John Hellier talks about the new Marriott 's LP, Lend us a quid.

Hi John, cool to interview you again! How are you, what’s your next projects? 10.10.10? The very expected Ronnie Lane memorial DVD?

Hy Hey Yann, thank you for your interest and your very kind words. This years main projects revolve around gigs, the 14th annual Small Faces Convention in August, Ogden’s 10/10/10 special in October and another Christmas Mod Ball with the Moons on 19th December but there is also a small matter of completing a couple of books, a follow up album to Lend Us A Quid and hopefully at last a TV airing of a Melvyn Bragg show that I filmed two years ago regarding the birth of Mod culture in England in the very early 60s. Enough to keep me going! Oh and also doing some retro design work for a bank to celebrate 40 years of the credit card! Quite a variety eh? I’d like to think the Ronnie Lane Memorial show DVD would be made commercially available but it’s complicated!

There's a new Marriott CD and this is an ace one. So Marriott, in the 80’s never forgot he could also groove a lot, the “Think” version is really fantastic and could have been recorded yesterday, don’t you think?

The studio recordings on CD1 are actually from 1975 and yeah, you're right Think and many of the others could have been recorded yesterday. Andrew Loog Oldham produced about half the tracks including Think. The original tapes were given to me by Steve's first wife, Jenny and were not in great shape. With today’s technology and Patrick Birds excellent re-mastering they've washed up well!

Steve was really groovy actually and he could make a national anthem swings, are you ok with that?

I do wholeheartedly agree with you. He had a voice to suit all seasons! Tin Soldier proves that with a very twee opening vocal that got more and more dynamic as the three minutes wore on, it finished with an almighty crescendo!

Everybody’s ok to say he’s the best blue eyed soul singer now, and everybody (Even Lemmy from Motorhead!!!) ADORE the Small Faces, what do you think about it? Isn’t it a bit annoying to be suddenly adored by anyone?

I am aware of how highly most people in the business regard him however he’s still largely unknown by the general public. He should be a household name as is Rod (and Robbie Williams!!) but he’s not. I’m forever having to remind young music fans that Rod Stewart wasn’t the lead singer in the Small Faces! Paolo Hewitt’s Liam Gallagher story is a gas! Liam is reading Mojo magazine in a pub. It contains one of those silly top 100 vocalist polls. Liam is in the top 20, Steve is in the bottom 20. Liam says that is absolute bollocks, rips the magazine up and throws it on the floor…….and rightly so! (Mr. Gallagher obviously has better taste than most)

Concerning Lend us a quid, where have you found this brilliant material? One of the best Marriott Solo at my humble opinion, are you ok with me?

As I said previously the tapes came from Steve’s missus. It is a lovely album but no better or worse than other Wapping Wharf studio albums. Rainy Changes is generally thought of as our Sgt Pepper and is a very good consistent seller. Anybody that buys and digs Lend Us A Quid should really check the others out and I don’t just say that with my salesmen hat on!

Any special reason for the record company to refuse it?

It was more to do with politics than the music itself. The story is complicated and is explained in full in All Too Beautiful. When the album was ditched Steve went on to record a solo album for A&M entitled Marriott. One half recorded in the States with American musicians and one half recorded in London with British guys. It was a nice album but sold very poorly. Punk was beckoning and guys with genuine talent like our Stevie were regarded as old farts! What did they know?

You said Steve was flat broke at that time, a source of inspiration for him?

Steve was pretty much broke all his life. The Small Faces made very little money. The Beatles and the Stones were probably the only two British bands to get rich during the 60s. Humble Pie made big money in America but spent more than they earned on the finer things of life…good booze and bad women! They toured the States in not one, but two Lear Jets. One for the band, one for the equipment! No wonder really that when it all ended the bank accounts were empty. As for that being source of inspiration…yeah, quite possibly.

There’s smoking ace covers but also great great compositions (Charlene, High and Happy, Star in my life), Steve was back in a great shape at that time? What were the circumstances of the recording sessions?

