Saturday, 28 August 2021

THE SMALL FACES - Ogden's Nut Gone Flake


As I see it there seem to be two distinct versions of the Small Faces, principally defined by the drugs on the scene at the time: the first was of the pill-popping mods, all sharp suits and punchy, tight 3 minute maximum singles; the second being the more acid-tinged psych rockers with their rather more adventurous outings, culminating in their 1968 magnum opus, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake.

Along with the Stones’s At Their Satanic Majesty’s RequestOgden’s was one of the LPs most obviously directly influenced by Sgt. Pepper, moving away from the hamster wheel of the singles production line and taking time in the studio to create an LP that was more than just a collection of hits, B-sides and fillers, rather a cohesive work in its own right. In fact for me, this LP has much more in common with the Beatles’s trailblazer than Satanic Majesty, and it’s a much stronger album because of that, despite its failings. 

From the instant the needle is dropped on the opening title track, we’re in business: the wonderful flanged organ sounds incredible, the lush strings add warmth and tone without dominating or softening the groove set by Kenney Jones’s rolling drumming and Marriott’s psych fuzz guitar. Once that overture is finished, we’re presented with one of the finest Small Faces songs in Afterglow; and Mac’s Hammond is as much the star of this as Marriotts’ incredible voice: soulful, driving, spine-tingling stuff. My only gripe here is that they ditched the fade out/return of the alternate version in favour of the abrupt edit point, but kept it on the following track Long Agos and Worlds Apart. It’s awesome on the former and rather superfluous on the latter. But I’m nit picking here, what a song. 

Unfortunately with Rene and Lazy Sunday we hit the principal weakness of the LP, as with Sgt. Pepper: the music hall gubbins. Whereas When I’m 64 and Mr Kite! were vaudeville, these are pure Lionel Bart, with Marriott back in his Artful Dodger persona, complete with East-aaah End-aaah thumbs-in-weskit urchin posturing-aaaah. What a shame that Lazy Sunday should be the hit from the LP… As Mac put it once in interview, it’s “rootie tootie too, oh what a load of bollocks”.  

Luckily there’s a bone fide gem tucked in between the tracks that close side 1, the magnificent Song of a Baker. It’s huge, strident, funky and one of my favourite songs of all time. The guitar gets a little lost in the mix at times, but my God – what a belter. Who’d’ve thought you could rock out that much to water, flour and salt? I also love that on the (mimed) Colour Me Pop TV appearance, Marriott wipes his mouth mid-solo. He’s SLAVERING, goddam it… and with good reason, so am I. 

Side two is the more ‘out there’ concept work, with Stanley Unwin providing some utterly charming Lear-like nonsense/hippy narration. There’s a childlike charm to the story, but it’s underpinned by a heavy sound as in the second part of Happiness Stan, and the out-and-out rocker Rollin’ Over: Richie Blackmore spent many years ripping off that riff with Deep Purple, he should pay them royalties. The Hungry Intruder might’ve been written by Pete Townsend; at times The Journey sounds like an ancestor of 90s Madchester; and Mad John has a weird folkie feel, mixed with early Bowie (if you can imagine him singing “eye-diddly-eye-dye”). Happy Days Toy Town reprises the music hall sound, but this grates less than before as it works better as the conclusion to the fairytale, and Unwin wraps it up beautifully with a bit of Huckleberryfickleticklemyfinglode. Glorious. 

Ogden’s is a genuine psych masterpiece and we must forgive its few minor faults; it’s 3/4 of the band’s finest hour (Marriott’s would arguably come the following year, with Humble Pie’s magnificent debut) and the real mystery is that Marriott dissolved the band in order to work on more “serious” music, when evidently he himself was responsible for the album’s more frivolous moments. Figure that one out… anyway, we should be thankful that this exists. 

Oh, for a niblode of some mincey meaty! Stay cool, won’t you? 


