And More Again...

At the same time, there was something in the musical air in the three years after 1965 that hadn’t existed previously as artists cast their nets into previously unexplored waters, at least as far as popular music was concerned. It was, after all the era that introduced doomy Gregorian chants into The Yardbirds’ Still I’m Sad, though that little effort was effectively trumped by The Bee Gees with an album track called Every Christian Lionhearted Man Will Show You, which was, in itself a remarkable progression from their earliest writing efforts back in the days when they’d just moved beyond playing Queensland coastal resorts and the Brisbane speedway circuit.

It was a strange time, and one can’t help suspecting that the musical monotony that set in after the end of 1968 was linked to a feeling that someone had already explored any avenue that was likely to produce something in the way of a commercially viable synthesis and the writers were more or less innovated out.

Although there is no way of proving it, I have a suspicion that many of the earliest original compositions these groups came up with were written for a particular part of the band’s stage act. I would suggest that when bands started out doing covers, they developed set lists that suited the audiences they were playing to, and that when they started writing original material, the new songs were designed to fit into particular places in the set or to appeal to a particular section of their audience and modelled after other numbers that were already part of their repertoire.

Take, for instance, the first Small Faces’ single. Whatcha Gonna Do About It which started off as a little riff Marriott had borrowed from Solomon Burke’s Everybody Needs Somebody to Love and transformed into what Paolo Hewitt and John Hellier (p.93) describe as a vibrant instrumental. Having landed a record contract, they needed a single, and this was certainly bouncy and catchy enough, but the instrumental needed words. 

Maybe if they’d had more time on their hands, or a bit more writing under their belts manager Don Arden might have left Marriott and Lane to provide the lyrics, but time was of the essence so Samwell and Potter were drafted in to do the job. The version of the story here doesn’t match the one in the Marriott biography, but that is, after all an Ian Samwell obituary. 

There was, of course, a degree of what we’d nowadays describe as chick magnet potential in the fact that you’d written some songs, in much the same way that some of us found it handy to have some deep and meaningful poetry on hand when you were setting out to amaze and impress Year Ten high school girls.

That, I’d suggest, explains the young rocker’s propensity to turn his hands to the ballad when he sets about writing his early original material. The aforementioned Easybeats’ In My Book looks like a perfect example of that trend, as do early Jagger/Richards compositions like Blue Turns to Grey and, particularly, As Tears Go By.

Another way of developing their original material for bands like the Yardbirds was to formalize some of their onstage rave-ups into new songs. 

In an environment where many of the groups were on the receiving end of considerable female fan hysteria, one of the things I suspect the bands’ writers were looking for was the perfect finale to a live set.

Unfortunately, when it comes to looking at a group like the Small Faces, and trying to place the inspiration for a song like Tin Soldier or Afterglow of your Love in some sort of context, the fact that both Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane are long dead might be seen as posing some difficulty. However, a quick look at the only Small Faces set list I could find at has Tin Soldier right where I expected it to be at the end of the show.

On top of that, Paolo Hewitt and John Hellier’s biography of Steve Marriott quotes P.P. Arnold’s claim that the song was written for her but He liked it so much he kept it himself and gave me If You Think You’re Groovy... (p.160) which leads me to suspect that the potential as a set-closer was recognized pretty quickly once it was written.

For most of the period in question it seems the preferred touring option for many of the bands attracting hysterical teenage fans was the package tour with half a dozen acts playing sets that ran to half an hour at the very most for the headline act and much less than that for those further down the bill.


B© Ian Hughes 2012