The name of the group alone should indicate exactly what they were and still rings true today. The line-up was all rather diminutive in size, although certainly not in stature or talent. This accounts for the first half of the name and the second half of the name is simply down to the fact that they were all “faces” on the mod scene.
In interviews that have surfaced from the band members in more recent years, a truism comes to light. It would be correct to say that the Small Faces were mods before the majority of people knew what mods were. They were in the right place at the right time and the group was massively influential in the combining of music, fashion and lifestyle choices in creating what is considered to be mainstream mod culture. There is always an argument that the influence of modernist jazz fans in London in the late 1950s, early 1960s needs to be acknowledged but the Small Faces more than played their part.
The band’s manager Don Arden had an office on Carnaby Street even before the sterling reputation of this street took off. At the time, there were only three main outlets for fashion on the street. Topper’s was the place to shop if you were looking for shoes while Lord John and John Stephens were the choices for the main clothing options. The fact that the John Stephens store was located directly below the offices of Don Arden made it a natural choice.
It was all or nothing with the Small Faces
With stories abound that the group were being paid in clothes as much as they were in cash, the fashion sensibilities of the group are understandable. This was a band wearing the finest of mod gear before it was known about and it is only right that their influence on the emerging mod culture was acknowledged.
It would be wrong to bypass the musical output of the group though. At times dismissed as being a mere pop act (albeit at a time when pop acts were deemed important), the overall importance of the band’s music is much stronger than the one or two tracks that are continuously rolled out on soundtracks and adverts today.
Early single ‘Here Come The Nice’ was an obvious paean to drugs and the drug culture that was growing at the time. The BBC censors failed to pick up on the not so subtle message of the song but for kids listening up and down the country, it was clear that this was a band that was tuned into what was happening. Mod culture has always been closely linked to stimulants, providing the impetus to party into the small hours and making the most of the free time that was available to people.
Very quickly, the band grew in confidence and their musical output expanded largely. As well as being a mod fashion band, the group were one of the main parties in the mod psychedelic movement that came around in the late 1960s. The band’s masterpiece, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake stands today has one of the best albums from the psychedelic era, although it possibly pushed the band to their limits. Being unable to replicate the album in the live arena had a huge impact on the confidence of Steve Marriott, who was the most concerned about being bogged down with a pop tag.
It was Marriott who sensationally quit the band on New Year’s Eve in 1968 although singles and a posthumous album were to follow in 1969.
The universal appeal of the group lives on today
The band was also cited as a large and regular influence on the Britpop movement of the mid-90s. No matter what your opinion of this musical movement was, the influence of mod culture was central to many bands of the time and a whole new wave of mods came to the scene from this genre. A lot of the new converts moved away over time but many of the mods who came to the scene at this time are still around today and are as committed to the mod scene and culture as any of their older members of the scene.
The role that the Small Faces had on mod culture and music should never be overlooked or underestimated. In a short few years, the group managed to create a legacy that lives on to this today and is sure to be around for many more years to come.
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Mod knitwear inspired by the sensational Small Faces