside our control and the real answer that Stan receives about life isn’t anything to do with the moon at all – it’s that you should help those worse off than you – ie the fly – and you shouldn’t mistreat weird strangers – ie John – just because everyone else does when they might well know more than you or your friends).
Side two of 'Ogden's is a typical Small Faces mixture of the serious and frivolous, a world where laughter and tears exists side by side - sometimes on the same song. Accepted at face value at the time (believe it or not there were even more bonkers ideas than this one around in 1968!), Ronnie and Steve later revealed that they'd written it as 'a joke', a parody of all the earnest albums about looking for answers that the everyone else was writing. However that's not strictly true: 'Mad John' for instance, is one of the band's most grown-up songs that says much about perception and prejudice, while 'Rollin' Over' - which doesn't fit the plot at all - is played with more power and aggression than perhaps any other Small Faces song, as if it really mattered to the band even if they knew the plot was a joke. Funny this concept may be, ridiculous nonsense as it often is, there’s just enough of a genuine flower power moral in there to make this more than just a string of surreal shapeless images. This is, after all, twenty minutes that perfectly follow the general Small faces theme so far that life is all about a journey becoming who you really are the more experience you get. This rendering of this repeated formula just happens to involve flies eating shepherd’s pie, that’s all. To some extent the suite of songs is an extension of the previous year’s huge hit  ‘ItchyCoo Park’ – that song too is a spoof of the summer of love and how even simple things become ‘groovy’ when you look at them a different way, but the sentiments struck a chord with an awful lot of people who took its message seriously, inspiring the band to make the joke bigger next time out. For Ogden’s isn’t a comedy a la 10cc, but nor is it a philosophical suite as per Tommy – it's the sound of a band doing something big whilst, at the same time, not taking themselves too seriously. No other band could have done this except The Small faces, who frequently interrupted their deeper songs with bouts of nervous giggling or who often spent their filler songs written in a hurry playing out of their skin to make them sound committed and serious. In many ways once they do the obvious on this album, the special thing that made them them, they had nowhere to go and inevitably split up, refusing to do another concept record but unsure what to do instead. Also, one of the many reasons 'Ogden's is so popular is that it's generally agreed as the world's first full-on concept album, well half of it anyway, which is very Small Faces (as opposed to, say, 'Sgt Pepper's half-concept). Now that's not for lack of trying: Pete Townshend had been trying to write a 'rock opera' for many a long year (and was already feverishly working on a first draft of 'Tommy' when this album, by his good friends, came out) and The Kinks' 'Face To Face' really would have been the first, an album about modern life linked by sound effects, had record label Pye not baulked at the idea while this album’s contemporary ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’ can also lay some sort of a claim. In technical terms, of course, the first rock and roll concept album was The Beach boys collection of car songs ‘Shut Down Volume II’ though no one ever counts that – or the Johnny Cash songs about American Indians and poverty if you stretch the rules to include country-rock. Anyway, the band were at least one of the first and were in the perfect place at the perfect time to do it, with Immediate having agreed never to interfere with what they released (’Lazy Sunday’ as a single aside).
In many ways the album's second side (and parts of the first) are also rock and roll's 'apology' for having effectively ended music hall (at one time in Britain the only musical live performances you could see outside expensive classical theatre tickets were the musicians who played novelty songs in between comedy acts). In this way 'Ogden's reflects its close cousin 'Sgt Peppers', another variety act turned into a concept album full of bigger than life characters and lots of tack piano. 'Lazy Sunday' 'Rene' 'Happiness Stan' and 'Happydaystoytown' are all recognisably straight out of the music hall as The Small faces themselves would have been familiar growing up with in London’s East End (Steve’s father, a pie and eel seller, would have got an awful lot of his customers this way): funny, slightly naughty numbers the whole audience were meant to sing along to in a feeling of community (which is what audiences were meant to do before the screaming at pop idols started circa 1953). While often viewed as a 'progressive' album, in many ways 'Ogden's has survived as long and appealed to as many people as it has because it's a 'safe' idea of progress, with several claws still digging firmly to the 'old' ground such as the music hall aspects. This isn’t Syd barrett or a Rolling Stones brand of psychedelia intended to scare – it’s a world that’s safe and playful, if played loud enough to keep rock fans listening too. Nobody gets hurt, nobody goes to a place you can’t get back from and as with the last album what’s notable is how psychedelic everything is even though there are no weird instruments or production noises. Even the fact that this album comes in a tobacco tin (the closest the band can get to a picture of an illicit substance) is interesting: while many 1960s stars did smoke cigarettes (including the Faces) the first warnings about what damage tobacco could do to your health were out by now: as a result for most of the audience buying this record smoking was something your mum and dad and maybe wished they didn't, not you (unless you were old enough to have seen James Dean films and/or had very wayward friends). The fact that the tobacco is 'special' and 'celebrated' on the front suggests a certain history rather than being new and exciting, something which also fits with the album's most traditional piece 'Song Of A Baker' (baking was largely something your parents rather than you did too, unless you were training to be a baker and/or through the distinctive white hats looked 'cool'). The point we're making is that Ogden's, seemingly partly set in another universe like all good psychedelic records, is also refreshingly recognisable for those tied to Earth: not so much 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds' as 'Stanley down the bakery to escape his annoying neighbours'.
