Tin Soldier – Small Faces : Iconic Songs & the story behind them
“Tin Soldier” is a song released by the English rock band Small Faces on 2 December 1967, written by Steve Marriott (credited to Marriott/Lane). The song peaked at number nine in the UK singles chart and number 38 in Canada. It has since been covered by many other notable rock artists
Tin Soldier – Small Faces
My Thoughts ?
Tin Soldier was originally written by Steve Marriott for singer P.P. Arnold, but Marriott liked it so much he kept it himself. It was a song that he wrote to his first wife, Jenny Rylance. P.P. Arnold can be heard singing backing vocals on the song and also performed as guest singer at television recordings of the song.
The song signalled a return to the band’s R&B roots whilst continuing their forays into psychedelic rock and other musical experiments. When Tin Soldier was released the BBC informed the band that the last line of the song had to be removed from all TV and radio broadcasts, mistakenly believing that Marriott sang “sleep with you”, when in fact the lyric is “sit with you”. Marriott explained that the song was about getting into someone’s mind—not their body.
Tin Soldier reached number nine in the UK Singles Chart and remains one of Small Faces’ best known songs.
Talking about the song, and the influence of his wife Jenny, Marriott stated:
The meaning of the song is about getting into somebody’s mind—not their body. It refers to a girl I used to talk to all the time and she really gave me a buzz. The single was to give her a buzz in return and maybe other people as well. I dig it. There’s no great message really and no physical scenes.
“I am a little tin soldier that wants to jump into your fire”.
Upon reaching No. 73 in the USA with this single, their label Immediate Records abandoned its attempts to penetrate the American market. “Tin Soldier” would ultimately be the last song performed live by the Small Faces during their original incarnation; It was performed on 8 March 1969 at the Theatre of Jersey in Jersey.
” So now I’ve lost my way I need help to show me things to say Give me your love before mine fades away “
I am a little tin soldier That wants to jump into your fire You are a look in your eye A dream passing by in the sky
I don’t understand All I need is treat me like a man ‘Cause I ain’t no child Take me like I am
I got to know that I belong to you Do anything that you want to do Sing any song that you want me to sing to you
I don’t need no aggravation I just got to make you I just got to make you my occupation
I got to know that I belong to you Do anything that you want to do Sing any song that you want me to sing to you
All I need is your whispered hello Smiles melting the snow nothing heard Your eyes are deeper than time Say a love that won’t rhyme without words
So now I’ve lost my way I need help to show me things to say Give me your love before mine fades away
I got to know that I belong to you Do anything that you want to do Sing any song that you want me to sing to you
Oh no no I just want some reaction Someone to give me satisfaction All I want to do is stick with you ‘Cause I love you
Mojo readers’ poll
In 1997, some 30 years after the song’s original release, Mojo voted “Tin Soldier” the tenth best single of all time, in a readers’ poll. The poll placed it ahead of anything by The Who or The Rolling Stones. The song has also been much mentioned over the years by Paul Weller and featured in Noel Gallagher‘s personal all-time top ten song list.
Steve Marriott – lead and backing vocals, acoustic and electric guitars
By the mid 80s I was completely emerged in the Mod culture and I started slowly to migrate away from the loyalist run discos and clubs of my childhood and teens years. As I grew older and more confident ( wiser) I started to explore further afield and go to clubs and gigs in and around Belfast city centre and for the first time in my life I was meeting and mixing with Catholics on a social level and I gradually came to realize they weren’t that different from me after all.
I”m the one with shades on
My evolving Mod identity was opening up a whole new world to me and I grabbed it by both hands and jumped on for the ride of my life.
As a young, self confident adult my Mod days were the best years of my life and if I had to live my life again I wouldn’t change a thing from that time. Well, maybe one or two things regarding beautiful women I was too stoned or to blind to see what they were offering me.
The Norns love to toy with destinies of mortal men.
Me when I thought I was immortal & would never grow old
Prior to this my only interaction with my catholic counterparts was our nightly riots with the catholic kids from Ardoyne & the Springfield Road and like those around me I hated them all with a passion. I was living in the epicenter of loyalist Northern Ireland and I had been brought up to hate and mistrust Catholics from an early age. Like my peers around me I blamed them for the war that was ripping Northern Ireland apart and I could never forgive them for their treacherous support of IRA terrorists and other republican groups
My childish subconscious mind seemed to filter out the worst horrors the loyalist paramilitaries were visiting on the catholic population, but when a republican terrorist was killed I celebrated and praised those responsible. We were fanatical in our hatred of the IRA and all things republican and the call for a united Ireland drove us buck mad with rage.
I was living in the Loyalist goldfish bowl and my horizons were dominated by the so called Peace Wall.
Welcome to my world.
My loyalist identity and culture was hardwired into my DNA and at first I struggled with the conflict of mixing with catholic Mods/folk from the other side, whom I had always considered my enemies.
But my priorities were also evolving and my lifelong prejudices against all catholic’s was fading away . I embraced the Belfast Mod movement with passion and enthusiasm and became a well known Face among the Mods and Mod clubs of Belfast and beyond.
I’m the one wearing shades
Up until this stage in my life I had been blanketed within the Loyalist culture and felt safe in the knowledge that the tight knit community I belonged too , was a part of , would work as one to protect me and other children and shield us from the worst evils of mankind.
Which was kinda hard considering I was living in one of the most violent, deadly places on planet earth at the time?
The paramilitaries ruled our daily lives and this was all perfectly normal for us. From an early age I was subconsciously aware that I lived in a messed up land and many of my family, friends and neighbours were involved with one of the various loyalist paramilitary or community groups.
I grew up with people who would become loyalist killers, others were killed by republicans and the never ending feuds between loyalist paramilitaries added to the ever growing butcher’s bill. Some also killed themselves to escape the madness going on around us and many ended up serving life sentences for terrorist activities.
Every death was someone’s personal tragedy and at times the slaughter seemed never ending.
I remember as a child attending family/local funerals and when I looked around I was surrounded by loyalist legends and Godfathers , paramilitaries leaders and killers .Then I got really angry and annoyed because the police had loads of spotters out , recording the funeral and taking pictures of all those present and generally disrespecting us as we buried our dead. When someone died in our world the whole community suffered as one and our ties were much stronger for our shared suffering at the hands of republican terrorists.
But I loved this messed up land and as a proud wee prod I hated the IRA and all they stood for. In my childish loyalist mind I looked up to the loyalist warlords and those that served them. After all they were taking the war to the IRA and fighting for God and Ulster and our continued freedom, weren’t they?
That made me feel safer, somehow. Twisted or what?
At times it felt like the loyalist people were under siege and I remember as a child during the strikes of the 70’s I was terrified as I stood at the top of Glencairn , looking out over all of Belfast and watching thick black smoke belch into the air and the whole sky seemed to be on fire. Loyalist paranoia was so acute at times that we were actually anticipating civil war to break out at any moment and I wondered and worried if I and those I loved would survive the battles to come.
I was also a committed Christian for most of my childhood and teens and a pacifist by heart and I never felt comfortable with the never ending murder of innocent people, regardless of political or religious background. In fact I hated it and I couldn’t understand why God in all his wisdom would let such things happen and the first cracks began to appeared in my Christian faith. Living in loyalist Belfast my God was of course a loyalist God and my people were fighting the wicked IRA and despised the antichrist in Rome, Pope John Paul II , the head of the hated Catholic Church.
