More Than Just “Itchycoo Park”

There are certain ‘historically important’ bands from the 1960’s I have never really listened to. A few singles maybe, but not much else. The Pretty Things, the 13th Floor Elevators, The Monks, Moby Grape, Os Mutantes, Serge Gainsbourg and The Small Faces.

Out of that list only 2 have really piqued my interest enough that I went and plunked down some hard cash to find out what all the fuss was about. They are the Small Faces and the 13th Floor Elevators. The Elevators I’ll get into at a later date. So let’s talk about the Small Faces for a moment. Allmusic.com states:

“The Small Faces were the best English band never to hit it big in America. On this side of the Atlantic, all anybody remembers them for is their sole stateside hit, “Itchycoo Park,” which was hardly representative of their psychedelic sound, much less their full musical range — but in England, the Small Faces were one of the most extraordinary and successful bands of the mid-’60s, serious competitors to the Who and potential rivals to the Rolling Stones.”

Pretty impressive statement there, but is it true? I chose to purchase the Small Faces best loved album, “Ogden’s Gone Nut Flake” as my introduction. The one available copy I could find was a remastered and expanded (by 14 tracks—including afore mentioned Itchycoo Park!), something I was pretty happy about. My initial reaction, after about 3 spins in the player, was that the first half is pretty straight forward mid ‘60’s rock and roll. No great shakes, but the singer (Steve Marriott) has got some pretty serious pipes on him. Kind of sounds a bit like The Who to me, but not as catchy. The second side is a whole new ballgame, however. Side 2 is a concept album by itself, complete with some guy with a thick Cockney accent (I think!) babbling on about some guy named Happiness Stan and meat pies. Here’s an excerpt:

Now, like all real life experience stories, this also begins once a polly tito, and Happiness Stan, whose life evolved the ephemeral colour dreamy most, and his deep joy in this being the multicolour of the moon. Oh yes. His home a victoriana charibold, the four-wheel folloped ft-ft-ft out the back. Now, as eve on his deep approach, his eye on the moon. Alltime sometime deept joy of a full moon scintyladen dangly in the heavenly bode. But now only half! So, gathering all behind him the hintermost, he ploddy-ploddy forward into the deep complicadent fundermold of the forry to sort this one out.

OK, got that? Neither did I, but it sure sounds interesting, and quite entertaining actually. These spoken word bits break up the songs on the 2nd half of the album effectively tying the concept together. If you take Blur’s Parklife song and spread it out for an entire LP side, well there you go. You’ve got the majority of …Nut Flake down cold. That’s not to say it’s repetitive, derivative or any other “ive” you can think of. It’s amazingly well done and holds together quite well. It’s also catchy as hell.

Like I said, I’ve only given it a few spins, but it’s growin’ on me each time I do. It’s a well thought of curio from the ‘60’s generation, and it sounds it, but in a good way. Kind of like a companion piece to The Who Sell Out”.

So if you’ve done an overstuffy in the tumloader, finish the job with a ladleho of brandy butter, then pukeit all the way to the toileybox.

Mate.

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