A Six-Pack of Faces

Wikipedia: “Small Faces were an English rock band from East London. The group was founded in 1965 by members Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones, and Jimmy Winston, although by 1966 Winston was replaced by Ian McLagan as the band’s keyboardist.

The band is remembered as one of the most acclaimed and influential mod groups of the 1960s with memorable hit songs such as “Itchycoo Park”, “Lazy Sunday”, “All or Nothing”, and “Tin Soldier”, as well as their concept album Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake. (See fellow blogger Greenpete’s post on this album.)

The Small Faces never disbanded. When Marriott left to form Humble Pie, the remaining three members recruited Ronnie Wood as guitarist, and Rod Stewart as their lead vocalist – both from The Jeff Beck Group – and carried on as Faces.”

It’s not entirely accurate to say that Rod had been recruited from Beck’s group. By the time the Faces recorded their debut album with him (First Step, March 1970), Stewart had already recorded his first solo album with his second one, Gasoline Alley shortly to follow. (Check out my earlier post on that album here.)

I intentionally found and picked the picture you see on top of the post. Unlike a lot of bands who stare morosely, unsmiling from their pictures, the Faces always looked like a bunch of lads having a hell of a time.

I saw them back in the day at a New York emporium called the Felt Forum, now called Hulu Theater which sits underneath Madison Square Garden. It was more like a party than a concert with Rod – an avid footballer – kicking footballs (soccer balls) into the crowd.

Faces’ genres are listed as rock & roll, boogie rock, blues rock, hard rock, country rock. To all those, I would personally add loose-limbed, rave-up, garage-sounding, roughly produced rock. And it’s that ragtag “fuck it we’re having a good time attitude that was, I think, so great about the Faces. All their albums sound like they just went into the studio and started playing, probably after a pint or two. Today this shit would be produced within an inch of its life.

Anyway, enough with the bullshit. Let’s get it on!

First up, from their debut album, First Step is a McLagan/Stewart medium-tempo rocker, “Three Button Hand Me Down.” Both Lane and Wood play bass on this oddly enough. God I miss bands like this:

Spotify link

One of the most touching songs in the entire Faces’ genre is the wholly unexpected “Debris,” from A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse. It’s a tribute to Ronnie Lane’s father and a moving depiction of their relationship:

Oh, you was my hero
How you are my good friend
I’ve been there and back
And I know how far it is

But I left you on the debris
Now we both know you got no money
And I wonder what you would have done
Without me hanging around

Spotify link

Now as far as rave-ups go, you cannot – I say you CANNOT – get any better than “Stay With Me.” (Can I get a witness?) Rod loves ’em and leaves ’em in this one and yeah that sucks. But who says a woman couldn’t, especially in this day and age, take an equally cavalier attitude to her one-night stand?

“Sit down, get up, get out!”

Spotify link

The final Faces album in 1973 was Ooh La La. Rod subsequently went totally solo initially continuing as a rocker (apparently having given up the blues) and then later as a total fucking sellout with disco. But. So be it.

Rod slagged this album mercilessly in the press, calling it a “stinking rotten album.” He went on to say that the album was a “bloody mess. But I shouldn’t say that, should I? Well, I should say it in a few weeks’ time.

Not now. I mean, the public ain’t gonna like me saying it’s a bloody mess. It was a disgrace. Maybe I’m too critical. But look, I don’t like it … All that fucking about taking nine months to do an album like Ooh La La doesn’t prove anything. But I’m not going to say anything more about it.”

Perhaps Rod’s less than charitable statements sealed his fate in the band and the good times, alas, were gone. (The Faces, like so many bands of the Seventies, were notorious substance abusers and could even give Zep a run on the groupie front.)

I dig the title song from this stinking mess of an album. It’s a Lane/Wood number with Woody on vocals:

Spotify link

From that same album comes the ass-kicker “Silicone Grown.” (One of you guys did this tune not too long ago, Can’t remember who.)

Spotify link

Faces did a couple of nice instrumentals and I thought of doing one here. But check out their greatest hits on Spotify which has these tunes and then some. I’ll leave you here with the mid-tempo shuffle, “Bad ‘N’ Ruin” from Long Player.

