45 Years Ago: Small Faces’ ‘Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake’ Album Released
In May of 1968, the Small Faces released their final LP, ‘Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake’ — putting an exclamation point at the end of their short, but stimulating sentence of a career.
Though the Small Faces’ legend has grown over the years, the truth is that between 1965 and 1969, the band’s recorded output was relatively small. A run of great singles, three “official” LP’s, and they were gone. Their catalog holds up very well, aging nicely over time and losing none of its power and beauty. Despite some of the trappings of the era from whence it came, ‘Ogdens Nut Gone Flake’ stands tall 45 years later.
The original album was issued in a round sleeve made to look like a tobacco tin, which opened up in four folds (keeping in mind that, at the time, tobacco tins were often used to keep other, less-than-legal smokable substances in). The unique packaging was second only to the unique and positively exciting music found within. The LP kicks off with the title song, a blazing and swirling instrumental (based on an earlier SF single, ‘I Got Mine’) that sets the mood and quickly grabs your attention. Keyboardist Ian MacLagan shines here.
This opens the door for the killer punch of ‘Afterglow of Your Love,’ which ranks as one of the band’s finest moments. The beautifully soulful melody of the verse, followed by the triumphant chorus — delivered so powerfully by the one and only Steve Marriott — is a perfect example of what made them such a great band. The lovely ‘Long Agos and Worlds Apart‘ and the jolly little ‘Rene‘ nicely bridge the exuberance of ‘Afterglow’ and the sheer power of the next track.
Side one ends with the somewhat campy, music hall style of ‘Lazy Sunday,’ where Marriott sings in an exaggerated cockney accent as he tells tales of suburbia. The song was released as a single prior to the LP, and reached the No. 2 spot on the UK charts. “We didn’t want to release ‘Lazy Sunday’ as a single,” said Marriott in the book ‘The Young Mods’ Forgotten Story,’ “even though we virtually knew it would be a hit. 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‘ album the year before, suddenly an album was destined to be more than merely a stray collection of songs. Now everything was headed for conceptual territory. The idea was seized upon by Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, but they were also a bit apprehensive about the idea, questioning their ability to hold the interest of the listener for an entire two sides. They made the decision to limit their concept to side two, which was a fairytale of sorts, about a character named ‘Happiness Stan‘ and his search for the other half of the moon (Stan was the name of Lane’s father).
“Every band at that point were trying to keep up with, or go one better than everybody else with new sounds,” said producer Glyn Johns. “It was a very exploratory period, breaking out from the use of very standard instruments and recording techniques.” The band’s performance throughout is spot on, full of raw emotion and brimming with countless new ideas.
Marriott and Lane decided there needed to be some sort of narration between two songs to move the story along, so they hired eccentric English actor Stanley Unwin to do the honors. “It made us laugh,” said 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 nature of ‘Happiness Stan’ to the rollicking rocker ‘Rollin’ Over,’ the band tries to fit in as many styles as they can on side two. From the whimsical to the haunting to the orchestrated to the full out rocking, the story unfolds and the band triumphs.
The album proved to be a huge hit in their homeland, shooting straight to the No. 1 slot and staying there for over a month. To promote the album, Immediate Records ran an ad that parodied the Lord’s Prayer, boasting of the band’s musical and artistic virtues. The ad caused a slight controversy and, though meant to be tongue in cheek, was pulled. “We didn’t know a thing about the ad till we saw it in the music papers,’ said Marriott.
Despite the complex nature of the recordings, drummer Jones envisioned taking the album to the stage, complete with Stanley Unwin in tow to do his narrations. Marriott, already plotting his move out of the band, shot the idea down. Within a year Marriott would split and form Humble Pie, while the others would regroup as simply the Faces, with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood taking Marriott’s place. ‘Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake’ remains a shining example of what made this band so great!