One other major talking point about this record which sets it firmly in the 'past' bracket is the presence of gobbledegook meister 'Professor' (a self-appointed title) Stanley Unwin. Though the band secretly wanted Goon Spike Milligan, who said no via his agent, the then-fifty-seven-year-old was a perfect fit for psychedelia and sweetly thrilled to have been given a major role on a rock and roll record made by musicians almost forty years his junior. He took to the role with aplomb, taking a rough copy of the script the band (mainly Ronnie) had written out to go in-between the tracks and re-writing them in his distinctive 'gibberish' style more or less on the spot. The Small Faces had something of a reputation as perfectionists but that was nothing on Unwin, who went through take after take of his garbled language, trying to get the flow of his words better and better (sadly even though literally dozens of versions of each album track are doing the rounds both on bootleg and on various official Immediate CDs - generally different mixes, not all that interesting, but with a handful of fascinating backing tracks or abandoned ideas - none of the outtakes from the narration have ever come to light and it's not known if they even still exist). Note the choice though: Unwin is someone who the parents of the band’s fans would have recognised (Spike too if he had gone with their idea) rather than hiring some hip pop young thing to narrate it like, say, Kenney Everett (who did more or less the same shtick, but less politely). Even the idea of a 'narrator' is a link back to yesteryear: most psychedelic albums are all about how you have to take the journey to a brave new land, but here your representative is doing that for you. Ogden’s is like a contemporary updating of a children's story book, only it’s accompanied by swirly surreal psychedelics and some cracking music. In Ogden’s we are all children trying to learn how the world is put together, a regular Faces theme (not for nothing does the suite end with a song called ‘HappyDaysToyTown’) and – unlike most albums set on the same course – the answer is that we should stay like children because no adult else really knows the answers either. The album ends not with a lecture but a party, as everyone simply enjoys being in the moment making music. While the professor's 'Unwinese' (also known as ‘Basic Engly Twenty Fido') can get irritating when you play this album regularly (the CDs have yet to do the decent thing and add the narration 'between' tracks' as it were so you can hear the songs on their own), it's very clever in its own right and fits an album that's all about the theme of perception and things not being the same as they seem on the surface. I wonder though what might have happened if Spike had said yes. Alas it was the timing that was off, not the idea. 1968 was not a good year for Spike, with his oddball TV series 'Q' in trouble and the goodwill shown to the Goons for most of the 1960s drying up; though given Spike's depressed state at the time his narrative might have ended up like the last few Goon Shows - with lots of deaths but not many laughs (Happiness Stan would, of course, have been befriended by a bluebottle though, not a fly). Milligan would certainly have had less 'fun' basking in the glory of being 'hip' and popular than Unwin though, who proudly dressed up as a king to read out a slightly altered copy of his narrative on the 1968 TV programme 'Colour Me Pop' and helped the band promote the record as much as he could (he was still calling it one of the favourite projects he ever worked on when he died and still got more letters asking about that recording than any other project he worked on across seventy years or so he said! Unwin also movingly chose one of the lines from the work for his gravestone and the plot where he was buried alongside his widow in 2002 bears the tribute 'Reunitey in the heavenly bode deep joy!' Steve and Ronnie, who against all odds back in the 1960s both pre-deceased him, would surely have been proud.
Talking of which, our original review of this album was inspired by a rather fine DVD release that compiled two hours of Small Faces clips, including several from that 'Colour Me Pop' show. There was no great newsflash when the ‘Reelin’ In The Years’ Production company released the Ogden’s ‘Colour Me Pop’ footage fans of The Small Faces have been after for years. Instead of fanfares in the streets, perhaps a parade or two, happy days in toy town, certainly a dress-as-Happiness Stan competition or three, the DVD ‘All Or Nothing 1965-68’ simply arrived quietly on our shelves. All the footage is good – was there ever a more photogenic singer than Steve Marriott? – but what really stood out is the footage of the band from 1968, barely months away from one of the most unexpected splits in musical history, joined by Stanley Unwin reading out a new gibberish version of his narration. Now before you think I’ve started working for the company or am anticipating hundreds of freebie DVDs to review in the post, it’s the music not the pictures that are really special. ‘Ogden’s is such a highly rated album with so many fans, not just of the Faces but with music collectors in general, that hearing a new half-mimed, half-live mix of the album is a revelation, even without Unwin’s contributions.
Sadly even Ogden’s nutty tobacco doesn’t last forever and all good things come to an end. Though the Small Faces were thrilled to have had such a success at last, what happened next was an old familiar story. Immediate had got so desperate for cash that this album’s success went to paying their bills rather than into the Small Faces’ coffers and they suffered the ridiculous situation of being a band with a #1 album hit and no money bar the basics to show for it. Disillusioned, they really didn’t feel like doing another album if the money wasn’t going to come their way again and after jumping ship from Decca few record labels wanted to touch them. The band began to feel the pressure of following up this big success and squabbled over what they ought to do. Marriott wanted a bigger, wider sound with new pal Peter Frampton from another Immediate band ‘The Herd’ as a second guitarist with P P Arnold a permanent backing singer with a few friends; effectively a sort of ‘Immediate’ all-stars, given that the band were effecrtively paying for the whole label anyway. The others didn’t see the point in changing a sound that was clearly working every way but financially, with Ronnie particularly preferring a return to smaller humbler folkier pop. The Small Faces worked together on one last record under engineer Glyn Johns, now working as a producer, as the backing band for French singer Johnny Hallyday in which Steve got his way working with Peter Frampton on a heavier style, but the others got to hang out with another guest guitarist named Ronnie Wood. Despite the lectures on ‘Ogden’s about pulling together and looking after each other, the band found themselves either side of an increasingly big divide – and then found themselves booked to play a disastrous British tour. To their horror, despite the move to Immediate, the change in style, the scale of their success, they were still being treated like teeny-boppers where the audience screamed so loud they couldn’t hear themselves play. The primitive stage technology also meant that re-creating any of their new music was impossible, the band taking a step backwards to play older songs they thought they had escaped forever. An increasingly bitter and disgruntled Marriott re-acted badly to an atrocious gig played at London’s Alexandra Palace and stormed off stage, his commitments fulfilled, yelling to the others that ‘I quit!’ Nothing about The Small Faces is big, including the length of time they were together, but in many ways it’s amazing they lasted as long as they did considering how different they all were in everything but height and what little time they had even known each other. The world, though, wasn’t ready to let them go yet and nor were Immediate prepared to let go of the only thing between them and financial disaster, quickly releasing the unfinished fourth record as ‘The Autumn Stone’ and pretending it was a proper album. It was no substitute for this album – and yet it would surely have been another strong seller on the back of this one and indeed was, even without a band around to promote it, so desperate were fans to get a sequel to this quirky, eccentric, unique LP.