With this album you jump into the past and have a nice break from your routine :) it’s simultaneously relaxing and exciting. An album that could have definitely been played at Woodstock, or maybe it was?! “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake” is excellent, it nourishes my old soul! But not difficult to listen to at all. It’s a mix of rock and psychedelic style, and also very romantic :) Now I know where the ‘Holy Drug Couple’ band was inspired from :) 


The lights drop, the projector whirs and the space fills with the booming bass and phased organ of Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake.

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.

Soon The Beatles manager was dropping into their communal flat in Pimlico proferring sugar cubes dipped in acid. “It’s all too bootiful” they sang, stuffing the “bennies” away in a bottom draw like worn-out toys. By the time the manager of the Bee Gees was dissuaded from persuing his interest in them…round about the time he found himself dangling from a 5th floor Cavendish Square window…the band was already committed to new horizons. And as though stepping out of the black and white world so they broke with the thuggish Arden and the Decca factory for the brash technicolour charms of the newly created Immediate Records where for a spell everything was possible. On Carnaby St. today there is a small plaque above a sports shop immortalising where Arden and the Small Faces "worked"' together. On either side are plaques to the famed John Stephen and Lord John boutiques, where the band had charge accounts where they were "paid" in lieu of wages. One can only wonder how handy all those three button candy stripe jackets came in 10 years later as singer Steve Marriott struggled with alcohol and mental illness and bassist Ronnie Lane battled with the early onset of multiple sclerosis. Across the road is a megastore dedicated to selling product by their friends and rivals The Rolling Stones.

Immediate was the brainchild of the Stones former manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who hustled in his own particular way taking The Small Faces on as a virtual house band for a grandiose project which attempted to replicate the magic dust of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson on New Oxford Street. The band’s reward this time in lieu of wages being the provision of copious studio time at the state of the art Olympic studios in Barnes. If you listen to recordings from this time you can hear Steve Marriott’s throaty voice as though leaking though the walls into other people’s records. The Stones “In Another Land”, Traffic’s “Berkshire Poppies”, Chris Farlowe’s “My Way of Giving”, Billy Nicholls “Would You Believe”, The Easybeats, The Herd… At one early morning session Hendrix dropped in from next door, enthusing Marriott to wake up the engineer under the guise that a Small Faces session was evolving. After driving through the night he was not impressed to find a stoned Marriott surrounded by sundry roadies jamming incoherently

Their sound changed as a result of this move with much of the power of their furious super charged Booker T mod-soul diluted into rather understated stoned pop which whilst uniformly good is a little thin in its sound. But there is a lot to like not least Here Comes the Nice the most explicit drug song by anyone at the time to ever gain a commercial release and I'm Only Dreaming with its wistfulness erupting into passages of soul shouting frenzy. Marriott had this in him in spades. The stereo version of I Feel Much Better is a curious schizo-wonder with its chipmunk do-waddy-daddy chorus suddenly ripping into monophonic proto-heavy metal towards the fade. In truth Marriott’s throaty soulful voice was far more suited to the rock than the pastoral where the intensity was given over to acoustic guitars, flutes and Georgie Fame’s brass section of Eddie Tan Tan Thornton and Harry Beckett. The difference is particularly noted when they did rock out, such as the ramped up raves Don’t Burst My Bubble, Wham Baam Thank You Maam and the grandstanding Tin Soldier. When The Small faces play in this style you hear a bridge between Ray Charles and Led Zeppelin and it serves as a reminder that this is the same band that delivered the seriously heavy  records they made in 65-66. It's a little too simplistic to view their Decca period as mono and Immediate as stereo, indeed caution should be observed when listening to the music of most bands in 1967 as stereo took hold. But the fact is The Small Faces sound so much more complete in mono...until that is their ambitious album release Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake (yes we finally get there).

