The Small Faces: “Robert Plant Came To All Of Our Gigs!”
Although The Small Faces and Faces were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year as one group, America has generally been much more familiar with their second incarnation. Possibly because they never toured the U.S., The Small Faces didn’t make as big of an impact on these shores.
A history lesson: The Small Faces featured Steve Marriott on guitar and vocals, Ronnie Lane on bass, Ian McLagan on keyboards and Kenney Jones on drums. They formed in 1965, and along with The Who, were one of the biggest bands in England’s “mod” scene. Marriott quit at the end of 1968, leaving to form Humble Pie with an 18-year old Peter Frampton.
Lane, McLagan and Jones then hooked up with singer Rod Stewart and guitarist Ron Wood – both of whom had just left The Jeff Beck Group – to form Faces. Unlike The Small Faces, Faces did tour the U.S., and had a huge hit single here with “Stay With Me.”
A series of Small Faces reissues aims to raise the group’s profile: their debut album, 1966’s Small Faces, and a 1967 collection In The Beginning, are both in stores now. One standout track on Small Faces is “You Need Loving,” based on a Muddy Waters song, “You Need Love.” But upon listening to “You Need Loving,” it’s immediately obvious that Led Zeppelin borrowed more than a little from The Small Faces. Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” released three years later, sounds remarkably similar to “You Need Loving,” and Robert Plant’s delivery has a huge Steve Marriott influence.
In an exclusive interview with CBS Local, Ian McLagan says, “Robert would admit it! He used to come to our shows. When I heard ‘Whole Lotta Love,’ I just thought, ‘God bless him, he’s singing like Steve!’ He just didn’t have the range.”
Kenney Jones also spoke to CBS Local, and added that the Zeppelin guys “were all Small Faces nuts! They nicked all our riffs – you can hear it in all the early Zeppelin stuff. All their good stuff!”
In fact, there were even rumors that Jimmy Page wanted to poach Steve Marriott from The Small Faces. Jones can’t confirm that, simply saying, “It wouldn’t surprise me. It’s rock and roll, anything goes!”
If you haven’t heard “You Need Loving” – and you haven’t picked up your copy of Small Faces yet – it’s easy to find on YouTube, and available on iTunes. Along with the deluxe editions of Small Faces and In The Beginning, a special limited deluxe edition of The Small Faces’ 1968 classic Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake is out now.
– Brian Ives, CBS Local