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Song of the Day: Billy Sedlmayr On Why The Small Faces' 'Tin Soldier' Makes Him Fall in Love With Rock 'N' Roll Again and Again ... 

The Small Faces: No tin ears here.
  • The Small Faces: No tin ears here.

R&B/pop band Small Faces still leave there impression on history that they were a lot more than a mod combo. Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Kenny Jones and Ian "Mac" McLagan, four young hungry musicians who looked to break the business wide open. And they did. And then everybody sort of forgot. (There were the best band ever not to hit the American bigtime and then they became the Faces with Rod, Marriott went off to lead Humble Pie, but those are other yarns.)

Yes, Don Arden was a bus y manager too, working on The Small Faces recordings and shows, and having a pretty aggressive go at whatever money was earned. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of rock 'n' roll history knows The Small Faces were a million stories in one—too many to name—not the least of which is a we-got-fucked cautionary tale. (Arden was extra special at robbing the band piggy bank.)

click to enlarge P.P. Arnold: Better singer than you.
  • P.P. Arnold: Better singer than you.
Marriott, playing the electric guitar, moving on the right of Ronnie Lane, two artists who were bursting with cool, a peerless creative duo. They were East Londoners and had a huge following with the kids who shared a love for fashion and love of bands who could do bold live show that excited absolutely. The Small Faces troubled the waters with a passion for loud, raucous vocals (Marriott!) while psychedelically treating each new single—with knobsman Glyn Johns at the helm—with rock-challenging ideas and a sort of irony or self-deprecation.

In '67, Marriott penned "Tin Soldier " for P.P. Arnold, herself an R&B belter and star who
they respected and worked with on their records. (I'd guess Marriott felt too close to the song and decided to keep it for the band, instead cutting it with P.P. sharing the chorus.)

Keyboards kick it off, then the drumstick-on-rim to make the entrance perfect, guitar and bass warming up as Marriott yells "C'mon!" then delivers the sparse first verse which quickly rocks with full-on American R&B power and muscle, the whole outfit just kicking full tilt, loud, heavy, then back to that intro one last time. Each performer plain in the pocket, obviously thrilled to be putting their stamp on this historic single. It's all them, and it has been covered but seldom well. "Tin Soldier" is included nicely as a bonus in reissues of Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake, which remains a imperfect masterpiece—from the circular tin cover art to the very British narrator.

Sometimes when I want to know why I still love rock 'n' roll I play "Tin Soldier" and wait for the magic they made. Young, sure and alive.
 

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