This album is a stereo delight in particular the first three songs where the instruments pan around the ears with skilled engineering from Glyn Johns who’d soon helm the Olympic records made by The Stones when they realised what they were and a little later The Who when they finally realised Who they were. The instrumental interchange in the Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake title track sets things alight, with the modest dabs of fuzz guitar giving way to strings, one part David Axelrod, one part Jean Claude Vannier, before drifting into George Martinesque Blue Meanie orientalisms. Afterglow of Your Love follows with its teasing club singer croon, shocking abruptly into proggy organ progressions that bounce around between the ears. If the first track was a mini symphony for heavy bass and drums then this is a full blown duet for organ and vocal. PS- PS A little rudimentary Audacity use enables a grafting of the mono single fade onto this superior stereo mix. Long Ago’s and World’s Apart is background colour, almost programme music to revisit the innocent Itchycoo hash dream drift.

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.

In North London only the Kinks come close to this with their 7 minute long
Australia epic. Setting sail with chirpy mickey mouse voices extolling the virtues of post war emigration the song breaks down as boredom and doubt set in via a malingering (trad) jazz-rock freak-out over the duck pond of the Indian Ocean. These songs come from the uncharted backwaters of British psychedelia in all its multi layered forms and distinctions. They are what make this strain so peculiar and interesting. Reaction to parental post war obsessions, a playful rebellion with class, the appropriation of old musical forms and a mind-bending aural approximation of what happens when a thought extends long beyond reason. But behind it all playful unpredictability.

1968 suddenly allowed the more pop conscious groups to stretch out nurturing a maturing culture of musicianship based on competition and shared bonhomie. Around nocturnal sessions at after-hours clubs Beatles and Yardbirds rum and coked it with other Animals cross-fertilising their influences. It’s there in the Hey Joe bass-line of Song of a Baker, a very 1968 rocker with lyrics reflecting Ronnie Lane’s new found interest in mysticism, an interest shared with Who guitarist Pete Townsend that would lead them to collaborate through the 1970s on devotional projects to guru Meher Baba. For Townsend the irony of the nothing is everything mantra would be his inspiration for the mother lode of Tommy, yet both bands sat on the precipice in this period. For The Who Tommy would make them, for The Small Faces Ogden’s would  break them, the single Lazy Sunday acting as their swan song. Structurally it's a far better song than its over familiarity has made it and I particularly love the way Marriott reverts to a straight delivery after the dumdidumdidoo dumdidumdidoo section and the in-joke soul chorus snatch of Satisfaction. The Who actually tried to mirror this unlikely hit with their White City anthem Dogs and that year saw the bands touring together both home and abroad. This is immortalised in their joint appearance that November in a Paris TV studio miming away to a group of Paco Rabanne models. Against the playback Keith Moon is captured air drumming behind his Who successor Kenny Jones beneath a caption retitled Not Gone Flake.

Not yet

Perhaps side two’s fusion with gobbledygook is a remnant of the still born Carry On Psych-Out project sired by Sir George Martin during the Beatles in Rishikesh downtime. A studio extravaganza that would feature a number of archaic guest artists from the world of light entertainment it was to employ the little known Felius Andromeda (of Cheadle Heath Delusions / Meditations fame) as backing band but their contribution only extended as far as Harry H Corbett’s Flower Power Fred. Roy Hudd delivered Sir Rhubarb Tansey, whilst Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were given a 7-minute slot re-working the L.S. Bumble Bee into a segue with Bedazzled. The album reached the sleeve design stage but Sid James unfortunately only got so far as putting on the outfit. 

Some stellar names dropped out and ended up being replaced by youngbloods Rodney Bewes and Bill Oddie who plugged the gap with Meter Maid and Harry Krishna respectively. But ultimately it was Lance Perciful who brought the whole thing to a close when tapes were leaked of his after hours session coaxing out a b-side for The Maharaja of Brum. Even Spike Milligan found it’s racial satire more than a little beyond the pale. It certainly makes his own acid dream Purple Aeroplane a somewhat limp affair in contrast. As things went pear shaped Stanley Unwin was drafted in to ad-lib the night away until the plug was well and truly pulled. But at Olympic Steve Marriott was listening behind those paper thin walls.

