Album: Small Faces
. . .
Given what they would do with the rest of their careers, Small Faces almost seems like a supergroup in reverse. During their main incarnation, they consisted of Steve Marriott on guitar and vocals, Ronnie Lane on bass, Ian McLagan on keyboards and Kenney Jones on drums, all of whom — except for Marriott — have already been mentioned in this project.
And while, with one exception, which we’ll get to tomorrow, they weren’t all that popular here in the States, they were massive in the U.K., as their identification with the mods helped them score seven Top Ten hits between 1966-1968.
The first of those hits was today’s song, “Sha-La-La-La-Lee,” which like the Yardbirds’ “For You Love” was both their first top ten hit, and a song written for, but not by the band.
Oh, and both songs were derided by their respective bands for being “too pop,” a distinction without a difference 55 years later. In the case if “Sha-La-La-La-Lee,” it was determined by their manager, Don Arden (the father of Sharon Osbourne, for those of you keeping score at home) that the Small Faces would do this song by Kenny Lynch and Mort Shulman, with Lynch producing it.
That’s as may be, but from the first Marriott guitar chords bouncing off of Kenney Jones’s snare drum, Small Faces absolutely own “Sha-La-La-La-Lee,” with Marriott’s raspy vocals leading the way.
Picked her up on a Friday night
I knew everything gonna be alright
The hook, of course, is Ronnie Lane’s falsetto yelps of “sha-la-la-la-lee” which permeate the entire song, which is basically a boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy sha-la-la-la-lees girl. At least I think it’s Lane. It could be McLagan, or even Kenny Lynch, as all three are credited with the backing vocals.
I held her close and I asked her again
If she was gonna be my baby
It felt so good when she answered me
Oh yeah, oh yeah
Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah
There’s some great stuff on this chorus: Jones hammering a cowbell, McLagan channeling Nicky Hopkins on the piano, and the whole stop-time as Marriott screams “oh yeah.”
Later on in the song, they break it down again so McLagan can do some bluesy organ licks, and during the end — as he’s singing “sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-lee,” Ronnie Lane basically channels Duck Dunn on the bass. How something so classic British R&B could be considered not R&B enough is beyond me.
In any event, it was a massive U.K. hit in 1966, making it all the way to #3 on the U.K. pop charts, and already planting the seeds for the destruction of the Small Faces a few years later.
“Sha-La-La-La-Lee” Live on Beat Club, 1966
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