I was such a little purist in my Mod formative years that the thought of anyone with long ‘hippy’ hair, sporting velvet flares and shiny frilly fronted shirts were basically the devil incarnate to my way of thinking.
So back in my early 20s, when I saw two of my favourite bands, The Small Faces and The Who had eventually morphed into those late 60s fashions, I tended to look the other way and ignored the work they produced at that stage of their career.
In fact I once bought a book on The Who and decided to rip out the later 60s section and bin it, so perturbed by it was I.
I know what you’re thinking…
Then, I saw a dodgy VHS copy of The Small Faces on a BBC2 programme from June 1968 called ‘Colour Me Pop’ and I realised that I was being a total plum. It was simply a revelation!
On it they mimed to the great songs from the album they were then promoting, though their microphones were live, so some great chatter was captured.
They also looked great.
Yes, flowery and colourful, but still keeping a Mod element to it.
And, the average age of the band then was just 22.
When I was 22, I was just about capable of crossing the road without the aid of Mavis our local lollipop lady….
So, after watching that about 30 times in a row, I knew I had to investigate further and soon after ended up in possession of the aforementioned ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake’ and my musical life changed from that day on….
To say I was blown away and entranced by it in equal measures just about sums it all up. I reckon it all came to me at the right time, as I was maturing into new sounds and dare I say new looks, slowly getting away from the ‘Mod Taliban’ who insisted that you only wore a suit made at Bilgorri or shoes hand made by an Italian geezer in Rome who once shook hands with Alain Delon.
Daft examples I know, but you get the point.
So I had relaxed and this was the perfect album to relax to. Released on 24th May 1968 and engineered by Glyn Johns, it reached the top of the charts a month later and stayed there for 6 weeks, and all that despite being originally housed in a circular tin, that rolled off of every shelf it was placed on.
The cover design, by Pete Brown and Nick Tweddle depicted a take on a tin of rolling tobacco named Ogden Nut Brown Flake, which had originated just before the turn of the 1900s.
The cheeky Small Faces scamps had renamed it ‘Nut Gone’ and upon hearing the album, you sort of knew of why.
It opens on side one with the title track, which is an instrumental ‘heavy’ slice of rock, with Ian McLagan’s Hammond interplaying with the sound of ‘psychedelic’ violin strings, over the melodic plonk of the bass guitar of Ronnie Lane. I’ve always had a penchant for pseudo classical pieces placed within Pop/Rock music and these swirling lines that play around your ears on this always make smile.
A solid start (man.)
Next up is ‘Afterglow’ which has a clap along opening refrain, with, at first, Steve Marriott adopting a tea dance crooner vocal, before the song branches out into a full on soulful rock number with Kenney Jones rumbling away backing up yet another superb Marriott vocal performance. What a set of pipes he really did have. Listening back to it as I write this, you can’t help but feel energised by it. They sound in full control of themselves and it is a very powerful piece of work.
Clapping again leads into Mac (I think?) on vocals on a song he wrote called ‘Long Ago and Worlds Apart.’ Marriott on fine guitar form here. It shuffles nicely to a false ending before returning back to catch out those who got up to make a cup of tea thinking the song had ended.
Oooh Ahhh, Oooh Ahhh…. In a previous lifetime I was one of the DJs of choice at the annual Small Faces Convention in London and if ever the day was falling flat and that was a very rare occasion, putting on the next song would immediately change that.
Yes, it’s ‘Rene The Dockers Delight’ and if you’ve got the readies in the bin, ask for Rene and you’ll be well in.
A sing-a-long song of the highest order, with funny and clever lyrics in equal measure, which always put me in mind of the music hall heritage that these boys, to my mind anyway, are mostly certainly part of. Stevie is on very fine form here leading the vocal down into the best Hammond organ lead knees up there ever was. Once again Marriott also lays on guitar licks that are roaring the song to the finish.
All together now ‘groping with a stoker from the coast of….’