But I digress; I’m suppose to be telling the story of Noddy Clarke.
My old scrapbook from my Mod days.
I’d met Noddy and his girlfriend Maria in the Mod clubs and pubs of Belfast, mostly the Delta & Abercone and I quickly became friends with them and enjoyed having a chat & chill with them when our paths crossed. Noddy (Gerard Clarke) was a beautiful, gentle wise soul and he was one of those rare people who seemed to have time for everyone and seemed genuinely interested in what you had to say. He was a top bloke and I had a lot of time for him and Maria. Maria was also a beautiful person and friendly to all.
The fact that they were catholic never entered my mind and this was testament to how far I had moved on from the entrenched prejudices of my childhood. Although I no longer hated catholic’s my hatred of the IRA and republican terrorists never waned and still beats in my heart today. I can’t forget or forgive the past, but I want peace in Northern Ireland and if that means dancing with the devil, so be it.
The Belfast Mod scene was at its height at the time and as I moved in the same circles of the Faces and wannabies I got drunk (and high) on the joy of it all. I was young, seemingly acceptable to the female species and my life was one long never ending party and I Really never wanted it to end.
Me during my Mod days
There were always some big events happening in the Mod calendar and I travelled all over Northern Ireland and London with a group of about thirty hardcore Mods, attending all dayers and concerts. Noddy & Maria were often at these events and our love of the Mod culture transcended hundreds of year’s sectarian conflict and suspicion and give me a hint of a better future.
Mods in Carnaby Street
Once a group of about thirty of us travelled to London for a Mod all dayer , taking place in the Ilford Palais. The concert wasn’t until the Sunday and as it was only Friday we decided to visit the most iconic Mod address in the World, Carnaby Street. As a Mod it felt like the pilgrimage to Mecca muslims make and for me walking on the hollowed paved streets of Carnaby Street It felt almost like a holy experience and I was hypnotised by sheer joy of just being there and drinking in the Mod culture it had given birth too.
But my joy was to be short lived.
I’ve absolutely no idea who he is , but he fits into the story nicely.
As we walked the legendary streets and drank in the super cool atmosphere i was mesmerized and entranced by the beauty of it all and then suddenly we heard a massive roar and what sounded like a football stampede and then three terrified young Mods ran past us as if the devil was on their tails.
Time stood still as we waited to see what had scared them so much and made them take such desperate flight.
Then from a side road about fifty phycho looking skinheads appeared from nowhere, many of them wearing Chelsea and Rangers football scarf’s, covered in loyalist and swastika tattoos and they were obviously baying for blood, Mod blood to be exact.
The moment they spotted us they stopped dead and some even grinned at the Mod bounty fate had delivered them. We were in some deep shit and I searched my mind frantically for a way out.
There was only a few of us together at this stage and my heart leaped into my throat as I anticipated the beating I was about to receive. But growing up in the badlands of loyalist West Belfast I was use to brutal violence and then two things came to my mind at once.
Firstly I was use to gang battles between Mods and Skinheads and had fought in many in the backstreets of The Shankill & Ballysillian/Silverstream (a story for another day) and survived largely intact. But here we were vastly outnumbered, on foreign soil so to speak and these guys wanted to rip us apart, limb by limb and savour every moment of our agony and shame. Then I considered the Rangers scarfs and an idea started to take shape in my terrified brain.
Rangers was the team of choice for much of the protestant population of Northern Ireland and along with Chelsea and Linfield they were inextricably woven into the core of our loyalist culture. I hoped these baying skinheads or some of them at least would hold the same pride and love for Queen and country as me and I thought this might just save us.
I glanced over at the leaders in the front row and as they hurled insults and threats my heart sunk when I saw some of them had pulled out weapons and knifes and were preparing to attach us and I braced myself ready for a battle we could never win.
My survival instinct kicked in and once again my destiny was in the hands of the gods , gods I no longer trusted. I took a deep breath and played my hand.
“Stay back “
I told the others beside and behind me, aware that some of them were catholic’s and possibly in more danger than me, if that was at all possible in my current situation. I stepped forward and looking for the top boy I calmingly suggested they all slow down and tell me what the problem was?
You could have heard a pin drop as he looked me up and down as though I’d just insulted his life scarred mother and I could tell he were moments away from lunging at me and all hell kicking off.
Then I heard a familiar accent calling out from the skinhead crowd and hope returned.
“Are youse from Belfast? ”
And everyone paused to hear my reaction.
“Feckin right I said, from the glorious Shankill Road! “
Hoping and praying I’d made the right call.
“Really, he asks, who do you know? “
I wheeled off a few names of Skinheads and badboys I knew and had grown up with on the Shankill and Glencairn and this satisfied them and we were safe for now at least. It turned out the guy “Biff” had grown up in Glencairn and now lived and worked in London and was involved with other loyalists living in the capital. They were a right nasty crew and I pity anyone who had the misfortune to come across them, especially if you weren’t a WASP . Also if they had known some of the Mod present were catholic’s, nothing would have stopped them kicking the shit outta of me and the others and I silently thanked the gods for delivering us from evil.
With the situation defused I told the others to look around a bit and I’d catch up with them later . I didn’t want these badboys chatting with them and finding out some of them were catholic and undoing all my capital work. Biff insisted I joined him and a few others from home for a pint or two in the Shakespeare’s pub and it must have looked a bit weird a 60’s dressed Mod, wearing eye liner and a Beatles suite drinking and laughing with a load of phyco, Nazi skinheads.
But I had spent my life growing up among loyalist killers and paramilitaries and nothing really phased me anymore. I didn’t particularly like Biff and his crew, but chatting with him over a few pints I realized there was much more to him than the stereotypical skinhead. His English girlfriend had just given birth to their first child and he was “trying to get on the straight and narrow “ whatever that meant!
After a few hours of drinking and snorting speed with Biff and the others I left them in the pub and return to the sanity of my Mod mates
I was to come across Biff and his crew later that weekend, when they and dozens of other Skin heads/Punks ambushed and attacked Mods coming into/out of the all dayer in the Ilford Palais. Luckily I was safely inside , stoned out of my mind and living the Mod dream and I didn’t concern myself with the antics of those fools , although I did have a chat with Biff whilst grabbing some fresh air and a fag outside.
In one of those cruel twists of fate many years later I was to meet Biff again, but this time he was down on his luck and tragically living rough under a shop front in Tottenham Court Road, London. I was working in the city at the time and suited and booted I stopped to give a homeless guy a fag before realising it was Biff. He was in a right mess and obviously on hard drugs and my heart broke for him as I tried to remind him of our previous encounters and he looked at me with in utter confusion on his face. Maybe it was my suite and the passage of years that had confused him or the drugs had addled his mind but I left him with a heavy heart that day.
Thereafter whenever I was in central London I always looked out for him and did on a few occasions find him and shared a fag or two with him. And slip him a few quid. When I moved jobs out to Kingston I lost contact with him and never saw him again, but I often think of him and hope he found his feet again and somehow turned his life around. How fickle fate can be.
Back in Belfast and the 80’s and my Mod odyssey continued and I was involved with all aspects of the Mod movement and all the joys that brought with it. I’d come into some money on my eighteenth birthday and was now the proud owner of a Vespa and took part in scooter runs all over Belfast and Northern Ireland.
