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How The Small Faces Became The Faces

M. McKeown/P. Felix-Hulton Archive, Getty Images

With the recent induction of both the Small Faces and the Faces into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we thought we’d take a minute to explain the connection between the two related but definitely separate bands.

In mid-1965, four like-minded rockers came together to form one of the greatest bands of the era. They called themselves the Small Faces. ‘Small’, because all members were shorter than average, and ‘Face’ being a Mod term given to the most highly regarded of the Mods. They shared a love of American R&B and soul music, youthful energy (sometimes aided by Purple Hearts, or shall we say stimulants in the form of pills) and a great sense of fashion. And if this weren’t enough for them to take on the world, they had a not so secret weapon in lead singer/guitarist Steve Marriott.

Marriott had one of the most incredible and powerful voices ever in rock n’ roll. His primal soul-drenched delivery coupled with a dynamic presence and a great sense of melody, made him head and shoulders above most of the competition. The rest of the band were no slouches either, mind you. Kenny Jones and Ronnie Lane were an incredible rhythm section, while keyboardist Ian McLagan, did his best Booker T. and painted the songs with dynamic colors.

The band made their first live appearance in October of ’65 and signed to Decca Records shortly thereafter, releasing their debut album in early-1966. For the next three years, they would make some of the greatest records of the 1960s. Such classics as ‘Whatcha Gonna Do About It,’ ‘All Or Nothing,’ ‘My Minds Eye,’Tin Soldier,’ ‘Itchycoo Park’ and many more. You want an insight? Give ‘You Need Love’ from their debut album a spin, then pop on ‘Whole Lotta Love’ by that Led Zep group. Afterwards, the world will make a little more sense if you know what we mean.

It was Carnaby Street meets power chords in a perfect marriage! The band released four albums in their lifetime (1966′s ‘Small Faces,’ 1967′s ‘From The Beginning’ — actually a makeshift contractual filler, ‘There Are But Four Small Faces’ from that same year, and 1968′s ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake’). From stomping raunchy R&B to whimsical pop to psychedelia to hard rock, the Small Faces did it all. But by the end of 1968, Steve Marriott, felt the band had run its course and wanted to move on. Steve would grab old friend Peter Frampton, who had just left his own band, the Herd, and the two would form Humble Pie.

In the meantime, Lane, McLagan and Jones decided to find new blood. They realized it was going to take two people to replace Marriott. As luck would have it, they hit the jackpot. They couldn’t have found a better replacement than the dynamic duo of Ron Wood and Rod Stewart, both fresh from a stint in the Jeff Beck Group. Both Wood and Stewart had made the rounds in the British rock and roll scene. Wood had his own R&B Mod-styled band called the Birds, who issued three killer singles that went nowhere. Stewart, meanwhile, had done service with folks like Long John Baldry and Steampacket. After their exit from the Jeff Beck Group (where Wood served as bassist) the two got a call from the Small Faces and the instant gelling of styles made it obvious that this was the path forward.

A debut album was issued with this lineup, still under the name ‘Small Faces,’ as the band toured the US for the first time. A second album, ‘Long Player,’ followed shortly thereafter, but then something else happened that would both help and hurt the band. Rod Stewart had his own solo career in motion, and in 1971 his solo album ‘Every Picture Tells A Story,’ and the single ‘Maggie May,’ took off big time.

While members of the Faces would play on Rod’s solo efforts of the era, they were separate entities. This didn’t stop the party however, as Rod was fully committed to both his solo gig and the Faces. The new attention caused people to finally turn and notice the great band that the Faces were. Their 1971 album ‘ A Nod’s As Good As a Wink to a Blind Horse’ and it’s 1972 follow up, ‘Ooh La La’ would both sell very well and Rod would ride both horses as far as possible.

Before too long, however, the band sort of imploded. Founder Ronnie Lane, fed up with Stewart, quit the group. Rod seemed more focused on the solo side of things and eventually, after a tour in 1975, the band was no more. Ron Wood joined the Rolling Stones and Jones became the drummer for the Who after Keith Moon‘s death in 1978.

So that, dear friends, in a nut and a half-shell, is the story of how the Small Faces became the Faces. From 1965 to 1975 they made some of the most killer, gritty and beautiful rock and roll ever, and we think it’s about time that people looked back and investigate just how great both incarnations were. Now go forth and Rock On!

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