In all, no wonder 'Ogden's did so well. This is a hard, edgy record with some cracking rock and roll and very tight playing, but with lots of space for us to get our breath back and some genuine laughs in there too. While not every song works ('Happydaystoytown' borders on twee, McLagan's 'Long Agos and Worlds Apart' isn't quite up to Marriott and Lane's songs for once and the title track is a swirly instrumental that like many a swirly instrumental would sound better with lyrics - lucky, really, given that the song is a re-make of 1965 flop single  'I've Got Mine'), this is amongst the Small Faces' most consistent works and certainly their most eclectic. In short, this album has everything in it somewhere – everything but the direction forward the band desperately need come 1969 and the next stage (following up a hit album taken as parable when you meant it as a comedy, without wanting to repeat yourself) will be the band's last. However 'Ogden's was not an unexpected hit - the band had been knocking on the doors of success for years and were unlucky that the superb 'Small Faces' LP from 1967 hadn't been paid more attention (their 'Revolver' to this album's 'Peppers'). To go back to that 'Colour Me Pop' performance, it’s no coincidence that Pete Townshend and Keith Moon were in the audience for the performance of the title track on ‘Beat Beat Beat’ as shown on the ‘All Or Nothing DVD’ – both men had an eye for talent and Pete is obviously in awe of this band, as well he should be. And back in The Who’s annus horribilus of 1968, when the band released three flop singles and no LP, who’d have guessed it would be the Faces who’d fold suddenly the next year and The Who’s Tommy that would be the new darling of the press? So if life is like a bowl of all-bran (you wake up every morning - and it's there) add some excitement and joy in your life by buying one of the 1960s' prime artefacts: 'Ogden's Nut Gone Flake', in any of the zillions of versions around (any one will do; you really don’t need endlessly subtle remixes or backing tracks). If this album isn't being studied in schools in twenty years' time as a key proponent of the era then I shall be very very worried, when hopefully by then the only thing that will have dated is the killer tobacco on the tin.
The title track  'Ogden's Nut Gone Flake' isn’t the most obvious place for the album to start. Instrumentals used to be a key part of the band’s sound, but Ogden’s is such an unusual instrumental it sounds nothing like the earlier poppy organ-led melodies from the Decca years and 1st Immediate LP or the later, more graceful and fleshed out tracks on the unfinished ‘Autumn Stone’. The whole point of that first Immediate LP was to get away from muscly R and B songs like this one and yet none of the rest of ‘Ogden’s goes there either. Even more unusually the track is a re-write of the flop single  ‘I’ve Got Mine’ without the lyrics, not the most obvious candidate for an instrumental given that the original was all about mood and rhythm and did so badly in the charts it left the band doing Kenny Lynch covers for a living. There is nevertheless a certain stateliness about this re-recording which is miles apart from the earlier version recorded just two years earlier, fatter with more psychedelic sounds, even a pricey orchestra now. It is as if The Small Faces are reminding us of how far they’ve come in such a short time and I wonder if it’s here as a sort of ‘rallying the troops’ moment as The Small faces realise how stuffed they are working for Immediate but also how much creative freedom and budget they still have compared to Decca. Ronnie Lane’s bass and – during its brief cameo – Steve Marriott’s guitar parts are as funky and soulful as ever, but Kenney Jones’ drumming is now all about space and precision rather than noise and power. Most noticeable of all, though, is how Ian Mclagan’s slow and swirly keyboard part builds up to a climax that seems much more powerful and dramatic than Jimmy Winston’s original organ part, even though it’s much quieter and much more subtle. The strings near the end are also a rare example of a 1960s arranger getting it right and adding just the right amount of exotica without damaging the core track and help build the edgy atmosphere rather than overpower it (I especially love the low note the strings reach for near the middle of the song – far out of their usual range and yet really suiting the mood of increasing desperation built up in the song). Overall this track is an odd little song which sits apart from the rest of the album and never really quite takes off, although as an ‘overture’ to establish the mood it is fairly successful.