I was gradually getting heavily into the 60’s Mod scene and my dress reflected this as I emulated the dress codes of The Small Faces and other Mod bands of that era. I was also doing a lot of drugs at the time and had many mind blowing experiences on a variety of drugs and to be honest sometimes I’m surprised I survived this period of my life. Drugs were an escape from the madness of life in war torn Belfast and I was going through the whole Psychedelic phase of my Mod life and was living the dream, so to speak.
Around Oct 86 a group of about fifty Belfast Mods , including myself , Noddy and Maria signed up for a Mod all dayer in Dublin’s CIA hall .As the day approached we were all anticipating a great day out and couldn’t wait to meet and mix with the Dublin Mods who had organised the event. We had clubbed together for an Ulster Bus to take us to the event, drop of and pick us up when it was over. Being nice kind people we had a whip round for the bus driver and collected enough for him to have some lunch , but sadly he would spent it on booze and was half tore by the time we returned, but we didn’t know of this until afterwards.
The all dayer was a great success and I remember vividly chatted to Noddy and Maria by the huge staircase in the lobby. Little did I know in a few hours times Noddy would be dead and Maria seriously ill in hospital, fighting for her life.
When the event was over we all made our way to the bus pick up point and began the long , slow , boring journey home. It was a miserable dark , cold night and rain pelted down the windows of the bus as we left Dublin and headed for the motorway and back to sunny Belfast. After a while we’d all settled down and I remember chatting to those around me, including Noddy and Maria about the day gone and upcoming events we were looking forward to in the near future. As we came into Drogheda I noticed the rain was bucketing it down and visibility was very poor and somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice whispered the bus was going too fast and the driver was driving a bit erratically and it started to worry and concern me.
A girl called me up to the middle of the bus and I went and sat in the seat behind her, by the window and chilled with her for a while. I’d had a few drinks and some pills and I was half way between sleep and a drug infused haze when suddenly I became aware that the bus was out of control and to my horror I watched out the window as it drifted in and out of lanes , narrowly missing fast moving traffic coming from both ways , before skidding to the right and crashing with a huge bang into the side of a bridge or brick wall, that brought it to a violent , shuddering stop.
I was thrown forward and banged my head on the seat in front of me and was almost knocked out by the force of it. . Time stood still as I waited for the pain to kick In and in the background I could hear the sound of breaking glass , car horns and alarms going off , cars skidding and crashing and as the lights blinked out screaming filled the air all around me and for a moment I thought I must be dreaming , on a bad trip or having a messed up nightmare.
But this was no nightmare and the horror had just begun.
As I recovered from the stunned shock of what had just happened my eyes drifted around the bus and all I could see was bodies, blood, broken glass and wreckage strewn all over the place. It looked as though a bomb had gone off and many of those inside were injured and I could see and smell destruction all around me. I glanced to the back of the bus and to my utter disbelief the whole back section of the bus had been ripped off and the seats which Noddy , Maria and others had sat on had completely disappeared . Looking out of the gaping hole my heart almost stopped as I saw bodies and debris littering the road and I could clearly see Noddy and laying lifeless on the rain soaked road , illuminated by vehicles caught up in the accident and others who had stopped to help and or gawk in amazement at what they were witnessing .
As my traumatised mind tried to process all this I picked myself of the floor and checking for injuries I was relieved to see I was mostly in one piece , although my head was bleeding and I think I may have been slipping into shock. Looking around my eyes could hard believe what my pounding brain was telling me and as I turned and looked out the window to my left , I froze in terror as I watched in slow motion as a car lost control , crossed lanes and crash violently at speed into the bus right below where I was sitting. I’d automatically braced myself for the impact and my whole body rocked as the shockwaves of the crash reverberated through the bus and my aching body.
From this point on everything becomes hazy , as if I was watching events happen to someone else and I felt oddly detached from my own body and mind. I should have been panicking and fighting to get off the bus and the danger below me , the car could have blown up or engulfed me in fire at any moment. But I just sat there for what seemed like ages and although I could see everything around me and hear ambulances/fire brigades approaching, I seemed frozen to the spot and just couldn’t move. I was in deep shock.
Eventually someone guided me of the bus and I walked as if in a trance to where Noddy lay on the damp wet ground, lifeless and standing in the pouring rain I looked down on him and bowing my head I said a silent prayer for Noddy, Maria and the other injured and I cursed a God who would let such a thing happen. I’d almost given up on a God who seemed to ignore the suffering of mortal men.
After a while ambulance crews came to check on me and the other walking wounded and patched us up were necessary. Eventually we were lead to a hotel or conference room, I can’t remember which and given hot drinks and interviewed by the Gardia . I honestly can’t remember anything about what happened next. I don’t know if we stayed in the hotel over night or how we got back to Belfast , but next thing i know I’m laying on the sofa at home and being fused about by my sisters and other family members. The Ulster News had carried the story about the crash and fatalities/injured and in those days there were no mobile phones and my family had spent hours not knowing if I was alive or dead. I should have called them from the hotel the night before but I was away with the fairies and it had not even entered my battered brain to call and let them know I was alive and well.
The Belfast and Northern Ireland Mod community was reeling from the accident and the death of one of their own and many gathered outside the City Hall in sombre groups, chatting and remembering Noddy and those injured in the crash. Maria was still in hospital fighting for her life and many others were scarred emotionally and physically and would never fully recover from the trauma of what they had gone through.
I was still numb to it all and hibernating at home and licking my wounds and I couldn’t face a world that seemed so unfair. In fact I refused point blank to talk about the accident and months later when many of those involved in the crash began the process of suing Ulster Bus and claiming compensation I wanted nothing to do with it and probably missed the opportunity for substantial payout.
I was probably suffering from PTSD , but being Belfast i just got on with life and the wounds festered for years to come.
Eventually the day arrived for Noddy’s funeral and Mods travelled from all over Northern Ireland and Dublin to attend his send off. Dozens of loyalist Mods including me travelled into the heartland of republican Belfast, The Falls road on our scooters and we formed an honour guard as we buried one of our own. I recall standing outside Noddy’s house and being in nationalist Belfast I felt vulnerable and nervous as I clocked those around me whom seem to stare right through us, trying to discern if we were catholic or protestant.
But today was not about religion and as I paid my respect to Noddy’s friends and family I felt nothing but love and gratitude from them and I came away wondering why we couldn’t always live in peace and harmony and move on from centuries of the suspicion and mistrust that ruled and ruined our daily lives.
I often think of Noddy and wonder what he would be doing now if he was still alive and feel sadness at the grief the Gods put us mortal men through. .
Whilst living and socialising within the Mod subculture of Belfast /Northern Ireland, I was taught a valuable life lesson , for the first time in my life a person’s religion background had become completely irrelevant to me and I felt kinda liberated by it all . I foolishly wished the rest of Northern Ireland felt the same love and freedom as me, but I’ve always been a dreamer and some dreams take longer than others.
Back then I had many close catholic friends among the Belfast Mod scene and I dated a few catholic girls, who at face value seemed to be no different than the protestant girls I had dated thus far.
Hmmm, they lied to me again! But they are stories for another day.
Being a proud product of protestant Belfast and growing up in the hallowed streets of the loyalist Mecca , The glorious Shankill Road and Glencairn , I have always been prejudged and pigeon holed by people who don’t know me or understand my culture . I have worked all over London and throughout the UK and you would be amazed at the assumptions people make when I first meet them.
