The Wapping wonders' masterpiece remains a psychedelic classic...
Chris Jones 2007
Manor Park’s Small Faces began life as puppets to an industry still riddled by svangali-like figures keen to exploit the production line model for pop music production. Yet following two years of mod-friendly, peerless power pop/soul for Decca and scary manager, Don Arden (father of Sharon Osbourne), Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane et al finally escaped to a label that at least understood how to nurture a band’s creativity.
Cementing their psychedelic credentials in the summer of 1967 with “Itchycoo Park” on Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate label - a prime example of their hallucinogenic cockernee schtick – it was time to show that they could really think in terms of whole albums as opposed to snippets of three-minute glory. The result? Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake.
Housed in the world’s first circular album sleeve, it was split into two distinct sides. Ogden’s' first half consists of six tightly buzzing slices of the psychedelic r ‘n’ b that was now their stock in trade. Mainly penned by Marriott and Lane the fare divides itself between punchy blue-eyed soul stompers like ''Afterglow (Of Your Love)'' and more chirpy psych knees ups like ''Lazy Sunday'' (inspired by Marriott’s feuds with his neighbours).
The second side contains the story of Happiness Stan and his quest to find the moon, interlinked by forgotten master of gobbledegook, Stanley Unwin. Here the songs are considerably more embellished and varied in texture; from the strange faux-folksy “Mad John” to the more rocking “Rollin’ Over”. The latter featured a brass section while the rest included strings, harps and all the usual trappings expected of bands who wished to signal their serious musical intent. But somehow at the heart of it all was the Small Faces’ muscular approach that makes Ogden’s certainly the least fey of all English psychedelic classics. This was to be the template for both Marriots’ later band Humble Pie and Lane, Ian Maclagan and Kenney Jones’ next career move with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood in the Faces.
Sadly, despite one complete airing on British TV (Colour Me Pop) Ogden’s was never to be performed live due, in part, to its complexity. Dispirited by an inability to build on its success (six weeks at number one in 1968), and annoyance that the one hit from the album was the unauthorised release of “Lazy Sunday” the group finally caved in. In the same way as their contemporaries, the Zombies (with Odessey and Oracle), their masterpiece was their swansong and like that album it remains a pinnacle of British 60s pop.