 ‘Afterglow (Of Your Love)’ is a classic though whichever way you look at it, a sequel to  ‘Tin Soldier’ that is one of Marriott’s best love songs to girlfriend Jenny. Far from going ‘soft’ when talking about love the way so many writers do, Marriott taps into the intensity of feeling he has for his beloved and comes up with another driving, hard-hitting rocker. Like many of John Lennon’s songs about Yoko, Marriott’s love songs are often about addiction and getting across to the listener that desperate feeling of need and being out of your depth when it comes to love – not the sweet, hand-holding element of love but the trembling, suffocating feeling of awe at feelings so strong and powerful. Lyrically this song is mostly a simple declaration of love (‘I bless the day that I found you!’) and the pride Marriott feels at other people seeing him walking down the street with a woman whose clearly a cut above the others in every way (at least to him). It is also a rare song that finds Steve content to ‘rest’ in the moment, so pleased to have something good in his life at last after such a difficult time. However even this delight comes with danger and flecks of darkness. In a middle eight that sounds almost angry Marriott switches violently to a minor key, telling us that ‘love is like a voice in my head’ and how he keeps spinning round his lover’s words in his head, sure that this is going to wrong too because good things never happen to him. Like many of the songs on this album, the band aren’t quite sure how to play this heavier sound so they preface it with a jokey-ish opening with Steve doing his best crooner voice, as if spoofing all the un-real un-felt crooning songs of the previous generation with a song that is obviously, horribly ‘real’. Marriott’s vocal on this song is incredible – rarely has a singer screamed so tunefully or known just when to play cat-and-mouse with the mood as Steve does here, even mastering the double-tracking so his voice sounds particularly rich and powerful. The rest of the band are on cracking form too, from Mac’s swirling but stabilising organ to Kenney Jones doing his best Keith Moon impression and Ronnie Lane’s sensitive bass lines. For such a sweet and simple song about nothing more than the narrator wanting to spend time with his partner, ‘Afterglow’ doesn’t half pack a punch, being the sort of love song only a true mod could pull off. Interestingly unlike some other lesser songwriters we never hear what the girlfriend’s reaction is either: whether she’s flattered by the attention or running off a mile. Perhaps Marriott’s narrator never gets a chance to say what he does in this song anyway – it all sounds like an internal struggle going round in his head – but it does cleverly make out that this is only his side of the relationship instead of speaking for her feelings too. Either way, this is a classic song and deserved to do much better than go top #30 as a posthumous hit when the band broke up. OK, so every Small Faces fan already owned the song on this LP, but surely they needed to buy a spare copy of this song just in case the first one broke or something? An amazing, extraordinary testament to Marriott’s writing and vocal skills, together with one of the best Small Faces band performances.
We need a breather after ‘Afterglow’ and the fantastically-named  ‘Long Agos And Worlds Apart’ is suitably muted and a bit of a non-song to be honest. One of Ian McLagan’s few contributions to the band, this is a curious song which is nothing like it seems to be on the surface. While the title suggests we’re getting a fairytale opus top go with the album’s second side or Mac’s previous  ‘Up The Wooden Hills To Bedfordshire’, it’s actually a more simple song about a long-term couple realising that they still hold a candle for partners they met before each other (which is interesting in itself: though a song doesn’t have to be biographical of course Mac turned all of twenty-three the month ‘Ogdens’ came out, not an age when most songwriters are old enough to have exes, never mind have enough time to think of them fondly). Or, perhaps, it’s a more complicated song about re-incarnation as the narrator is talking about meeting his current partner in a past lifetime. Mac has an interesting love life at this time, having just married Sandy Sargeant, a dancer on the TV music show ‘Ready Steady Go!’ However around the same time he also meets his future second wife Kim Kerrigan, who is at the time (and for the next five years) married to drummer Keith Moon. This song sounds – especially compared to ‘Afterglow’ – not so much a ‘yippee I’m in love!’ song so much as a ‘darn it, there goes a missed opportunity, maybe next lifetime?’ kind of a song. Notably Mac ends the song looking forward to knowing his lover more – not in ‘this’ world necessarily but the next, as if she’s already left too soon for this one. Just a thought, but he has just met future wife Kim Moon at a party somewhere around this time – even though she is still married to Keith at the time. The result is I think meant to be deliberately ‘masked’ and confusing: there aren’t many lyrics to this one and Some of the lines are hard to hear anyway, what with the electronic phasing that makes this song sound like a cross between The Beatles in experimental mode and R2D2 and Ian McLagan, while a fine harmony singer, doesn’t sound as good on lead as he did last time out. This isn’t so much a song as a collection of images anyway, with a slow drawn-out verse dominated by organ segueing into a chorus with a Marriott-filled chorus shouting ‘help me help me, doowaddywaddy’. Arguably every album needs a low key song to help establish mood and prove the versatility of the performers, but compared to McLagan’s earlier contribution, the delightful ‘Up The Wooden Hills To Bedfordshire’, this is a boring song played by a band without conviction. Only Kenney Jones shines on this track, his rat-a-tat drumming more like the accompaniment he gave the post-Keith Moon on their final two albums than anything he did for The Small Faces.
The backing for  ‘Rene’ suggests that this is one of the band’s serious rockers, recycling the riff to ‘Lazy Sunday’ in a much slower and more serious way and with everything played with a power and intriguing accompaniment that veers from pop to rock before a long blues work-out at the end. But the lyrics are pure cockney knees-up and one of the silliest songs The Small Faces ever did: a music hall song about a sleazy girl who hangs around the docker’s yard looking for male victims to have fun with. This isn’t ‘Afterglow’s depiction of love even though both songs are quite openly about sex: Marriott compares tis brothel to ‘having love through a hole in the wall’ with no love or affection or even emotion attached to it at all, love as a physical rather than a spiritual thing. How you take lines like ‘groping with a stoker from the coast of Gaulalumpa’ are funny (and very much the sort of thing you would get on a music hall stage) and yet what comes over most from this song is again the sheer intensity of feeling. The two-minute long extended fade, where the band seem to give up on the song halfway through and end the jokey part with a cascading fall of harmonies, is astonishing for its sheer power, making the song sound more than just another throwaway while Marriott has fun making lots of fun sound effects on the fade.. It’s as if The Small Faces are trying to make a joke about the real feeling of love and can’t – or that as much as the patrons at Rene’s brothel pretend they are after no strings sex they all have really deep feelings too. If you read between the lines of the song Rene is trying her best to settle down but can’t find the right person and despite the grin in Steve Marriott’s narrator’s voice comes over as a sad and lonely character rather than the fun-loving personality the song suggests. While the Who create a similar mood with John Entwistle’s ‘Trick Of The Light’ (from 1978’s ‘Who Are You?’), the reaction there is concern and sympathy for someone who clearly doesn’t need it because she’s having a whale of a time – here we get the opposite, with a comedy throwaway about a character who should be having a ball – but clearly isn’t. Interestingly, there is no clear-cut ending for the song which, unusually for a Marriott/Lane composition, fades away – suggesting that Rene will never know the meaning of love unless she looks at her relationships in a much deeper way. Usually when comedy songs come with a deeper message they fall flat on their faces, but sticking two minutes of bluesy tragedy on the end of this song without diluting the comedy is a masterstroke.
