As front man of cult 60′s combo The Small Faces, Steve Marriott combined a stylish modernist image with an agitated singing style that owed much to vocalists such as Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding. However his delivery would become a unique blend of strong vocals and cockney speech patterns of his native East End. He died today in 1991.
Singer/guitarist Steve Marriott died in a house fire at his 16th century home in Arkesden, Essex, aged 46. First finding fame as a child actor in the stage production of “Oliver!”, Steve Marriott’s attempts at a musical career were less successful and he spent 1963 and part of 1964 attempting to break through as a solo artist and member of a group known variously as The Frantiks and The Moments.
Working at a music shop in Manor Park, Marriott met bass player Ronnie Lane in 1964 and joined his band, The Outlaws – aka The Pioneers. Along with drummer Kenney Jones and organ player Jimmy Winston (later replaced by Ian McLagan) they became The Small Faces and signed to Decca Records.
A string of hits including “Sha La La La Lee”, “All or Nothing” and “My Mind’s Eye” followed, but following management and record company disputes over artistic control and underpayment of royalties, the band decamped to Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate Records.
Their 1967 single, “Itchycoo Park” hinted at a new psychedelic direction and the following year’s concept album “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake” moved them still further away from R&B. With contributions from renowned gibberish merchant “Professor” Stanley Unwin, it topped the UK album charts and drew comparison with “Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
Frustrated at a lack of collective success and personal recognition, Marriott quit the group in 1969 and joined guitarist Peter Frampton in Humble Pie, becoming a stadium rock act. The others meanwhile shed “Small” from their name and recruited Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood.
For Steve though, Humble Pie’s demise in 1975 was to mark a downturn in his musical career. A 1976 solo release “Marriott” was then followed by a Small Faces reunion that was thwarted by legal issues. Attempts to reform Humble Pie without Peter Frampton then also stalled and Marriott was reduced to playing gigs on the London pub circuit until his untimely death.
The tenth anniversary of his death saw various members of the Small Faces and Humble Pie pay a musical tribute to Steve at London’s Astoria Theatre – along with Marriott worshippers Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher. The night ended in suitable style, with a mass rendition of “All or Nothing”.
And the 27th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony in April 2012 then belatedly honoured both the Small Faces and the Faces – with Ian McLagan, Ronnie Wood and Kenney Jones appearing (Rod Stewart was a no-show due to illness). Mick Hucknall stood in on vocals for the live element of the show and honoured Steve’s memory with a stirring rendition of “All or Nothing”.
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And here’s some footage of Steve in action: