Between spring 1965, when they began rehearsing at the Ruskin Arms in East London’s Manor Park, and June 1967, with their farewell Decca release, The Small Faces were emblematic of a fast-moving youth culture. Mod-ish street style peacocks and R&B/soul obsessives to a man, they were young, hip and hyper. Their self-titled debut album, released in May 1966, includes the hit singles Whatcha Gonna Do About It and Sha-La-La-La-Lee and was well received by music critics and fans alike, rising to number three on the UK album chart and remaining at the top for several weeks.
It represented a three-pronged alliance between the band’s concert set, a couple of Tin Pan Alley-style ’gifts’ bestowed upon them and a clutch of surprisingly assured originals.
Hot under the collar and hastily executed, Small Faces had pop, soul an (rare for a beat combo) very little in the way of 12-bar rock ‘n’ roll. Above all the record caught the flavour of those changing times.
From the Beginning was the (unofficial) retrospective album released in June 1967. It reached number 17 in the UK Album Chart. It is somewhat notorious for being a record put together by the band’s former manager Don Arden after his charges had dispensed with his services and signed with Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate label. It’s a mix of A-sides, first album outtakes and works-in-progress for a second LP and contains an inventive cover of Del Shannon’s classic Runaway as well their biggest hit, All or Nothing.
The latter was the highlight of the Small Faces live set, the centrepiece of From The Beginning and, reckoned Steve Marriott, one of two key Swinging London anthems (the other, he said, was The Who’s My Generation). Built on chord changes that would have been second nature to the Stax house band, the song brought Memphis to Pimlico and summoned a career-best performance from Marriott. It had power, soul and in September 1966 it shared the Number One spot with The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.