 ‘Song Of A Baker’ is Ronnie Lane’s major contribution to the album (curiously he only takes three vocals out of twelve on this album, rather than the five out of fourteen on the 1st Immediate LP, perhaps because Marriott is happier and less distracted – for now). While Ronnie’s solo career will usually find him in folky ballad mode, ‘Baker’ is one of the heaviest rock songs the band ever did and finds him competing with Steve at his own game. In many ways it’s a copy of ‘Afterglow’, with its intensity and theme of obsession, although the lyrics are not (obviously) about love. Whilst any ideas on my part are only speculation, could this be the charity-minded Ronnie making his first comment on the unfairness of the class system? You know, ‘let them eat cake’ when they can’t afford bread and all that (although Marie Antoinette clearly didn’t say it the way the history books have reported, it’s still a great line for showcasing the lack of understanding between social classes) as befits an album that’s oddly traditional, celebrating tobacco and music hall. Farmers and country folk had been struggling more and more since the Victorian era, especially after the second world war cut off funds for land and the UK was still under rationing. Ronnie might be remembering his childhood as he walks past the still windmills and is driven by ‘hunger’ to escape such poverty and ‘this aching in me’. Like many of The Small Faces’ best songs its all about desperation and sounds to me like a nastier variation on the drug trips Ronnie has been enjoying.  ‘My Mind’s Eye’ was all about how great it is to see things that other people don’t realise – but this song sounds like it’s a blessing not a curse. Ronnie can see that the world is messed up and that there is none of the community spirit there used to be, where farmers with one crop having a particularly rough patch could borrow from their neighbours and everyone supported one another. It could well be the beginning of the thought process that leads to ‘The Passing Show’, his travelling caravan of players who all pitched in and had their own supportive community. Here, though, everyone is distant and separate, unable to rely on their neighbours for ‘texture and for flavour’ and so all of humanity is ‘hungry’. Notably Ronnie’s narrator is, unusually, not one of the poor and needy as in most tribute songs but the baker, the man overwhelmed with orders as he tries to put things right (although the song does switch from 1st person to 3rd person quite a lot throughout). The Small Faces were never known as being a ‘political’ band (at least not in the same way as CSNY or Lindisfarne were) but both Marriott and Lane got quite involved in writing political protests in their solo careers (Marriott even wrote a pretty good song about the Poll Tax Riots which sadly few people ever heard). Listen out for Steve Marriott’s blistering guitar solo which channels all the desperation of the song into what must have been quite a challenging part to play, chopping and changing against the, err, ‘grain’ of what everyone else is playing and his support harmony is particularly fabulous, a full-throated roar that lifts Ronnie’s lead along with it. Part of the split at the end of the year was because Steve wanted to get better musicians in the group – he had his eye on Pete Frampton for the lead guitar part – which is clearly looney tunes if you listen to this track. Marriott might not have the finesse of Frampton, but he has far more soul and guts than his future Humble Pie partner ever had and this solo may well be his best work (at least in the studio). The result is one of the album’s real highlights, performed with real guts, attack, noise and adrenalin.
 ‘Lazy Sunday’ is such a simple, well meaning, almost casual song that it seems hard that anyone could ever dislike it. But Marriott actively hated this track, knocking it off as light relief between his heavier numbers and not thinking for a minute that Immediate would want to release it as a single. When the song became a hit – and the band were effectively forced into performing it – Marriott reputedly blew his top, fearing that in the wake of  ‘Itchycoo Park’ the band were once again being pegged as ‘comedy’ songwriters. He had a point too after the sales failure of near-perfect single  ‘Tin Soldier’, but heard back in the context of the album ‘Lazy Sunday’ is great fun, lightening the mood of the album just as it was becoming quite heavy again. What is a shame is that this song isn’t on the second side, given the lines about ‘sussing out the moon’ and searching for the meaning of life whilst on the toilet (was this song originally the ending before becoming the single and/or being replaced by HappyDaysToyTown?) Marriott’s lines about accidentally harassing his neighbours are genuinely funny, with his innocent cheekiness the perfect vehicle for a song which in the present day would surely be all about Asbos. The lines are also true, to some extent: The Small Faces had by now moved out of their communal flat and (what with the Immediate financial problems) Steve could only afford a tiny bedsit near the River Thames. The walls there were thin and his neighbours really did complain a lot – the one that got him evicted being none other than Cilla Black if the legend is to be believed! Marriott will quickly move out, thanks to the money made from this album, buying a 16th century mansion that he will cling on to for the next twenty years despite all his financial difficulties and where, tragically, he will also lose his life. The starting point fo0r the song was, so Steve said, a friendly argument with tour colleagues and AAA favourites The Hollies, who The Small faces used to tease for their thick Mancunian accents. ‘You should do something in your cockney voice!’ replied one of them (probably Graham Nash) so Marriott wrote this song about his London surroundings and sung it in his ‘natural’ voice. Though written off by many at the time for being a steal from The Kinks’ ‘Sunny Afternoon’, its more like a kind of musical version of the famous Tony Hancock episode ‘Sunday Afternoon A Home’, which got into big trouble in the 1950s for suggesting that the Sabbath was the dullest day of the week. Marriott is grateful for the rest though and the chance to catch up with his neighbours, sing nonsense songs and forget his worries. The tune is also one of Marriott and Lane’s best, with its stop-start quiet-noisy framework and memorable hook. Listen out too for Ronnie Lane’s bass line – one of the simplest he ever wrote, it nevertheless drives the song on quite beautifully and successfully mimicking the murky bass-heavy sound of a neighbour playing his music too loud through the walls, especially the ending where Lane kicks the song off all over again. I apologise now to any of my neighbours, past and present, who’ve heard this song played night and day over the years. But come on guys, who can’t stop themselves grooving with a song this good?
