Never trust management. Never trust your PR firm. Never trust admen. Never trust anyone who says they can manage you, promote you, your band, your career, or anything else they’ll swear they can do for you out the love they have for your talents. The history of pop music is littered with fuck-ups by gangster management and public relations parasites who are only interested in making money out of somebody else’s efforts.
Take The Small Faces. Their first manager Don Arden helped them on their way but also claimed a massive percentage of the band’s earnings—some say as high as 80%.
After a series of hit records (including number ones) and sell-out gigs, the band—Steve Marriott (vocals, guitar), Ronnie Lane (vocals, bass), Kenney Jones (drums), Ian McLagan (keyboards)—were still living off a pitiful weekly handout from Arden (the father of Sharon Osbourne, FYI). The band’s parents were so concerned that their kids were being ripped off that they paid Arden a visit to ask what the fuck was going on? It put the wind up in Arden. He blamed the kids. Told the parents the band had spent all their money on pills and drugs. The implication being “Your kids are bloody junkies and I’m the one who’s paying for it!”
While The Small Faces admittedly dabbled with speed and pills—their single “Here Comes The Nice” extols Marriott’s unabashed love for amphetamine, and “Itchycoo Park” was inspired by Lane’s enjoyment of LSD—they were certainly never smackheads. Arden, like Donald Trump, was well aware that the first rule of defense is attack.
Arden would justify his action by claiming he was only trying to get back the $20,000+ he had spent on buying up as many copies of their debut single as it took to ensure it was a hit. Apparently Arden thought he deserved the money for all of his initial outlay and then some.
The band was keeping Arden sweet and he was not going to let them go. When rival producer/manager Robert Stigwood tried to lever the band away from him, a bunch of heavies turned up at Stigwood’s office and threatened to hang him out of the window if he didn’t fuck off.
However, the parents proved to be a bigger threat than rival managers. After the parental intervention, The Small Faces split with Arden and signed-up with former Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham. In many respects it was a better deal—they had more freedom and more studio time which allowed them to produce their greatest album Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake (1968). But the financial returns—well they were only slightly better.
And as for the PR side…
When The Small Faces’ released Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake in May 1968 it was oddly promoted with a parody of the Lord’s Prayer:
Which were in the studios
Hallowed by thy name
Thy music come
Thy songs be sung
On this album as they came from your heads
We give you this day our daily bread
Give us thy album in a round cover as we give thee 37/9d.,
Lead us into the record stores.
And deliver us Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake
For nice is the music
The sleeve and the story
For ever and ever, Immediate.
At time when the majority of the UK identified as Christian and the churches were packed every Sunday, and the views of Archbishops were considered more important than those of politicians—as they dealt with the life hereafter, not just the here and now—the ad was understandably considered blasphemous.
Across the breakfast rooms of England, cups and saucers were rattled in disgust. The press ran BANNER HEADLINES OF SHOCK! AND HORROR! and angry missives sent from Tunbridge Wells, Slough and Lower Perineum filled the letters pages. It certainly was a rum way to pitch a psychedelic concept album. Steve Marriott was equally surprised by the ad:
We didn’t know a thing about the ad, until we saw it in the music papers. And frankly we got the horrors at first. We realised that it could be taken as a serious knock against religion. But on thinking it over, we don’t feel it is particularly good or bad. It’s just another form of advertising. We’re not all that concerned about it. We’re more concerned in writing our music and producing our records.
It was not as damaging as say John Lennon’s claim that the Beatles were bigger than Christ (though let’s be clear: that outburst actually helped sell more Beatles albums in the US, as protesters bought copies just to burn ‘em). Or as damagingly litigious as The Move’s management putting out an advertizing postcard of then Prime Minister Harold Wilson in bed with his secretary Marcia Williams for the single “Flowers in the Rain”—which led to them being sued and band’s songwriter Roy Wood losing all of his royalties in perpetuity for the hit. But the Lord’s Prayer advert did The Small Faces no real favors. If anything, it was another stumbling block to them ever making it in the States. The album made number one in the UK but only edged the top 200 in the US.
More about The Small Faces, plus their appearance on ‘Colour Me Pop,’ after the jump…