The Small Faces' 15 greatest songs ever, ranked

10 March 2022, 12:38

By Mayer Nissim

The Small Faces were one of the most influential Mod and psychedelic bands of the 1960s.

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As Faces reunite in the studio for the first time in decades, it feels like a good time to look at their roots.

Rod Stewart's 1970s band grew out of the ashes of The Small Faces, led by Steve Marriott and backed by Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan.

From their powerful R&B beginnings through to their playful psychedelic concept album Odgen's Nut Gone Flake, The Small Faces were one of the best British bands of the 1960s.

In their heyday, they released just three albums, but their string of ageless hit singles sound as fresh today as they ever did.

Not sure where to start or just looking to celebrate the career of The Small Faces? We've got you covered with their very best 15 songs.

  1. Mad John

    Not released as a single in the UK, 'Mad John' was maybe the ultimate example of the madness and wonder of the Small Faces Odgens' Nut Gone Flake concept LP.

    It opens with some of the barmy narration of Stanley Unwin, before slipping into a pastoral folksy, psychedelic tale of Mad John the Hermit, who explains the disappearance of the moon to Happiness Stan.

    You can hear the impending influence of 'Mad John' in everything from David Bowie to Led Zeppelin.

  2. The Universal

    Written by Steve Marriott, the basic track was recorded in his Beehive Cottage home in Essex, complete with the background noise you can hear on the finished recording.

    "People keep saying that 'Universal' is a send-up of Dylan or the one-man band – they don't seem to realise that it's a serious record," he later said.

    "This proves that they don't really listen to it because if they did they'd understand what it's all about. It's about getting up in the morning and going outside and saying hello to the Universe."

    It was actually meant to be called 'Hello The Universal', but when it was misprinted they decided to keep the snappier name rather than splash out on changing it. Released in June 1968, it went to number 16 in the charts.

  3. Afterglow Of Your Love

    Released as the band were splitting by manager Andrew Loog Oldham without the group's permission, 'Afterglow' had appeared in a slightly slower mix on the previous year's Odgens' Nut Gone Flake album.

    This sultry garage power ballad went top 40 and seemed to nod at the coming heavy rock of the 1970s.

  4. I Can’t Make It

    'I Can't Make It' had plenty going against it when it was released in March 1967, just a couple of months after it was recorded.

    The Small Faces had left Don Arden and Decca and hooked up with Andrew Loog Oldham and his Immediate label, but contractual wrangling meant that the single came out on their former label.

    So the band refused to promote it. Meanwhile, the BBC thought the lyrics were sexually suggestive ("I know how you're feeling / I felt that way too") when they aren't really all that saucy in the slightest.

    Still, it's a mod beat classic, and it managed to climb to number 26.

  5. Wham Bam Thank You Mam

    The B-side of the 'Afterglow' single and one of the last songs recorded by The Small Faces, 'Wham Bam Thank You Mam' is a chugging rock juggernaut with incredible organ stabs propelling it along.

    The title and chorus refrain were borrowed by Bowie for his hit 'Suffragette City' a few years later.

  6. Hey Girl

    A top ten single written by Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, 'Hey Girl' helped propel the band's preceding album to number three in the charts in 1966.

    That success triggered one of the most shocking pop incidents of the time. The band caught the ear of Robert Stigwood who started making overtures, which didn't best please Don 'dad of Sharon Osbourne' Arden.

    Arden and four goons came round and HELD STIGWOOD OUT OF HIS FOURTH-FLOOR BALCONY WINDOW BY HIS ANKLES to warn him off the band.

    Yikes! Great song, though.

  7. My Mind’s Eye

    As you've probably gleaned by now, like many 1960s bands The Small Faces weren't exactly in charge of all their own decisions.

    Written again by the Marriott/Lane partnership, 'My Mind's Eye' was apparently planned to be an album track. That all changed when Don Arden wanted to rush release a single before Christmas 1966.

    He put out a rough demo, and despite it going all the way to number four in the UK, it was one of the reasons why the group eventually split from Arden and went with Andrew Oldham.

  8. I’ve Got Mine

    After launching with 'Whatcha Gonna Do About It', follow-up 'I've Got Mine' was the first Small Faces single written entirely by the core partnership of Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane.