No this is not true I don’t think (but the songs are). It’s all gone a bit hazy here. Please listen to side two and make up your own mind about Ogdens Beano Pigtail. Does anyone have any jaffa cakes?

I dedicate this piece to the late Tim Brooke-Tayor who I last heard on Sorry I Havn't a Clue where the panel were invited to do rude things with Pop group names. His contribution being "The Small Faeces


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


Ogden's Nut Gone Flake 

Nice woozy mellotron /bass heavy instrumental.


Sputtering verse with majestic over the top chorus. Placed together they are effective and passionately delivered, but after the music stops I can’t remember the tune. A bit over blown. Perhaps a good example of how the music doesn’t quite capture the mood of the subject matter.

Long Agos And Worlds Apart  

Musicians they definitely are, and as such they are chasing both a form and sound but their lyrics and delivery don’t seem to be as much a part of the process. This song reminded me of another song, and I couldn’t think what it was called until I re listening to Afterglow. Has a a trick ending where it pretends to fade out then comes back for another minute of wig out.


Comedy girl focused narrative sung in the style of Chas and Dave, with a bit of a hint of the Pink Panther Theme. Another song straining to ditch the lyrical content for the mellotron instrumental break with added harmonica.

Song Of A Baker 

Troggs-esque intro that settles down to a narrative verse which is flattened by an over blown chorus. Much more guitar driven, which in its day must have sounded charming but the solo sounds a bit pedestrian today. Maybe im going deaf from hammering out viking coins at the mock forge but the vocal mix sounds too thin and needs warming up.

Lazy Sunday 

An obvious influence on Blur’s Park Life. A splendid period piece. I haven’t done my detailed bio check on the band but they sound like posh boys pretending to be working class, (ED. Wrong, wrong, wrong) just like Blur, but their complex musicality defeats this charming ruse, with the skilled tempo and key change at the end which is pure McCartney.

Happiness Stan  

Huzzah for Stanley Unwin,( but was he also operating the vocal processing for the recording?) 

These boys are clearly classically trained musicians slumming in the sub-culture and casting out into early prog for a new direction, because they want to be The Who. Tin can production values.

Rollin' Over  

A guitar/piano driven stomper 

The Hungry Intruder  

A flower child song, sounds a bit like a pastiche, but its the real deal, lots of pixie flute and complex strings. But again impressive as it is can I remember the tune? Adults pretending to be children.

The Journey 

My ear drobes haven’t quite recovered before this mellotron pantomime began. Sounds like a piece of background music as Austen Powers runs down a street in Amsterdam not wishing to stare but unable to help himself. Lyrical element ends to long instrumental wig out. But the Austen Powers image hasn’t completely vanished. This doesn’t sound like flying on the back of a giant talking fly.

Mad John  

Guitar folkesque song with a bit of mandolin in the style of early Jethro Tull/Fairport, narrative but with not enough conviction, it sorts of gives up on itself. Stanley Unwin is getting a bit irritating and my dangly wants to kick his ass until he shuts up.


An early version of look on the bright side of life. A reprise of Lazy Sunday.

Overall this was released in May 1968 and shows a band fragmenting, throwing everything they”ve got into the melting pot in the hope something will stick.  Months later King Crimson released In the Court of the Crimson King. Both albums feature musicians first with lyrical content tagged on as an afterthought. Both albums indulge the audiences with long instrumental sections. Both albums are composed around a variety of styles by virtuoso musicians. The Small Faces album has been trapped in its own aspic, it attempts to be a ground breaking mind expanding album, but its roots and influences as clearly visible in its construction. As genre has shifted it has trapped the efforts into a period piece. The Crimson effort on the other hand still sounds fresh, because it remains a pioneer in its sonic voyage of discovery. Its not really a fair comparison but I hope it explains the difficulty I had rendering a fair opinion of this piece. I heard it, I Listened to it but Iv’e almost completely forgotten it, with the exception The Hungry Intruder. That song’s danglies have stayed with me