And now we’re onto the scintillating heavenly moon and dangly. Arte you all sitting two-square bold on your botties? Then heavenly knows what you’ve set and let yourself informaller. And goodness knows how Stanley Unwin kept this narration up – it’s hard enough getting a paragraph of gobbledegook that’s still understandabible. Anyway, the first song up for grabs introduces us to  ‘Happiness Stan’, a man who like much of this album seems to spend half of his time down the music hall and half at a rock festival. The opening of this song is tongue-in-cheek in the extreme, with lines like ‘watching as the white light slowly makes the night bright’ sung in the band’s poshest accents (just compare this to Marriott’s vocal on the last track for proof the band are putting it on), clear that Ogden’s is intended as a comedy. But the way the second half of the song swoops in from nowhere, with an electronified Marriott telling us about the horror Stan feels when half the moon seems to have been ‘stolen away’, sounds more like a horror movie. Very Ogden’s, that, switching complete styles in seconds. As a song this isn’t up to that much – the two parts are too different, although enjoyable on their own accord and the lyrics, while clever, aren’t built for repeated listening. But that’s the problem of every concept album from Quadrophenia down – how do you get the plot across without boring or alienating your audience? As two minute introductions to high-falluting concepts go, ‘Happiness Stan’ is pretty good as an introduction, with the story already veering wildly from drama to comedy. However, I still think it’s a shame that the promising second half of the song wasn’t developed into a composition in its own right, given the strength of the band’s chilling reading, complete with an early mellotron and stereo panning round the speakers making the whole piece sound distinctly Moody Blues-ish. There’s a nice ‘Leslie speakered’ effect on Ronnie and Steve’s vocals too, making them sound like aged mystics.
 ‘Rollin’ Over’ is a return to the band’s earlier heavier Decca sound and to be honest doesn’t sound like it fits with the rest of the piece (who is the partner Happiness Stan asks to save her loving for – she’s not mentioned again; could it be ‘Lazy Sunday’ originally filled this slot on the second side instead?) The song – which reportedly started out as an improvised band jam, how frustrating the original has yet to appear on any of the dozens of Small Faces outtake and remix sets out there - gets even more confusing as it progresses, with Marriott forever referring to an ‘it’ without telling us what ‘it’ means (‘tell everybody I’m going to find it, there ain’t nothing going to stop me’), although presumably in the context of the album then its information about the moon. The moment the relentless riff is matched with the words ‘there ain’t nothing gonna stop me!’ before Kenney Jones’ greatest drum break, may well be the most definitive Small Faces moment in this book, even if its part of a daft concept album about the moon disappearing. Whatever the confusion, however, enjoyed on it’s own ‘Rollin’ Over’ is a classic rocker in true Small Faces no-prisoners style and along with ‘Afterglow’ one of the most exciting things on the record. Marriott sounds strong on the Cockney knees-up songs but he’s simply born for rock songs like these, delivering a controlled power that few other singers can manage even on a song that’s obviously less ‘real’ and character-driven than ‘Afterglow’ or  ‘Tin Soldier’. Full marks too to whoever plays the very bluesy harmonica break, although seeing as both Marriott and Lane were strong on the instrument it’s not clear which of them it was performing here. Kenney Jones’ superb drumming, especially on the break when the other instruments gradually drop out to leave just the percussion, is also worth noting and has also helped spawn many a 1990s song from Oasis’ ‘Fuckin’ In The Bushes’ on down. The band will later re-make this song even more successfully for  ‘Wham Bam Thank You Mam’ (b-side of ‘Afterglow’) and Marriott for one desperately wanted the band to adopt this heavier sound. Hearing this song you can see why even if the lyrics aren’t as strong as some of their other songs. The ‘Quite Naturally’ compilation is alas the only place to hear this song without the narrated links – it is the one piece here that works better without them.