    The band played the song as themselves in pop and cop B-movie Dateline Diamonds, but the movie release was delayed until after the single came out, which is probably why the single stalled outside the charts.

  9. Here Come the Nice

    The Small Faces first single for Immediate after they left Decca was also their first out-and-out psychedelic single, complete with a quirky "come down" outro.

    With a title nabbed off comedian Lord Buckle's 'Here Comes Da Nazz', the lyrics are blatantly about scoring some drugs from a dealer.

    But despite the words being pretty unambiguous ("He makes me feel like no one else could / He knows what I want, he's got what I need") the usually strict BBC didn't seem to notice.

    It eventually got to number 12 in the charts, and paved the way for the band's continued foray into psychedelic waters.

  10. Tin Soldier

    Inspired by his love for his wife Jenny, Steve Marriott originally wrote this absolute classic mashup of R&B and psyche for PP Arnold. It was so good that he couldn't help but keep it for himself, though you can hear Arnold's backing vocals on the track.

    "The meaning of the song is about getting into somebody's mind – not their body," Steve said.

    "It refers to a girl I used to talk to all the time and she really gave me a buzz. The single was to give her a buzz in return and maybe other people as well. "

    It did that for sure, going to number 9 in the UK and becoming one of their most enduring songs.

  11. All Or Nothing

    Steve Marriott was inspired by a couple of break-ups for the massive 'All or Nothing': his wife Jenny's split from future Faces frontman Rod Stewart, and his own break-up with fiancée Sue Oliver.

    The 1966 single went all the way to number one in the UK charts, and was played as the requiem at Marriot's funeral after his tragic death in a house fire in 1991.

  12. Sha-La-La-La-Lee

    'Sha-La-La-La-Lee' was The Small Faces' third single and the first following the departure of original keyboard player Jimmy WInston, who was replaced by Ian MacLagan.

    Its predecessor 'I've Got Mine' was a flop, so Don Arden brought in songwriters for higher Kenny Lynch and Mort Shuman, making this a rare Small Faces single not written by the Marriott/Lane partnership.

    The band didn't think it was a fair representation of their sound, but it was still a massive hit, going all the way to number 3 in the UK.

  13. Whatcha Gonna Do About It

    Where it all began. The Small Faces (with Jimmy Winston still in the lineup) exploded onto the scene and into the charts with their debut single.

    Marriott and Lane had already got the melody, inspired by Solomon Burke's classic 'Everybody Needs Somebody to Love', and manager Don Arden hired Ian Samwell and Brian Potter to write the lyrics.

    Released in August 1965, this hard-hitting slice of R&B with a wave of Marriott's guitar feedback went all the way to number 12 in the charts, probably helped by Arden spending a few grand to "help" it along its way.

    It was later covered by The Sex Pistols during rehearsals, with Malcolm McLaren digging out the tapes for The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle album.

  14. Lazy Sunday

    A standout and (against the band's wishes) lead single from the Odgens' Nut Gone Flake concept album, 'Lazy Sunday' finds Marriott singing in an OTT cockney accent that would go on to influence Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten.

    The song is proof of the band's experimental spirit and ability to weave in the same sort of trad music hall references as their contemporaries The Who and The Kinks.

  15. Itchycoo Park

    A nettle-infested Little Ilford Park in Manor Park, a wasp-filled Valentine's Park in Ilford or Wanstead Flats in Wanstead... no-one can quite agree of the location of the "real" Itchycoo Park, but everyone can agree that it's one of the very best songs of the 1960s.

    It's obviously another drug song ("I got high!"), but Marriott and then-Small Faces manager Tony Calder that it was actually just about fun times playing in an East End wasteground as kids, and they somehow got away with it.

    A Ronnie Lane slice of psychedelia released in August 1967, it was one of the first hits to boast the disorientating "flanging" effect, it got to number three in the UK chart and was The Small Faces only Top 40 song in the US, getting as high as number 16 over the Atlantic.

    A re-release scaled the charts in the mid-1970s and probably inspired the Small Faces unsuccessful 1975-78 reunion. Lane left after the first rehearsal, and the band never really reached the peak of their first run with their new material.

    The song went to number 11 in 1995 in a very different form, when it was covered by Heather Small-fronted Manchester dance/soul band M People.