Once I got chatting to a Muslim guy I worked with ( and I’m going back about 25 years) and after telling me how much he admired the IRA and the republican movement ‘s “ freedom fighters” he then asked me if, by any chance I was a member of the IRA?
Hmmm….. that was one work relationship than ended immediately I can tell you.
Another time I was in a bar in the West End and went to order a drink at the bar. I noticed an older guy sat on a stool and it was obvious he only had one leg. When he heard my Belfast accent he turned and growled at me
“ is that a Belfast accent I hear? ”
“Yes “ says I as I absently order drinks.
He looks me right in the eye and say “ My other leg’s in Belfast”
Anyways turns out he was in the Army and was blown up by a SF/IRA bomb back in the day. Once I told him where I was from, I was a bit surprised when he grabs me , told me he loved the loyalist people of N.I and almost hugged me to death . He insisted I sit down with him and have a few beers, which I was more than happy to do. I’ll always make time for army veterans, especially those who served in Northern Ireland. He was happy for some company and to share a few stories from the “bad old days” and the encounter soothed my soul.
Back in Belfast and in the 90’s some of my loyalist friends had been arrested and charged with multiple terrorist related offences , including murder. The news shocked and saddened me, more so because some of them had been Mods and shared my love of the Mod culture and music and mixed happily with catholic’s we met along the way. Although I had absolutely nothing to do with this , I was living in London at the time , many of the Belfast’s catholic Mods started to give me a wide berth and when I was home and went out clubbing I could sense their nervousness around me and I couldn’t really blame them , but it made me sad none the less.
Me and David Holmes
I was guilty via association and that is a curse and legacy that has followed me through my entire life and I know I will probably never shake off. Just because I’m proud of my loyalist culture and traditions it doesn’t mean I’m a hater or bigot or would wish harm on anyone. It simply means I am happy with the status quo and wish to maintain and celebrate the union with the rest of the UK. That shouldn’t make people prejudge me, but it does and the piss’s me right off. Many peace loving loyalist/protestants will understand where I’m coming from, especially those living abroad.
We didn’t start the “war” and the world has largely ignored the suffering and tribulations of the loyalist people because they are blinded by the actions of few .And yet SF/IRA seem to be have been forgiven all and lauded by many. The mind boggles.
Stephen Peter “Steve” Marriott (30 January 1947 – 20 April 1991) was an English musician, songwriter and frontman of two notable rock and roll bands, spanning over two decades. Marriott is remembered for his powerful singing voice which belied his small stature, and for his aggressive approach as a guitarist in mod rock bands Small Faces (1965–1969) and Humble Pie (1969–1975 and 1980–1981).
Steve Marriott’s Life in Pictures
Marriott was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 as a member of Small Faces.
In Britain, Marriott became a popular, often-photographed mod style icon through his role as lead singer and guitarist with the Small Faces in the mid to late 1960s.
Marriott was influenced from an early age by his heroes including Buddy Holly, Booker T & the MG’s, Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Muddy Waters and Bobby Bland. In later life Marriott became disillusioned with the music industry and turned his back on the big record companies, remaining in relative obscurity. He returned to his music roots playing the pubs and clubs around London and Essex.
The Life & Times Of Steve Marriott
Marriott died on 20 April 1991 when a fire, thought to have been caused by a cigarette, swept through his 16th century home in Arkesden, Essex.
He posthumously received an Ivor Novello Award in 1996 for his Outstanding Contribution to British Music and was listed in Mojo as one of the top 100 greatest singers of all time.
Black Sabbath frontman, Ozzy Osbourne, named Marriott the fourth greatest singer and Clem Burke of Blondie named him the sixteenth greatest singer.
Paul Stanley of Kiss has said:
“He had a great voice” and went on to say, “Steve Marriott was unbelievable”.
Keith Richards listed Marriott as one of his five favourite artists of all time. Steve Perry of Journey has said that:
“One of my favourite vocalists was Steve Marriott”
Steve Marriott was born on 30 January 1947 at East Ham Hospital, Forest Gate, (now London, E7), England to parents Kay and Bill Marriott who lived at Strone Road, Manor Park. Born three weeks premature and weighing just 4 lb. 4 oz., he developed jaundice and was kept in hospital four weeks before being well enough to go home.
Marriott came from a working-class background and attended Monega Junior School. His father Bill worked as a printer and later owned a jellied eels stall called ‘Bill’s Eels’ outside the Ruskin Arms. For a short time he also sold pie and mash.
Kay worked at the Tate & Lyle factory in Silvertown. Bill was an accomplished pub pianist and the life and soul of many an ‘East End’ night. Bill bought Marriott a ukulele and harmonica which Marriott taught himself to play.
Marriott showed an early interest in singing and performing, busking at local bus-stops for extra pocket money and winning talent contests during the family’s annual holiday to Jaywick Holiday camp near Clacton-on-Sea.
In 1959 at the age of twelve, Marriott formed his first band with school friends Nigel Chapin and Robin Andrews. They were called ‘The Wheels’, later the ‘Coronation Kids’, and finally ‘Mississippi Five’. They later added Simon Simkins and Vic Dixon to their line-up.
From a young age, Marriott was a huge fan of American singer Buddy Holly and would mimic his hero by wearing large-rimmed spectacles with the lenses removed. He wrote his first song, called “Shelia My Dear,” after his aunt Shelia to whom he was close. Those who heard the song said it was played at a jaunty pace in the style of Buddy Holly and his bandmates also nicknamed him ‘Buddy’. They would play the local coffee bars in East Ham and perform Saturday morning gigs at the Essoldo Cinema in Manor Park.
Marriott was a cheeky, hyperactive child, according to his mother Kay, and well known by his neighbours in Strone Road for playing pranks and practical jokes.
While he was a pupil at local Sandringham Secondary Modern School, Marriott was said to be responsible for deliberately starting a fire in a classroom though he always denied this.
In 1960, Bill Marriott spotted an advertisement in a London newspaper for a new Artful Dodger replacement to appear in Lionel Bart’s popular musical Oliver!, based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, at the New Theatre (now called the Noël Coward Theatre) in London’s West End, and without telling his son, applied for him to audition.
At the age of thirteen, Marriott auditioned for the role. He sang two songs, “Who’s Sorry Now” by Connie Francis, and “Oh, Boy!” by Buddy Holly.
Bart was impressed with Marriott’s vocal abilities and hired him. Marriott stayed with the show for a total of twelve months, playing various boys’ roles during his time there, for which he was paid £8 a week. Marriott was also chosen to provide lead vocals for the Artful Dodger songs “Consider Yourself”, “Be Back Soon,” and “I’d Do Anything,” which appear on the official album to the stage show, released by World Record Club and recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios. In 1961 the Marriott family moved from Strone Road to a brand new council flat in Daines Close, Manor Park.
Following Marriott’s successful acting debut in Oliver!, his family encouraged him to pursue an acting career. In 1961 he auditioned and was accepted as a student at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London. Because his family were unable to afford the private school fees, it was mutually agreed the fees would be deducted from acting work the school found him. After Marriott’s enrolment at the Italia Conti Academy, he quickly gained acting roles, working consistently in film, television and radio, often typecast as the energetic Cockney kid. Soon he lost interest in acting and turned his attention back to his first love, which was music.
His parents were devastated and his decision to give up acting caused a family rift. As a result, he left the family home for a short period to stay with friends.