Some merry uncredited flute playing accompanies the next narration.  ‘The Hungry Intruder’ is another intriguing track, with a fly of all things – the most under-rated and least noticed insect of all – befriending Happiness Stan on his perilous journey. This whimsical folky song sounds a lot like the songs Ronnie Lane will be working on in his post-Faces solo career in the mid-1970s and is pretty much the first time we hear the style on record (apart, perhaps, from  ‘Show Me The Way’). Considering it features a talking fly and a plot about shepherd’s pie, its impressive how cohesive and ‘normal’ everything sounds on this song, with a glorious tune that really shines when the cellos take over the tune for the instrumental and a bunch of lyrics that might be odd but successfully get over the two personalities in the song in under two minutes. Few other bands could have got away with lines like ‘I am gnat, gnat am I and I want to be a living fly’, but the band play it straight here, with Ronnie Lane’s delightful vocals doing a good job at sounding tiny and weedy as ‘the hungry intruder’ in the face of Marriott’s sudden found compassion as Happiness Stan. The campy ‘ooh!’ with which Ronnie re-acts to Steve’s talk of being ‘on a quest’ is particularly priceless! It’s also nice to hear the band playing largely acoustically on this conversation-style track, with a baroque and harpsichord dominated sound that apes both close contemporaries The Kinks and this album’s obsession with Victoriana, plus a driving orchestra. There’s a backing track of this song doing the rounds on many a semi-legal, semi-bootleg release (Immediate needed money so badly in the 1960s they seemed to sell their soul to everybody) which is even more impressive without the vocals, making this truly oddball track sound like a folk epic. A post-script to this largely Ronnie-written song about being re-incarnated as a fly; Mac was performing with the Bump Band in a local radio station when he heard the devastating news his old friend was dead. Overcome with grief, he stayed on after his set to listen to the station play the Faces song 'Glad and Sorry' when he spotted an unusual red fly, shorter than average, that kept hovering round his head during the song. While everyone else tried - and failed - to shoo the fly away, Mac suddenly got the impression it was his old friend wishing him goodbye, a Meher Baba convert who himself believed in re-incarnation (see the Faces song 'Stone') to tell him he was ok. The fly vanished suddenly the second after the song finished playing.
Listen out for Ronnie whispering along with Stanley Unwin’s narration (‘give give give of the foodage!’) as if this is a line he really wanted to get in. Now that the Ogden's fly is full and overcome with generosity, the pair have set off in search of the clever hermit Mad John. Cue  ‘The Journey’, a second song in a row featuring Ronnie Lane on vocals as the fly. This sort of a song – a rocker that sounds as if it’s being played in slow-motion – sounds closer to the sort of tracks Marriott would normally sing, but Ronnie does a good job here. The sound is again dominated by Kenney Jones’ delightful rolling drums and some backward cymbal slices, which give this song a delicious other-worldly flavour, plus Mac’s impressive organ accompaniment which sounds like some surreal church service. The song is structured like ‘Happiness Stan’ and ‘Rene’ and features an almost comic opening, with a childish bass rumble and funfair organ before the band get truly psychedelic on the fade, stretching their musical limbs on one of the most exciting sections of their back catalogue. Again, most songs simply aren’t structured like this and it’s the surprise of hearing a compact two-minute seemingly silly pop song that suddenly turns into a Stax/Motown powerhouse instrumental that often makes this album so memorable. Unlike many tracks on this album’s second side ‘The Journey’ also makes sense as a song in its own right, with the very 1967-message that our true journey through life is an inward one and a repeat of  ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’s drug mantra that ‘if tomorrow was today it would be yesterday’. Listen out too for the line just before the instrumental freakout, ‘Hold very tightly please or we should lose our...’ before the band get to the word ‘minds’– with the authorities still smarting after being taken for a ride with the band’s not-so-coded drug song  ‘Here Comes The Nice’, the band are keen to keep themselves out of trouble here. Still, if the close of this track isn’t a drugs song then I don’t know what is – a surreal landscape, full of stabbing guitar parts leaping out on us at random and sometimes backwards, a bass part best described as fierce, some cacophonous drums and an echoey production in which all time seems to stand still, if you like psychedelia in general you will love this! Interestingly this piece, one of the last to be recorded and released before the band split, is a complete mirror of what happened when The Small Faces formed; Ronnie switched to Steve’s guitar and him to bass, which is the way round they were in the music shop Steve worked at before Ronnie found that he was happier on bass.
The best song of this second side sermon, however, has to be  ‘Mad John’. In the context of the tale he’s the mad old hermit who far from being the ‘loser’ the public think is actually the wisest of men and the people’s attempts to ridicule him is because they’re scared of what he knows and how pointless their own lives are. In the context of the time, this is the youth movement cutting themselves off from the respectability of the nine-to-five job and the ambitions of money and power for as every flower child knows none of these things matter any more once you’ve caught the rock and roll bug and had your mind blown. This is also an obvious progression from Ronnie’s  ‘Mind’s Eye’ drug trips, revisiting old prejudices with a new insight and pitching the enlightened ‘us’ against the barbaric ‘them’ There are oodles of these songs around in the mid 1960s about previously feared figures from songwriters’ childhoods who in retrospect were only scary because they were ‘new’ and ‘different’ (The Hollies’ ‘Mad Professor Blyth’, Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Most Peculiar Man’, The Byrds’ ‘Old John Robertson’ and 10cc’s retro ‘Old Mr Time’). Whatever the way you look at it, this is a classic and severely under-rated parable for our times (well, the times of the late 1960s but they fit ours pretty well too) about people not being all that they seem and the goals we’re meant to strive for being out-of-synch with what we really need in life. I just love Marriott’s vocal on this track, putting his ‘serious’ and mystical voice on for most of the song before his cockney self can’t hide anymore and shows itself in the chorus (‘John-a had it sussed-ah!, ‘ee woose living the life of a tra-emp!...’). Most importantly, he delivers perhaps the best single Small Faces lyric straighter than the other songs of ‘Happiness Stan’, as if he truly means this one and it’s no longer fun and games. I love the idea that the townsfolk start off hating ‘Mad John’ because, like the youth movement, he represented something ‘new’ and ‘unknown. And when he answers their doubts with love, like all good masses of people they react with fear, twitching from behind their curtains because they don’t understand him. They say that he’s ‘not quite right’ but he had it ‘sussed’ all along – and is obviously a hippie. This is the tale of every prophet that ever was from Jesus to Buddha, although Ronnie may well have Meher Baba in mind here (the next song, which reveals his advice, is very like Baba’s most famous message ‘don’t worry, be happy’; it’s also not unlike the ending of The Who’s ‘Tommy’, another work much influenced by Baba principles). Released in the same year as Martin Luther King’s death, with Ghandi’s equally peaceful protests in the news, this song must have been one hell of a shock for the Vietnam-supporting Commie-hating adults of the time. If anyone ever tells you that the 1960s were overblown and failed to make a difference, with people thinking the same they’d always thought, then play them this track which in under two minutes (minus narration) manages to sum up the youth’s philosophy and why they thought it important to challenge the status quo like no other. Just as Little Red Riding Hood taught us about ‘wolves’ trying to kills us, The 3 Little Pigs told us about making our lives sturdy so natural forces couldn’t topple us and Goldilocks and the 3 Bears taught us that bears will eat your porridge if you leave the front door open, so this is a parable about living our everyday life as shown to us by a cast of heavily exaggerated characters. The American edition of this song includes an extra verse of ‘I diddly I dis’ as featured on the ‘Whapping Wharf’ compilation.
