50 Years Ago: Small Faces Release Their Masterpiece, ‘Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake’
In May 1968, the Small Faces released their final LP, Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake, putting an end to their short but stimulating career.
Though the band's legend has grown over the years, between 1965 and 1969, its recorded output was relatively small: a run of great singles, three albums and they were gone. Their catalog holds up, especially Ogdenss Nut Gone Flake, even with its period touches.
The LP was issued in a round sleeve made to look like a tobacco tin, which opened up in four folds (at the time, tobacco tins were often used to store other, less legal substances). The distinct packaging reflected the exciting music it contained. The album kicks off with the title song, a blazing and swirling instrumental that sets the mood. This opens the door for "Afterglow of Your Love," a beautifully soulful tracks that packs a triumphant chorus. Then there's "Song of a Baker," written by Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, who takes lead vocals.
Side one ends with the campy music hall-inspired "Lazy Sunday," featuring Marriott in an exaggerated cockney accent. The song was released as a single before the album came out and made it to No. 2 on the U.K. chart. "We didn't want to release [it] as a single even though we virtually knew it would be a hit," Marriott recalled in The Young Mods' Forgotten Story. "We didn't want those gimmicky things to be a trademark."
After the universal impact of the Beatles' landmark Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band the previous year, albums were no longer just a collection of songs. Almost everything headed for conceptual territory, and Marriott and Lane wondered if they could the hold the interest of fans for two sides. So, they reserved side two of Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake for the concept, a fairy tale of sorts about a character named "Happiness Stan" and his search for half of the moon. "Every band at that point were trying to keep up with or go one better than everybody else with new sounds," recalled producer Glyn Johns. "It was a very exploratory period, breaking out from the use of very standard instruments and recording techniques."
Listen to Small Faces' 'Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake'
Marriott and Lane added narration between two songs to move along their story, enlisting eccentric British actor Stanley Unwin for the gig. "It made us laugh," remembered Marriott. "Anything that made us laugh, we liked. We gave him a glossary of hip terms to throw in with the Cockneyisms." From the whimsical "Happiness Stan" to the rollicking "Rollin' Over," the Small Faces attempt to cram in as many styles as they can on the LP's second side.
The album proved to be a huge hit in the group's homeland, shooting straight to No. 1 and staying there more than a month. And despite the complex nature of the recordings, drummer Kenney Jones envisioned taking the album to the stage, complete with Unwin to narrate. But Marriott, already plotting his move out of the band, shot down the idea.
Within a year, Marriott would split and form Humble Pie, while the others would regroup as the Faces, with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood taking Marriott's place. Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake remains their masterpiece from the period.