Ronnie takes the lead vocal on ‘Song of a Baker’, which leads the way for the heavy rock period of music to come.
Research has thrown up this song was inspired by Ronnie’s ‘s visits to Ibiza where his neighbour baked bread in a traditional oven and a book of Sufi wisdom which asked, ‘How hard you’ll work if you’re hungry?’ Wise words.
Kenney tumbles about all over the place with some very memorable drum fills. Air guitar aficionados are well served here by the lines that Marriott creates and if ever a Mod was going to start head banging, this would be the track to do it by.
We are then transported back to the music hall boards on yet another sing along with Marriot going full cockney geezer vocal, on ‘Lazy Sunday’ which I know still divides opinion. Personally I just love it and tell those who don’t to lighten up and flipping dig the comb and paper vibe man. Yes the kitchen sink is thrown at it, along with the church bells, but surely it can’t fail to put a smile on your boat?
Once a Polly Tito…
Flip over to side two and we immediately hear the ‘Unwinese’ of Professor Stanley Unwin, who is forever claimed as one of our great English orators. Well, by me anyway…
He sounded like he had swallowed a dictionary written by Salvador Dali and the mad thing was you sort of understood every word. A drunken celestial angel playing a harp is the entry point into a fairy story of ‘Happiness Stan’ who is on a quest to find the other half of the moon (and dangly.)
Things turn very weird on this song of the same name complete; with phased, almost operatic vocals that somehow never lose a sussed soul infused feel. Quite a trick to pull off that one….
Just About to a little Nibble Load of his Mincey Meaty…
Years before the film ‘The Fly’, Ronnie Lane gets in there first playing a starving fly (just say no kids) on the song ‘The Hungry Intruder’ as our hero Happiness Stan gives the fly some of his lunch.
Keep up at the back.
There follows some nice flute work on this fairly whimsically acoustic sounding tune. I swear you can hear a smile in Marriott’s voice. What fun they must have had making this…
Food and Stuffy…
Hang on tight as Kenney and Mac get a healthy groove going that takes this song ‘The Journey’, on, well a journey as a giant fly. Shut your eyes and go with it, it’s the only way I tell thee….
Buzzy Most, Cuddly Most….
We meet Mad John next and he helps Stan find the answer to his question. Take this track off this album and it would a belter of a tune, with Marriott on very fine form accompanied by acoustic guitar.
Great lyrics on this too. ‘So here was a wise one who loved all the haters, he loved them so much that their hate turned to fear.’
Put that in your smoke and pipe it, as Prof. Stanley would say…
Cool To See Yer Man….
Mad John finally solves the riddle of the missing half of the moon for Stan and this fact is celebrated by Lane and Marriott with the immortal line ‘Life is just a Bowl of All Bran…’ Whenever I hear this, I have an image of the four Small Faces forming a line and kicking their legs up, a la The Tiller Girls (there’s one for the teenagers)
‘Give me those happy days toy town newspaper smiles
Clap twice, lean back, twist for a while
When you’re untogether and feeling out of tune
Sing this special song with me; don’t worry ’bout the moon, looks after itself…’
An advert at the time for the album, released by Immediate Records caused an, er, immediate stir, by shaking up the words of the Lords Prayer as follows…
Which were in the studios
Hallowed by thy name
Thy music come
Thy songs be sung
On this album as they came from your heads
We give you this day our daily bread
Give us thy album in a round cover as we give thee 37/9d
Lead us into the record stores
And deliver us Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake
For nice is the music
The sleeve and the story
Forever and ever, Immediate.
So there you have it. Looking back now it is an amazing piece of work from very young men and I doubt anyone could do this today.
It is very much a timepiece but I’m delighted they left us with it.
Finally, it’s only right and proper that I’ll leave you with Mr. Unwin.
‘Gnomes came, Jackie Jill, Knees up Mother Brody….
Stay cool wont you’
The Mumper of SE5