If only Ogden’s had ended there at its bravest and most pioneering point.  ‘HappyDaysToyTown’ is a final throwaway joke song that I must confess is quickly getting on my nerves now I’ve had to listen to it four times in a row and makes for a rather hurried and half-hearted end to the album. You see, after half an hour of songs like ‘Song Of A Baker’ , ‘The Hungry Intruder’ and ‘Mad John’ telling us that it’s good to care about others and help those we can, this song has Mad John telling Happiness Stan to stop worrying about the moon disappearing because it’s out of his control and to simply enjoy his life. Whilst this way of thinking makes for a great party, with the band having great fun with the song (and even more fun when the band performed it for ‘Colour Me Pop’ on the DVD – if only Old Boy Blue had brought left his horn at home and brought his mellotron to the recording!), heard in context it’s a bit worrying. Interestingly Ronnie once said of this album that the moral was that life is up and down and not to be so ‘stupidly impatient’ when things go wrong – but that’s not really what comes over here. The moon may ‘look after itself’ in the nature of things but humans can’t because its’ not their nature to look after each other is the theme of the rest of this album – far from joining Mad John and ‘proving’ him right while sharing his shepherd’s pie with the world’s animals, Stan is just told to stop worrying. Which sounds like an unlikely thing for someone like Stand to do – or indeed your average with-it listener in 1968. The Vietnam war, reaching its peak in the year this album was recorded, shows there’s always some threat out there to take our life as we know it away and this is a cop-out ending – we’ve just spent twenty minutes worrying along with Stan and travelling on this journey with him before being told we needn’t have bothered and we could have stayed at home in the Victoriana charabanc. Life was not happy days toy town and that’s something the rest of the album seemed to know instinctively. However at the same time I can’t fail to love a song that starts with the all-time classic line ‘Life is just a bowl of all-bran – you wake up every morning and it’s there’ (perhaps the greatest AAA line about the drabness of life) and even if none of the other lyrics are quite up to that level, taken on their own some are very funny. Even the tune, seemingly written to be annoying and ear-catching like most adverts, has a certain swing and grace to it, especially the jazz-type way the band play on this song. The sound of the band switching vocals with each other is also good, especially as it’s the only time in their catalogue you can really hear all three singers criss-crossing in this way (this is in fact a rare co-credit to Mac along with Ronnie and Steve, the early idea for the song being his). It’s just a shame that this pioneering album had to end on such a limp note, with the most revealing and insightful album of 1968 reduced to a happy days toy town newspaper smile. Where at man? Where at man? Oh dear.
Still, this album of Mad Johns and Englishmen setting out in the midnight moon still has plenty to recommend it, from the first semi-autobiographical side to the parable of our times on the second. Everything about this album is groundbreaking, from the construction, the unique mesh of comedy music hall and prog rock tragedy and best/worst of all the distinctive packaging, depending on how many times this round set has rolled out of your shelves onto your foot – the perfect idea for a record so slightly ahead of its times and about doing things differently. Surely anybody curious enough to read a review for the Small Faces owns this record already, in which case you don’t need me to tell you what you’re buying. But if you’re curious and want to see what all the fuss is all about then let me tell you, you’re in for a treat. Do yourself a favour, forget it’s now a dreary 2010 when we know the world doesn’t just stay the same boring unbending gray but arguably gets more and more drab and uninvolving, and pretend you’re hearing this record for the first time in 1968, when the adults are trying to end the world in several ways (and several wars) and the kids are pretty darn sure they know the answer if only those grown-ups would actually listen, man! The Small Faces were very much the voice of youth, younger in age than any other cult 1960s band, and this is the zenith of their power and following; they knew they had to say something important with this album and they did; it was finding something equally important to say in a follow-up that broke them up. Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake’ is effectively the manual for what the post-1960s world should have been, based on compassion, equality, curiosity, rule-breaking and cereal, but it does so with so much fun and innocence and – unlike many albums that tried to do the same thing before and after this record – never takes itself too seriously. The Small Faces broke up when they tried to follow-up this record, perhaps aware that its subtle mix of styles was always going to be a one-off and Steve Marriott in particular carried the ‘failure’ of the band to grow past this point to his grave. But he shouldn’t have felt bad about it because arguably nobody else has quite caught up with this album yet either. They truly don’t make albums like Ogden’s anymore: hot and smoky, occasionally nutty, this is an album that comes in lots of subtle hues and flavours that somehow manages to balance a period interest in all things Victorian with being the hippest and most-up-to-date album released in 1968. What an utter tragedy of epic proportions that for all intents and purposes The Small Faces end here, just as they’ve found that voice they’ve been searching for for so long.
Readers might also be interested in the always-superb 'Love That Album' podcast page that has an episode on Ogden's that's well worth a listen! Love That Album Podcast: Love That Album Podcast Episode 155 - Small Faces' "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake"