45 Years Ago: Humble Pie Release ‘As Safe As Yesterday Is’
In August 1969, an LP made to resemble a stamped, and rather worse-for-wear, post-office parcel began cropping up in record-store shelves across the U.K. It was cryptically addressed ‘As Safe As Yesterday Is’ and delivered by a quartet going by the name of Humble Pie.
One of history’s very first supergroups, Humble Pie represented a fresh and somewhat uncertain new start (hence the name choice) for a trio of seasoned London scene veterans: erstwhile Small Faces singer and guitarist Steve Marriott, former Herd guitar wiz Peter Frampton and ex-Spooky Tooth bassist Greg Ridley. They were joined by 17-year-old drummer Jerry Shirley.
From the moment it came together in January 1969, the quartet was an unstoppable juggernaut, quickly evolving from a proposed Frampton vehicle (which Marriott couldn’t resist joining himself) before signing a deal with Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate label (also home to Marriott’s former band) on their way to releasing a debut single — ‘Natural Born Bugie’ — that zoomed to No. 4 on the British chart.
The full-length ‘As Safe As Yesterday Is’ followed and latched onto the single’s momentum to peak at No. 16. Its title coyly reassured fans that, due to each musician’s previous exploits, things were just as they expected. But Humble Pie would soon reveal their true intentions to shake things up, ring some necks and bring fans to their feet.
The group remained indebted to the influence of American roots music, but now it was armed with the latest, ever-improving amplifier technology. This allowed them to overdrive their blues and soul with heavy rock on powerful offerings like ‘Buttermilk Boy,’ ‘Bang!’ and ’A Nifty Little Number Like You’ — not to mention slow-burning fare like the title track, ‘What You Will’ and an unsettling cover of Steppenwolf’s ‘Desperation.’
On the flip side, Humble Pie had no qualms about indulging in the period’s folk-inspired, unplugged protest-song template with ‘Alabama ’69’ and, to a lesser degree, ‘Growing Closer’ (written by Small Face member Ian McLagan), chucking an exotic sitar introduction into ‘I’ll Go Alone,’ or even revisiting their shared Mod past with the Frampton-penned ‘Stick Shift.’.
Here was a group that was confident, bold and talented enough to do whatever it pleased, musically speaking, and this invariably endeared the band to open-minded listeners and rock critics, one of whom made one of the first known mentions of the term “heavy metal” in his review of ‘As Safe As Yesterday Is’ for Rolling Stone (maybe the Steppenwolf cover helped establish the connection).
In any case, from this point forward, Humble Pie became a force to be reckoned with for years to come — even though their roller coaster career could never claim to be this “safe” again.
Listen to Humble Pie’s ‘As Safe As Yesterday Is’