In 1963, Marriott wrote “Imaginary Love” and touted it around the big record labels in London. On the strength of “Imaginary Love”, Marriott secured a Decca Records deal as a solo artist with Dick Reagan (also an agent for Cliff Richard). Marriott’s first single was a song written by Kenny Lynch, “Give Her My Regards”, with Marriott’s self-penned song as the B-side. The single was released in July 1963 and promptly vanished.
In the same year Marriott formed the Moments, originally called the Frantiks. The Frantiks recorded a cover version of Cliff Richard’s song “Move It” with ex-Shadows drummer Tony Meehan, who was brought in to help with production. Despite the single being hawked around the major record companies, no one was interested and the song was consequently never released. They then changed the band’s name to the Moments or ‘Marriott and his Moments’. They played support for artists such as the Nashville Teens, the Animals, Georgie Fame and John Mayall, playing venues such as the 100 Club in Soho, London, and the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond. The Moments gained a loyal following, and for a short time had their own fanzine Beat ’64, dedicated to ‘Steve Marriott’s Moments’, started by Stuart Tuck.
They are noted as performing a total of 80 gigs in 1964. The group was asked to record a single for the American market, a cover version of the Kinks’ UK hit song “You Really Got Me”, released on the World Artists record label (1964).
The Kinks You really got me
When their version of “You Really Got Me” failed to get attention, Marriott was dropped from the band, with members claiming he was too young to be a lead singer. According to London R&B band The Downliners Sect frontman Don Craine, Marriott applied to join the band as a replacement harmonica player. Craine did not invite him to audition as he knew Marriott wanted to be lead vocalist.
Between leaving the Moments and joining The Small Faces, Steve Marriott joined The Checkpoints. Chris Clements:
“He actually approached us (The Checkpoints) and said he needed to fulfill some gigs that were pending. This was in 1965, he was with us for a couple of months. We rehearsed at The Kentish Drovers in the Old Kent Road in South London. He got us to learn James Brown numbers, which at the time we weren’t very up in. One particular memory sticks in my mind. When we rehearsed with him, he almost spoke the words of the song, rather than sang the words. He was listening to us, making sure we got the backing right, so he didn’t put himself out vocally.
But when we did the first gig with him, out came this fantastic soul voice, we all looked at each other, and our mouths fell open! When doing the gigs, we would pick him up outside the Brewery in Romford road Essex. He always had a small case with his harmonicas in. His harmonica playing was excellent.
Our transport at that time was a converted ambulance, and Steve would always sit up front with the owner driver, (a man in his early 50s) rather than sit in the back talking to us. He seemed to me to be a bit of a loner. Even when I had a conversation with him, he always seemed to be looking past me, as though in a hurry to be somewhere else. He was quite a heavy smoker as I recall. We did various venues in Essex, around the Basildon area. He had no guitar, he would use our lead guitarist’s red Fender Strat. Steve would put many guitar breaks in the James Brown songs. So we would all huddle around our drummer Gary Hyde who would watch Steve.
When Gary stopped, we stopped, when Gary started, we started, so by using those tactics the gigs went well. We had photos taken at the various venues at that time, I wish someone would dig them out from wherever, I would love to see them.”
On 28 July 1964, Marriott first saw his future Small Faces partners, Ronnie Lane and 16-year-old drummer Kenney Jones. They were all performing at the Albion in Rainham, with their bands. Lane and Marriott met again by chance in the J60 Music Bar, a music shop in High Street North, Manor Park, where Marriott was working after his recent departure from the Moments. Lane came in looking to purchase a bass guitar, and afterwards was invited to Marriott’s home to listen to his extensive collection of rare American R&B import records.
With their shared love of R&B the trio were soon firm friends. Marriott was invited by Lane and Jones to perform with “the Outlaws” (previously called “the Pioneers”) at the band’s regular gig the Earl of Derby in Bermondsey.
However the trio each ended up completely drunk and Marriott enthusiastically destroyed the piano he was playing, much to the amusement of Lane and Jones. The landlord sacked them and the band was finished. According to David Bowie on a 1999 episode of VH1 Storytellers, in 1964 he and his good friend Marriott planned to form an R&B duo called ‘David and Goliath’.
Instead, Marriott, Lane and Jones decided to form their own band, with Steve bringing along his acquaintance, Jimmy Winston (Winston was later replaced by Ian McLagan). Marriott’s friend Annabel, an ex-student from the Italia Conti, came up with the band’s distinctive name after commenting that they all had “small faces”; the name stuck in part because they were all (apart from Winston) small (none being over 5 ft 6 in tall), and the term “face” in English mod culture was the name given to a well-known and respected mod.
Small Faces were signed to Don Arden within six weeks of forming and quickly became a successful mod band highly regarded by the youth cult’s followers when their debut single “Whatcha Gonna Do About It” hit the UK singles chart.
What’cha gonna do about it – Small Faces
Later, they were said to be one of many influences on the formation and musical style of British hard rock group Led Zeppelin . Marriott is reputed to have been Jimmy Page’s benchmark when selecting a lead singer, and there are unmistakable stylistic and timbral similarities between the voices of Marriott and Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin’s lead singer.
In fact, Plant was a fan of Small Faces and a regular at their early gigs where he also ran small errands for them. Zeppelin’s classic song “Whole Lotta Love” is a direct take of Marriott’s version of the classic song “You Need Lovin'”, originally written by Willie Dixon and recorded by American blues singer Muddy Waters.
The Small Faces – You Need Loving
Small Faces would regularly perform “You Need Lovin'” in their live set, and the song also appears on their debut album Small Faces, released by Decca in May 1966.
“It was fantastic, I loved it, Muddy Waters recorded it but I couldn’t sing like Muddy Waters so it wasn’t that much of a nick. I was a high range and Muddy was a low range so I had to figure out how to sing it. So I did and that was our opening number for all the years we were together. Every time we were on stage that was our opening number, unless we had a short set. That’s where Jimmy Page and Robert Plant heard it. Robert Plant used to follow us around. He was like a fan.”
However Marriott bore no animosity to Plant. He is quoted as shouting “Go on my son!” and wishing him luck when he first heard Plant’s version on the radio. Arden paid the band a wage of £20 a week each, along with accounts in clothes shops in Carnaby Street.
On Boxing Day, 1965, Arden arranged for them to move into a rented house, 22 Westmoreland Terrace, Pimlico. In his autobiography, McLagan describes the house as “party central”, a place where the likes of Marianne Faithfull, Brian Epstein, Pete Townshend and other celebrities would hang out. Marriott was just 18 years old.
Small Faces – All or Nothing 1966
Marriott wrote or co-wrote most of Small Faces’ hit singles. In an interview in 1984, Marriott was asked what his best Small Faces songs were:
“I think ‘All or Nothing’, that I wrote, takes a lot of beating. To me, if there’s a song that typifies that era, then that might be it. Words regardless, cos it’s only a silly love song, but the actual feel and arrangement of the thing, and maybe ‘Tin Soldier'”.
Small Faces – Tin Soldier
In 1967, Marriott wrote the evocative rock-ballad “Tin Soldier” to woo model Jenny Rylance. They first met in 1966 and Marriott was immediately smitten, but Rylance was dating up-and-coming singer Rod Stewart and so the two became friends. She later broke up with Stewart and had a brief romantic liaison with Marriott, but much to his disappointment ended it to go back to Stewart. Rylance and Stewart later split for good after a rocky four-year relationship; when Marriott found out he pursued her relentlessly, leading him to write “Tin Soldier”. The song was a hit for the band in 1967 and for Marriott a personal triumph.