The circumstances were of fun, fun, fun…….Steve in his studio writing and recording with his mates was his idea of heaven. Steve’s first wife, Jenny told me that the day he built the studio was the day their marriage hit the rocks. Beehive Cottage was no longer their home but his work place. He’d spend days at a time in their (with the help of certain substances) with no thought at all of sleeping. Fellow musicians would get angry because they’d record during the day and then go home to go to bed. Because Steve wasn’t sleeping he’d sit up all night changing things around so they would turn up the next day to find the previous days work sabotaged! Musically Steve was in great shape but physically not. The drugs were taking their toll.

He covered Cooke, Lennon McCartney and Dylan on that record, did he listened much music at home? In the sleeve notes you talk about Hank Williams, Bo Diddley and Elvis sun sessions.

When Humble Pie split in early 1975 he retired (albeit briefly) to his studio and yes, did start re-discovering his roots. He’d listen for hours to all of those old heroes of his. Mind you when I interviewed him in 1984 and asked about his record collection he quite flippantly said that he had the album Ray Charles Live in Georgia and that was all the records that he needed!

It’s a bit surprising to find a Lennon McCartney cover, what was the relation between Marriott and the Beatles? With Dylan?

He much preferred the Stones and was much more of a John Lennon fan than a Beatles fan. Steve also wrote a tribute song to Lennon (of sorts) after the shooting, called Teenage Anxiety. Humble Pie did in fact record three Lennon/McCartney songs on their Street Rats album so it had been done before. As for Dylan, Steve and everybody else dug him like mad at the time.

I think Steve is in a very good shape about his guitar style on this record, what you think about it?

Steve was never, ever confident about his guitar playing. He was a much better guitar player than he gave himself credit for. He was also a very fine keyboard player.

The Lindsay Scott 3am phone call is absolutely awesome, Marriott’s style?

Yeah, very much Marriott style. 3am was still early evening to Steve. Rick Wills tells a similar story. When the Small Faces re-formed in the mid 70s, Ronnie stormed out of a recording session and out of the band after a fracas with Steve. Ex Roxy Music bassist Rick got the call from Steve to take over at, would you believe 3 in the morning. Steve also told me the story of his disgust at Kenney Jones going home to bed at 10.00pm whilst they were recording Ogden’s at Olympic. He said we were just getting into it when Kenney stopped playing and said it was bedtime! That sort of attitude didn’t go down at all well with Steve. If you’re in a groove…keep it going.

Lend us a quid, with that so specific echo, is maybe the proof Steve was still highly creative, what you think?

At that time he was very creative. I think that side of him did diminish with the years though. In later life he was just happy to play tried and tested covers in small venues. The recording studio was of little interest to him at all by the mid 80s.

When we met in Bar Italia you told me a very funny story about Steve who played in muddy Wellingtons, would you please tell us again?

Watching Steve play those small venues in his last years was one of my greatest pleasures. It was always good fun and Steve was always pulling a prank. That particular Sunday evening at the Cricketers pub near the Oval cricket ground in South London, Steve turned up on stage wearing muddy wellington boots! He told his disciples that he’d been gardening all day! I know from close members of his family that gardening was never on the menu. Steve was nearly as famous for his fibs as he was for the music.

I do think all the Small Faces’ lovers (The whole planet now!) should also love die hard this one, eh?

I hope so. It’s excellent and if the fans enjoy listening to it just half as much as I had producing it …that’ll be NICE.

Where does the bonus CD come from? The 23rd USA tour?

It comes from a US gig in 1983. So it would have been more like the 33rd tour rather than the 23rd. Steve was still living near Atlanta at that time and the band was made up of local musicians that Steve had hand picked. Although the musicianship is good these live gig tapes are always amusing for the in between track lavatorial humour for which Steve became renowned for. Definitely do NOT play in front of the children!

By The way, what about the third edition of all too beautiful, how lives the book?

The book has had great reviews and is selling well which doesn’t surprise me at all as it’s bloody brilliant! Seriously though it is a smashing tale of rags to riches and back again. Rammed full of funny stories, sad stories and downright scary stories!

What are you listening at the moment, John? Your five records of 2010?

Mainly, great music that you have turned me onto, Yann. James Taylor Quartet, Eli Paperboy Reeds newbie, Sharon Jones newbie, Jesse Dee: Bittersweet Batch and Lend Us A Quid!……NICE!!!


Wapping Wharf

No comments: