Our lives are run by ego freaks
A walking book of rules who seek
To keep you in your pigeon hole
Bash you if your soul steps out of line
On screen we’re at Oldham Athletic’s Boundary Park football ground where small faces press hard against the car windows, creaking from the weight of the roof slowly caving in. From inside The Small Faces pop group stare back in horror, beneath them wheels spinning impotently, sinking deeper and deeper into the boggy turf. Fighting their way out, four silhouettes bolt past the corner flag and out into the brick terraced streets racing headlong into a panorama of factory chimneys. A publicity stunt gone awfully wrong, dreamed up by awful men. But as The Small Faces wound their way back to London in 1966 they were escaping more than just the clutches of manager Don Arden and Oldham Chairman Ken Bates.
As the teenage Steve Marriott elbowed out other hopefuls to appear as The Artful Dodger in Lionel Bart’s first staging of Oliver, his dad was running a pie and mash stall in Poplar, whilst mum worked at the monster Tate and Lyle plant on the Thames. With its syrup tin logo of a rotting lion consumed by bees, the factory was pilloried as something of a knocking shop due to it being the best paid centre of female employment for the East London dockside community. All these things and none may explain the germination of Rene which is essentially the end of a long line of SF tunes that hang together as Ian McLaglan keyboard wig outs. I like this song far more that I should and I think it stems from my Northern aloofness that regards cockneys as being far more hilarious than they can ever hope to realise. Even now I occasionally plant my 'arris on a no. 30 to 'ackney Wick whilst ruminating that Chas and Dave really were more than just the sum of their parts. In Rene Marriott delivers a number of fruity couplets about the said waif, including her illegitimate offspring residing “in coal sheds double locked”. Double locked? And then she’s “Groping with a stoker from the coast of Kuala Lumpur”, and we listen to an extended knee trembler against the dock wall, with the oohs and ahhs coitus, interrupted by passing liners booming their horns from rumbling distorted guitars. It’s an extended dirge into the heart of darkness going nowhere, a wonderous anti- climax spent upon the fallow ground.
Musicians individually and collectively at the top of their game. A great sound, a great listen
I didn’t like the Stanley Unwin thing and think it was a bad idea for such talented musicians to give over so much time to it. Never really understood psychedelia but when I listen to this record I get two things – the influence from rock and roll of the past and the future influence this album seems to hold – e.g Paul Weller’s early solo albums like Wildwood. But what it ultimately leaves me with is Englishness. This is very evident throughout the record in the writing if not the musicianship, which has an up tempo bluesy feel particularly with the prominent organ sound
Their albums were assembled from miles of tape and then edited down like Miles Davis’ stuff into what we might describe as suites of sound, so in the midst of the seriously funky Hallehuwah we get a mini section where a helicopter seems to arrive to play a little jazz thing on the keyboard before giving up to take off again. A listen to this one and Pinch always make me think of The Stone Roses, another band with a semi-articulate vocalist. I’ve often explained to people that a band can prosper without a great vocalist as long as they are compensated by having a great drummer. A fact proven that in reverse it doesn’t matter how talented the singer is, the band will always fail with an agricultural, if enthusiastic tom-tom basher. Can are a case in point.
But then Tim Hardin was forever awash with his demons.
et look again and you can see it is so much more.
Rich Man Poor Man appears to have had it's source in an original and previously lost all embracing theme that pre-figures the arc of concept albums The Kinks released from the late 60's onwards. The period was marked by relentless touring that took a physical and mental toll on the band. Poor management by upper class chancers with severe cash-flow problems exacerbated the pressure on the band to deliver hit after hit and Ray Davies found his visionary ambitions frustrated with each song either rush-released as a self-serving single, b-side or album filler.
The songs reflect what he was witnessing close at hand. The class inequalities were bursting through the veneer of swinging London and we can clearly see why he would return again and again to the recurring theme of innocents abroad. The Kinks like many other bands were regarded as no more than walking pound signs created to keep a small army of users fed and clothed. As the years passed Davies would become more explict in calling this out, but in 1966-67 this anger was largely supressed behind a facade of elaborate metaphor and satire. I would argue that had this record been released at the time it would have greatly altered our perception of The Kinks and seen them ranked on an equal footing with the progressive long-play output of their Beatle and Beach Boy peers. As such it's a remarkable discovery.
closes the End of The Season curtain like an old show tune at the end of a rain-lashed pier. "I just can't mix in all the clubs I know” he moans, “Now Labour's in, I have no place to go". And so part one ends. The swinging snapshot of the Capital city now forced to look into itself.