He and Rylance were married at Kensington Register Office, London, on 29 May 1968.
Small Faces – Itchycoo Park
Relationships and family
Marriott had liaisons with many women and had four known children with four of them, including one of his three wives. His first wife was model Jenny Rylance (1968-1973).
He met American air hostess, Pam Stephens in 1975 and their son Toby was born in 1976. They married after Toby was born.
His third wife was Toni Poulton. They were married until Marriott’s death in 1991. He also had three daughters. The first, Lesley, was conceived to fellow teen Sally Foulger before Marriott became famous. She was originally known as Sarah Lisa Foulger (born 9 June 1966). She was adopted out, but later found out who her father was and has been accepted by her siblings. The second was Tonya, with Canadian Terri Elias in 1984. His third daughter Mollie Mae was born in 1985 when Marriott was with his childhood friend Manon Piercey.
Later Marriott moved into Beehive Cottage in Moreton, Essex, a property he had bought jointly with Ronnie Lane and wife Susan and where he established his “Clear Sounds” music studio.
In 1967, after a dispute over unpaid royalties, relations between the Small Faces and Don Arden broke down and Arden sold them on to Andrew Loog Oldham, who owned the Immediate Records label. The band were much happier at Immediate, spending more time in the recording studio and far less time playing live; however, they lost the dynamic live sound that had made them famous.
Small Faces – Ogdens´ Nut Gone Flake – Full record
After the success of the group’s number one hit concept album Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake Marriott was keen for the group to evolve and wanted to bring in ex-Herd frontman Peter Frampton, but McLagan, Jones and Lane refused.
Marriott started to feel the band had reached the end creatively and began to spend more time with Frampton and Greg Ridley. After rumours in the press about the band splitting up, which were always officially denied, Marriott quit the group, storming off stage during a disastrous live performance on New Year’s Eve, 1968.
In a 1984 interview with NME reporter Paolo Hewitt on the subject of leaving the band, Marriott said:
“You grow apart for Christsakes. You’re talking about people living together from the ages of seventeen to twenty-two and that’s a growing up part of your life and we got to hate each other, no doubt about it. We didn’t speak to each other for fucking years. Maybe ten years.”
Frampton claims that after Marriott’s departure from the Small Faces, the remaining members, Lane, McLagan and Jones, turned up at his home and offered him Marriott’s role in the band. (Ian McLagan vehemently denied this story).
“The following day after the Alexandra Palace gig (where Steve walked off), I was back home and I got a call from Ronnie Lane who said, ‘Me, Kenney and Mac would like to come round and see you.’ I thought, Hello, what’s all this about? Anyway, they all came round to my horrible little flat in Earls Court and asked me to join the Small Faces. All I could say was it’s a bit late now. Why couldn’t you have asked me while we were in Paris? We’d all be in the same band together and Steve wouldn’t have left.”
– Peter Frampton.
Marriott with Humble Pie during a 1972 performance
Shortly after leaving Small Faces, Marriott joined the newly formed rock band Humble Pie with Peter Frampton, drummer Jerry Shirley and bassist Greg Ridley. In the early years, Humble Pie allowed Marriott the artistic freedom he craved but was denied in Small Faces due, in part, to commercial pressures and individual differences.
Humble Pie – As Safe As Yesterday – Full Album 1969
After extensive secret rehearsals at his Clear Sounds home recording studio, the band released on Immediate their debut album As Safe As Yesterday Is, closely followed by the Marriott-penned debut single “Natural Born Bugie” (often mis-spelt “Boogie”), which peaked at No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart in the summer of 1969.
Humble Pie – Natural born boogie 1969
Humble Pie almost disbanded after their first American tour when they returned to Britain and discovered that Immediate had gone into liquidation. They transferred to A&M Records and focused all their attention on the lucrative US market. Their new manager, Dee Anthony, had the band scrap its ‘unplugged’ set and crank the volume up.
Humble Pie toured constantly over the next three years, completing nineteen tours in the US alone. The band’s next album releases, Humble Pie and Rock On, benefitted from their touring.
Humble Pie Performance Rockin’ The Fillmore FULL ALBUM
Their live album Performance Rockin’ the Fillmore (1971) became the band’s most successful release to date. During these recordings, Marriott’s strong vocal performances became the focal point of the band. Dee Anthony pushed Marriott to take more of the on-stage spotlight, something he had, up to then, been sharing with Frampton and Ridley. Marriott’s new prominence is said to have resulted in Frampton’s decision to leave the band. (Frampton was replaced by Clem Clempson.)
Some close to Marriott, such as his wife and even Marriott himself, would say that his personality changed for the worse when he toured America. Eventually, possibly as a result of excessive alcohol and drug use, Marriott started showing signs of mild schizophrenia. He had regularly taken amphetamines (speed) and smoked cannabis in his days in the Moments and Small Faces, and in the latter half of the 1960s he also tried LSD. But by the time Humble Pie began to tour America regularly in the early 1970s, Marriott allegedly developed a destructive cocaine and alcohol addiction, which is thought to have been the cause of his marriage break-ups and to have contributed to his premature death in a house fire.
“He (Steve) became another person to cope with the pressures, he would say things like, “Please tell me that you’ll leave me if I go on tour again because if you say that I’ll have justification not to go, if I go and have to be that other person again I’ll just go mad.”
” This would be said in a moment of truth but the next day had changed his mind and he’d be up and off…. He was married to his music and I didn’t mind that especially in the early years when he would play me new songs on an acoustic guitar but what didn’t make me happy was when he was in the home studio, out of his brain, trying to come up with the next album because he was being pressurised into it. He would just disappear into the studio for three or four days at a time. He never slept and there would be all sorts of strange people in there with him. It was a crazy business and even the nicest people get mixed up. All sorts of chemicals were presented to him and he became addicted to them in the end. It was drugs that destroyed our relationship. Before the home studio was built Beehive Cottage was our sanctuary, afterwards it just became his workplace.”
– Jenny Rylance
Rylance finally left Marriott in 1973. She said:
“The drugs and the drink I would tolerate no more. It broke my heart to leave Steve but it had to be done, I was ultimately the stronger”.
Due to the break-up of his marriage and growing drug use, some band members said that Marriott at times became domineering, aggressive and intolerable to work with. Humble Pie disbanded in 1975, citing musical differences as the reason for the split. Financial mismanagement and widespread substance abuse within the band also played a part. In an interview in 2000 with John Hellier,
Jerry Shirley said:
“We were all doing too many drugs, we’d lost sight of our business arrangements and no-one within the band had any control over money matters. But the main reason was that we were making bad records, it all came to a head in early 1975. The rot had set in so deep it was inevitable.”
– Jerry Shirley
Marriott always believed Dee Anthony had syphoned off band earnings to promote his new project, Frampton, and his album Frampton Comes Alive. After Marriott’s death, second wife Pam Stephens claimed in an interview that while they were making the Marriott solo album they were warned off accusing Anthony of any financial misdealings and received threatening phone calls. Anthony was alleged to have links with the Genovese crime family (among others). She also claimed that after Marriott confronted Anthony about the missing money, she and Marriott were summoned to a meeting at the Ravenite Social Club on Mulberry Street in New York’s Little Italy district.