Spotify link

34 thoughts on “A Six-Pack of Faces

  1. Ooh la la, is all I can say. Coincidentally, I just listened to that album I got on used vinyl sometime last year. When it came out in 1973, records may have been clunky, but they had real cover art. When you press down the edge of the sleeve, the character Gastone’s eyes become all white and his jaw drops revealing his lovely teeth. Ok, ‘creepy,’ you might say, but it’s got character and nothing you can experience on streaming platforms.

    As for the Faces, they were a smoking hot band with Rod Stewart at the best he’s ever been. While I think he still has a pretty good voice, unfortunately, he hasn’t put it to very good use most of the time for past 40-plus years. As for Ronnie Lane and Ronnie Wood doubling on bass on that track you featured, “First Step,” all bands should have two bassists, don’t you agree? 🙂 And while we’re at it, let’s also throw in two Hammond players! 🙂

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    1. Fuck that. They should have 8 bassists, tweleve organists and 37 guitarists! Eat your heart out Phil Spector. One of the albums, maybe ‘Nod as Good as a Wink,’ has a poster showing the band in all sorts of debauchery. I’m pretty sure I have it and it’s a collector’s item as the label eventually pulled it. And yeah, Rod sux these days. But his early music has given me so much pleasure over the years that I’m willing to give him a pass.

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  2. Man did these guys make some great music. I kind of hovered around the Faces back when. Not any more. I eat them up. Here’s a group of guys that just made some really good music together. I know they all went their separate ways. I stuck with Ronnie Lane. I love the guy. ‘Debris’ is a favorite song of mine. When you listen to Rough Mix you can hear The Faces all over it.”That loose-limbed .. roughly produced” sound.

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    1. That “let’s roll in from the pub, everybody grab an instrument and make up a song on the spot with a cheap tape recorder” sound. And yet it works. No artifice, no overproduction, no bullshit. Woody is the unsung hero with his bass and slide.

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        1. I know you were addressing Pete here. But a while back, some blogger said there was a really good Faces compilation called “Five Guys Walk Into a Bar.” It’s not on Spotify but you can find it on YouTube. Spinning some of it today.

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        2. I don’t care where I get my nuggets just a long as I get them. Thanks for that. Will check it out. A little tid bit. I think both Lane and McLagan ended up Texas for their later years. Hung out with a bunch of musicians there.

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        3. More my style than where old Rod went. Did Rod record anything CB would be interested in? I got off that bus may moons ago but once on a while these guys revisit and hook up with old mates to make some good music.

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        4. Well, you know his old stuff – Rod Stewart album, Gasoline Alley, Every Picture, Atlantic Crossing. Since then, not much to say, a few sporadic tunes. ‘Rhythm of My Heart ‘ is a great song.

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  3. I’ve grown to appreciate this band much more in these slick, choreographed, post-analog days. Their legendary sloppiness was a virtue, and it’s also misleading, since they made some great music, albeit inconsistently. (The “Ooh La La” title song is a great selection). While I’ll always prefer Marriott-fronted Smalls to Stewart-fronted Faces, I’m glad they found a following here in the states. Wish I could’ve seen them live, like you did!

    (And thanks for the shout-out.)
    (Long live “Plonk” and “Mac”!)

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    1. Yeah, their raggedness is great. Seeing them was a treat-and-a-half. Back in the day it seems like all my chums and I did was go to concerts. I went to high school in NYC and so every band of any repute whatsoever came to play there. And still do.

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    1. I know a lot of people see him through the prism of his later years. But I’d encourage you – if you haven’t already – to check out his first two albums: The Rod Stewart Album (aka An Old Raincoat Won’t Let You Down) and Gasoline Alley. As sensitive in places as some of his later work is buffoonish.

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  4. Man, they were great, eh? My old man is (was) a Rod fan, so I grew up on Rod’s voice and developed a fondness for his stuff as I got older. Naturally his stuff with Beck and his pals here are highlights.

    I didn’t realise Rod hated Ooh La La so much. Heesh… he really disliked it, eh?

    Anyhoo, when you listen to this and Rod now it’s like night and day. I cringed watching one of these ‘audience with’ things a few years back. Jeezus.

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    1. Yeah, he dissed ‘Ooh La La.’ Feels like maybe it was as much him separating from his mates as anything else. I agree that the old Rod and the new Rod are light years apart. But I know too that a lot of singers say that they just cannot sing the same songs at, say, 60 as they could at 20. I saw Elvis Costello recently and he’s transformed himself into a balladeer. So be it.

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