Big Lift for Small Faces
by David Belcher
The Herald, Glasgow, 5 Mar 1999
OVER the past decade Kenney Jones has been
heartened to see a real growth in the influence of the music he helped co-create
more than 30 years ago in the Small Faces. You can hear the Small Faces' perky
and melodic power-pop pulsing away at the heart of Manic Street Preachers and
Supergrass, for instance.
The band's gutsy r&b has also long motivated
Paul Weller, while their indomitable brand of Cockney music-hall vitality was
plainly detectable in Blur at their Anglo-pop peak on Parklife, when Damon
Albarn was at his most forward-looking and down-to-earth.
Additionally, the Small Faces' enduring modernist
worth was reverentially saluted three years ago on the tribute album Long Agos
And Worlds Apart, a collection of affectionate cover-versions of Small Faces'
songs recorded by such historically-informed nineties bands as Primal Scream,
Dodgy, and Gene.
Yet there's long been a problem hearing the Small
Faces' recordings of their own songs during their creative late-sixties peak
with the Immediate label. "They were always on different albums, different
compilations," says Jones. What's more, they were usually shoddily-packaged
and un-remastered albums which earned their creators little reward, either.
"For years we'd see no money at all, or
maybe sporadic amounts, peppercorn amounts. When Immediate went bust in 1969,
the music had been sold off to all and sundry." A sad story, made even
sadder by the premature deaths of two of the band's founders. Steve Marriott
died in a fire at his home in 1991; Ronnie Lane's long struggle against multiple
sclerosis ended in 1997.
Now, though, Jones and his fellow survivor from
the quartet, Ian McLagan, stand on the eve of a major upturn in the band's
fortunes. The forthcoming release of a boxed-set of Small Faces singles
coincides with a legal victory. "We're about to win our publishing rights
back," says Jones, "and so for the first time we're going to be in
What this means in the long term is new life for
Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, the 1968 concept album which principal songwriters
Marriott and Lane envisioned as London's riposte to the Beatles' Sgt Pepper.
"I'm effectively executive producer of a full-length animated film inspired
by the same sentiments as the album," says Jones, emphasising the project
will be more than a series of promo videos in cartoon form.
"Looking at it again, it was clear Ogden's
was thin on story-line, so we've had to beef that up. There'll be additional
characters, too, and Pete Townsend is writing two extra songs. We're going to
re- arrange and re-work the album's seven existing songs, re-recording them with
a bunch of artists whose names I can't confirm right now."
One name can be confirmed, though - that of a
London boy with some acting experience. Drums and sings a bit. Chap called Phil
Collins. ''He's got that proper Cockney tone to him," says Jones.
So, of course, has Kenney Jones. Over the past 30
years he's risen from a humble boyhood in London's East End, via bedrock
membership of Rod Stewart's prime propellants, the Faces, and a stint as a
Rolling Stone, to his current status as squire of 250 verdant acres of Surrey
upon which stands his pride and joy, the Hurtwood Polo and Country Club.
"Weird, innit?" says Jones. "I
blame Stevie Marriott. One summer's afternoon before the band even had a name,
we were rehearsing in a room above a London pub, and Stevie said he'd got
friends with horses in Essex, and we should bunk off out of the city and have a
go. So we did. I was 14; I'd barely seen a horse, let alone ridden one, but I
took to it like a duck to water. I've ridden ever since. The polo club came
about because I bought a house with 70 acres, and then got chance to buy the
adjoining 180 acres. It's a proper polo club, not a snobby one - Britain's best,
Recognising his good fortune in overcoming social
disadvantage to make the most of himself, Kenney Jones is commendably keen to
assist those whose circumstances aren't quite as happy. "I'd hope to launch
Ogden's as a live spectacle over two or three nights at the Albert Hall, say,
for charity. As a classical piece, with an orchestra and specially-invited
singers. Plus I've recently worked out how to do a proper tribute to Ronnie Lane
- I'd hope to do an open-air version of Long Agos And Worlds Apart in Ronnie's
memory here at the polo club.
"That would be for the same children's
charity, Small Faces For Small Faces, I helped set up when I began to get the
feeling we weren't doing enough with what's a great name."
Your feeling now towards the huge reputation that
the Small Faces have always had?
"For a long time it was as though I wasn't
allowed to forget anything that happened in the five years the band existed
because they were so popular. The great thing now is being able to stand back
and be objective about the Small Faces . . . to become a fan. See, when we were
in the band we couldn't figure out what on earth people saw in us - we were just
kids having a lot of fun.
"In some ways we were ahead of our time,
too, and it's been nice to have compliments from bands like Oasis and Paul
Weller, and from the Britpop movement in general, and to feel that we helped
bring back good old-fashioned honest bands who could play."
Kenney Jones's own playing these days is usually
restricted to occasional low-key local pub gigs with some of his neighbours,
these neighbours including such stalwarts of the original Britrock era as Mike
Rutherford, John Wetton, and Phil Manzanera. Another denizen of Surrey,
erstwhile screen idol Oliver Tobias, has been known to provide vocals. "I
call them my secret band. We only play for charity, to give something back to
the kids. You can't keep taking. You've got to give stuff back."
Thanks for all you've continued to give all of us
over the years, Your Small Facefulness.