Among those present were John Gotti, Frank Locascio and Paul Castellano, all members of the Gambino crime family. Marriott was informed that he would not be getting any money and was warned to drop the matter. Marriott took the threats seriously.
Solo and various bands
Marriott released his first solo album, Marriott, in 1976 and moved back to Britain. Stephens gave birth to their first child Toby on 20 February 1976 and they were married on 23 March 1977, at Chelsea Register Office in London.
The money from Humble Pie’s farewell tour soon ran out, and Marriott was reduced to stealing vegetables from a field next to his home. He went on to form the Steve Marriott Allstars with ex-Pie bassist Greg Ridley, drummer Ian Wallace and ex-Heavy Metal Kids’ guitarist Mickey Finn, and found a new manager, Laurie O’Leary.
STEVE MARRIOTT’S ALL STARS
In the 1980s O’Leary asked Marriott to meet a friend of his, the infamous Ronnie Kray, who was incarcerated in Broadmoor Hospital for the murder of George Cornell.
Marriott gave him a signed photo.
After the departure of Mick Taylor in 1975 from the Rolling Stones, Marriott was considered as his replacement; however, Mick Jagger allegedly blocked the move after Marriott upstaged him during the audition. According to Ronnie Wood in his autobiography Ronnie, Marriott was Richards’ first choice to replace Mick Taylor.
“Steve told me, ‘I was good and stood at the back for a while but then Keith would hit this lick and I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut.’ Keith wanted him in but there was no way that once Steve opened his mouth Mick would have him in the band. He knew Steve would never stay in the background. They were the one band in the world that Steve would have loved to have been in. He just wanted to work with Keith.”
– Pam Marriott
In 1976 a court ruled that Arden still owed the Small Faces £12,000 in unpaid royalties. He agreed to pay in monthly instalments, but disappeared after making just one payment.
Due to the success of re-released singles “Itchycoo Park” and “Lazy Sunday” in 1975 and 1976, McLagan, Jones and Marriott were persuaded to re-form Small Faces.
Rick Wills took the place of Lane, who pulled out after just two rehearsals. Unknown to the others, Lane was suffering from multiple sclerosis. The band recorded two albums, Playmates and ’78 in the Shade, but the albums were both critical and commercial failures and they disbanded. Marriott did not make any money out of the venture. His earnings were used to extricate him from old binding management contracts. Due to financial problems, Marriott was forced to sell Beehive Cottage, which had been his home since 1968, and move to a small terraced house in Golders Green, London.
Late in 1978, the Inland Revenue informed Marriott that he still owed £100,000 in back tax from his Humble Pie days; he thought manager Dee Anthony had made all the necessary payments.
O’Leary, Marriott’s manager, advised him to leave Britain or go to prison.
He sold the house in Golders Green and moved to California. Marriott, Pam and son Toby were staying with friends in Santa Cruz and Marriott formed a new band called The Firm, with Jim Leverton and (most notably) former Mountain guitarist Leslie West. But after Leverton had to leave the US due to visa problems, and disputes over potential royalties, the band broke up.
Marriott was by now completely broke and forced to collect empty glass bottles to redeem them for small change. According to Leslie West, Steve needed the money and accepted a lucrative offer to reform Humble Pie.
In 1980, Marriott contacted Jerry Shirley, who was living in New York City, to discuss a Humble Pie reunion. Shirley agreed and they recorded “Fool for a Pretty Face”, which Marriott had written earlier.
Fool For A Pretty Face – Humble Pie
The new line-up included Anthony “Sooty” Jones, who was well respected among American east coast musicians, also vocalist and guitarist Bobby Tench, former member of the Jeff Beck Group. The song proved good enough for them to secure a recording contract with Atco.
In the UK their material was released by Jet Records, owned by ex-Small Faces manager Don Arden. They recorded the heavy rock album On to Victory (1980), followed by Go for the Throat (1981), and both proved reasonably successful. They also toured America as part of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon bill. In the latter half of 1981, Marriott was beset with personal problems. His marriage was almost over and after he broke his wrist in an accident and was hospitalised with a suspected burst ulcer, whilst opening for Judas Priest and the new Humble Pie line-up disintegrated.
During a visit to Britain in 1981, Marriott became eager to see Ronnie Lane. By this time Lane had begun to use a wheelchair. After an emotional meeting, Marriott suggested they gig together. They got together with Jim Leverton, Mick Weaver, Dave Hynes, Zoot Money and Mel Collins to record an album called Majik Mijits. The album features songs by Lane and Marriott, though none were co-written.
Due to Lane’s illness, they were unable to tour and promote the album.
“Steve and Ronnie went to America to see Clive Davis of Arista Records. They played him the tape. Clive Davis was tapping his foot and tapping his very expensive pen on his very expensive desk. He said “Yeah, that’s great man”. Steve said “So you like the tape, Clive”. Steve then stopped the tape, ejected it and said “WELL YOU CAN’T FUCKING HAVE IT!”
“The story that Steve told me was that it would have meant touring and Ronnie just wasn’t up to it. It would have meant pretty much carrying him everywhere, no tour, no album. That’s why the Mijits never came out at that point in time. It’s been gathering dust for ages”
– Jim Leverton
The album was released nineteen years later. After the Majik Mijits, Marriott went back to New York playing on the club circuit again. For the next year and a half, Marriott was on the road with Jim Leverton, Goldy McJohn and Fallon Williams. They played mostly Small Faces and Humble Pie material, touring non-stop for the next eighteen months. After the departure of McJohn, the trio changed the band’s name to the Three Trojans.
Despite attempts at reconciliation, Marriott’s marriage finally came to an end when his wife found out that Marriott was expecting a child with Terry Elias, a Canadian girl he had met while they were separated.
Accepting that his marriage was over, Marriott moved back to the UK. With no home and no money, he stayed in the spare bedroom of his sister Kay’s house. Marriott formed Packet of Three again playing the pub circuit. He insisted on being paid for each gig in cash as the Inland Revenue were still pursuing him for back taxes. In August 1984, Aura Records released Steve Marriott Live at Dingwalls 6.7.84.
Marriott contacted longtime friend Manon Piercey, and they quickly developed a close relationship and rented a house together. Piercey gave birth to daughter Mollie Mae on 3 May 1985.
With Piercey’s help, Marriott reduced his excessive drink and drug habits. His sister Kay said:
“Steve would say, I’m not drinking any more, and he’d stop, six weeks, two months, he was very strong willed; if he wanted to, he could”.
In 1985 Marriott was still touring with Packet of Three playing Canada, America and Europe.
During Live Aid in 1985, London-based Phoenix Modernist Society joined mod revival bands such as the Lambrettas and Purple Hearts, with 1960s stars such as Chris Farlowe and PP Arnold. Together they cut a version of “All or Nothing” for Band Aid Trust. Kenny Lynch persuaded Marriott to get involved, and the single was released under the collective name the Spectrum.
In 1985, Marriott ended his relationship with Piercey when he met Poulton at a Packet of Three gig.
Due to his financial situation, Marriott jokingly later renamed the group Steve Marriott and the Official Receivers. In the mid-1980s Marriott and Poulton moved to a rented cottage in the small village of Arkesden.
The 16th century cottage was also used for location shots for the home of the title character in the BBC’s long-running television series Lovejoy, starring Ian McShane. Marriott became well-known locally, often popping into the pub opposite his home to buy bottles of brandy and borrowing glasses. He once turned up wearing trainers and a dressing gown and became something of an eccentric figure, playing pranks, particularly on the owner of the pub.
