The Small Faces: The absolute pinnacle of creative genius during the influential 1960s

By on May 2, 2019

The UK documentary The Small Faces: Under Review 1965-1968 — now streaming on Night Flight Plus — examines the history of one of the quintessential Sixties mod bands of the British Invasion, “the absolute pinnacle of creative genius during that influential decade,” who only managed to enjoy a three-year career until singer Marriott officially quit the band at the end of 1968, walking off stage during a New Year’s Eve concert.

This hour-long program focuses on the first part of their career and the founding members: Steve Marriott (vocals/guitar), Ronnie Lane (vocals/bass), Jimmy Winston (keyboards, later replaced by Ian McLagan) and Kenney Jones (drums).

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Here’s what it says on the back of the DVD:

“When discussing songwriting genius in the 1960s, three bands are often mentioned in the same breath… and we all know who they are. But two others are often unfairly forgotten or dismissed.”

“The Kinks, of course, were right up there with the market leaders, but for many of us the absolute pinnacle of creative genius during that influential decade came from four East End lads* (*ok, so one was from Middlesex), each no much bigger than a milk bottle.”

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The Small Faces: Under Review features rare live and studio performances of this extraordinary band, interspersed with the independent review and criticism of a panel of esteemed experts.”

“These include: Mod expert and Steve Marriott biographer Paolo Hewitt; Melody Maker contributor during the 1960s and early champion of the Small Faces, Chris Welch; Small Faces biographer and all round expert, John Hellier; 1960s NME editor and friend of the group, Keith Altham; Uncut Magazine features editor, Nigel Williamson, and many more.”

“The film also features rarely-seen promo films, interview footage with the band members, TV clips and a host of other features.”

“And with the collection of incredible segments featuring the one and the only (we are not worthy!) Sir Stanley Unwin (R.I.P.), this is not just the only full-length Small Faces DVD on the market, it’s also an inspiring, revelatory and downright entertaining look at a truly exceptional band.”

Fans of the Small Faces can expect to see and hear 27 fantastic vintage performances of “What Cha Gonna Do About It,” “I Got Mine,” “Sha La La La Lee” (#3 UK), “All Or Nothing” (#1 UK), “I Can’t Make It,” “Here Comes The Nice,” “Itchycoo Park,” “Tin Soldier” (#9 UK) and “Green Circles.”

Best of all, though, is the inclusion of nine songs from the band’s psychedelic masterpiece, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, including “Lazy Sunday” (#2 UK), “Song Of A Baker,” and the six-song “Happiness Stan” suite.

Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones were interviewed exclusively for this documentary, which also features archival interviews with Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane.

Read more about The Small Faces: Under Review 1965-1968 below.

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The Small Faces formed in 1965 when Steve Marriott — who was working at the J60 Music Bar in London — ran into Ronnie Lane, whose band the Outcasts had shared a bill with his band.

They struck up a conversation, which led to them going back to Marriott’s flat to listen to albums, which led to Lane’s invitation to Marriott to jam with his latest band, the Pioneers, who were playing regularly at a local pub at the time.

Marriott ended up getting so drunk, though, that he smashed the pub’s piano, and the Pioneers ended up losing their residency.

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The two mates had found their musical tastes were simpatico, which led to Lane and his band’s drummer, Kenney Jones, forming a brand new band with Marriott on vocals (Marriott also brought along an old friend from his acting days, keyboardist Jimmy Winston, a.k.a. Jimmy Langwith).

Thus, the Small Faces were born, the “small” coming from all of the band members’ diminutive height and “faces” being a then-current slang term for a respected Mod (see the Who‘s Quadrophenia should you need more info about that).

The band found near immediate success with their debut Decca single, “Whatcha Gonna Do About It” (#14 UK).

In 1966, when their second single faltered, Jimmy Winston ended up being fired due to the fact that his talent on the keyboards wasn’t up to snuff (he was replaced by the great Ian McLagan, a veteran of numerous bands).

During this documentary, we get to hear lots of saucy details and tidbits about some of their early gigs (one concert is described this way: “All you could smell was urine because all the screaming girls had pissed themselves!”).

We also hear about the band signing contracts with appalling manager Don Arden — Sharon Osbourne’s father, and manager of bands like Black Sabbath, the Move, and Electric Light Orchestra; Arden later ripped off the Small Faces badly — and their first record deal with Decca Records.

We also hear details about their subsequent move to former Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham‘s Immediate Records, where the Small Faces were given more studio time and their creativity flourishes.

This coincides with LSD entering the music scene, and dropping acid helped to elevate the Small Faces’ stature into becoming one of the most successful psychedelic groups of the Sixties.

The Small Faces had but just one Top 20 hit in the U.S. — the 1967 single “Itchycoo Park,” which climbed to #16 in 1968 (#3 UK) — and their highest-charting U.S. album was the classic Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake (its name was inspired by a British brand of tobacco) peaked at just #159 that same year.

Watch The Small Faces: Under Review 1965-1968 on Night Flight Plus.

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.