Due to past experiences, in later years Marriott became wary of success and fame as well as involvement with big record companies, and turned down lucrative concert and recording deals with names such as EMI. Because of this attitude, the band grew resentful, believing that he was holding them back, and Packet of Three was disbanded. For the next year Marriott took time off.
By now he was 39 years old. He had health problems, was overweight, and had a scruffy appearance. There was little left of the striking 1960s mod icon. Film-maker Paolo Sedazzari recalled,
“I remember going to see him in the 1980s, and he was brilliant. Great voice, great guitarist but what I couldn’t get over were the dungarees and the mullet haircut. That was really disappointing.”
According to his wife, Marriott still smoked cannabis and took cocaine, but nothing compared to what he had once consumed. In his later years Marriott liked reading; his favourite authors included Stephen King, Philip K. Dick and anything on Noël Coward, whom Marriott had always admired.
In May 1988, Marriott started rehearsing with a band from Leicestershire, the DTs, though by the time they starting touring they were called Steve Marriott and the DTs.
Despite being out of the public gaze, Marriott was still asked to participate in various projects. Andrew Lloyd Webber asked Marriott to record two songs for his musical Evita, though after becoming drunk at the meeting Marriott ungraciously declined.
Film composer Stephen Parsons asked Marriott to sing the title track “Shakin’ All Over” for the low budget horror film Gnaw: Food of the Gods II (1989) Marriott agreed, seeing it as easy money.
While recording the song, Trax Records asked Marriott to record a solo album. Thirty Seconds to Midnite was recorded at Alexandra Palace. Marriott used the money to buy a narrowboat.
On 14 July 1989, Marriott and Toni Poultney were married at Epping Register Office. Afterwards, they threw a party at their cottage.
During this period Jim Leverton got in touch and Marriott formed a new group called Steve Marriott’s Next Band, with Leverton and ex-members of both the DTs and the Official Receivers.When several members left due to financial disagreements, the band name Packet of Three resurfaced.
By 1990 Marriott was playing an average 200 gigs a year, when Frampton flew into Britain and asked Marriott to reform Humble Pie to produce a one-off album and a reunion tour.
The payment would be enough to allow Marriott to take things easier. He agreed, and they flew out to Frampton’s recording studio in Los Angeles on 27 January 1991.
They began writing songs, but the project was never completed, as Marriott had a change of heart and returned home. Two recorded songs from this final effort, “The Bigger They Come” and “I Won’t Let You Down”, with Marriott on vocals (and guitar), appeared on Frampton’s album Shine On: A Collection. A third song, “Out of the Blue”, featuring both Marriott and Frampton, was featured on the first solo recording Frampton made after Marriott’s death. A fourth song, “An Itch You Can’t Scratch”, has been found on many illegal compilations and even on one of two “authorised” British releases. The recording date, and whether Frampton played on it, have never been verified.
STEVE MARRIOTT INTERVIEW: LIVE FROM LONDON, 1985
On Friday 19 April 1991, Marriott and Poulton flew home from the USA, where Marriott had recorded songs for a future album with Frampton. During the flight, according to Poulton, Marriott was drinking heavily, was in a foul mood, and the two argued constantly. After arriving in the UK, a mutual friend met them and they all went to one of Marriott’s favourite restaurants, The Straw Hat in Sawbridgeworth for dinner, where he consumed more alcohol. After dinner, they returned to their friend’s house and decided to stay overnight, since it was late, but upstairs in bed, Marriott and Poulton continued to argue. Poulton finally fell asleep and later woke to discover that Marriott had taken a taxi home alone.
At about 6:30 am on 20 April, a passing motorist saw the roof of Marriott’s cottage ablaze and called the fire brigade. It was reported that four fire engines were needed to put out the fire. In newspaper interviews, Assistant Divisional Fire Officer Keith Dunatis, who found Marriott, said:
“It was a tough fight getting upstairs. We searched the bedroom areas and it was very hot, we knew immediately that no-one could have survived the fire. We began to feel around the walls and discovered him lying on the floor between the bed and the wall. I would say he had been in bed and tried to escape. As soon as I saw the body clearly I knew who it was. I used to be a fan, it’s difficult to put my feelings into words. The scene was horrific in that corner of the room. I saw him lying there and thought what a pity it all was. I deal with many fires but this one was like walking down memory lane. We managed to salvage all his guitars and musical equipment. I feel a bit upset, all the firemen do. It was like seeing part of our lives gone forever.”
– (Fire Officer)
It is believed that the most likely cause of the fire was that soon after arriving home, jet-lagged and tired, in the early hours, Marriott had lit a cigarette while in bed and almost immediately fallen into a deep sleep.
Since Marriott was found lying on the floor between the bed and wall, investigators concluded he may have tried unsuccessfully to escape after being awakened by the blaze. Disoriented and confused after inhaling large amounts of thick smoke, Marriott had turned left instead of right towards the bedroom door and safety. He had been unable to rectify his mistake before being overcome with smoke. At the inquest, a verdict of accidental death by smoke inhalation was recorded. Marriott’s blood was found to contain quantities of Valium (taken earlier for flight nerves), alcohol and cocaine.
“He (Marriott) was certainly the most talented person I ever worked with. He was like a brother to me and I was devastated when he died. He always lived on the edge and I was always waiting for a ‘phone call to say that he had died but I never dreamed it would be under those circumstances. He’s never got the credit he deserves. He should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because he was the greatest white soul singer that England ever produced. I’m certain that if you caught the likes of Rod Stewart and Paul Rodgers in a private moment and asked them who was the main man, they would say, Steve Marriott.”
– Jerry Shirley
The Small Faces song “All or Nothing” was played as the requiem at Marriott’s funeral held on 30 April 1991, at the Harlow crematorium. Amongst the mourners, noted attendees included ex-Small Faces drummer Kenney Jones, as well as Peter Frampton, Joe Brown, PP Arnold, Terence Stamp, Jerry Shirley and Greg Ridley. Among those who sent wreaths were David Gilmour (of Pink Floyd) and Rod Stewart and his then-wife Rachel Hunter. Nothing was heard from ex-Small Faces members Ian McLagan or Ronnie Lane.
To mark the 10th anniversary of Marriott’s death a tribute concert was held at the London Astoria on 20 April 2001. All the songs performed at this concert were from the Small Faces or Humble Pie catalogue. Pre-1980 Humble Pie alumni Peter Frampton, Clem Clempson, Greg Ridley and Jerry Shirley gave a one-off performance.
Other guest appearances included two original members of the Small Faces, Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan, Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher and Bobby Tench from Marriott’s 1980’s Humble Pie line-up and John’s Children. Other musicians such as Alan White, Gem Archer, Midge Ure, Zak Starkey, Rabbit Bundrick, Steve Ellis and Tony Rivers appeared in band line-ups during the two and half-hour concert, released on DVD as the Stevie Marriott Astoria Memorial concert.
The proceeds of the concert were donated to The Small Faces Charitable Trust set up by Kenney Jones in memory of Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane.
In September 2007 Marriott, along with tshe other members of the Small Faces and manager Don Arden, were honoured with a plaque unveiled in Carnaby Street, on the site of Don Arden’s offices, the spiritual home of the band in the 1960s.