The Full Text of Steven Van Zandt’s Small Faces / Faces Hall of Fame Induction Speech
Steven Van Zandt, he of the E Street Band, ‘the Sopranos’ and the ‘Underground Garage,’ made time to find his way to Cleveland to induct the Small Faces & the Faces into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last Saturday evening (Apr. 14). His speech was a bubbling spiel delivered by an obvious fan of the band(s) he was inducting.
Effortlessly ticking off the family trees and career twists and turns that led to the formation of each of these two incarnations of the band, Van Zandt delivering a quick but richly informative history lesson, and managed to throw a couple of zingers in there. For example, turns out nobody was sure about Rod Stewart’s true heritage prior to seeing him on a magazine cover…
I’m Stevie Van Zandt. I’m here to induct the Small Faces and the Faces into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
I can’t read. I love Cleveland! You just can’t find a place to park! So, uh… a C note goes a long way in this town. Not too many bands get a second life. In this case I’m sure it helped having not just one, but miraculously two of the greatest white soul singers in the history of rock and roll, Steve Marriott and Rod Stewart. Steve was a child actor and walked away from a very promising acting career, deciding that music was a much better fit with his attention deficit disorder, long before it was fashionable. He started an R & B group called the Moments and went to work in a music store.
As fate would have it, into that music store comes Ronnie Lane, and Steve Marriott sells him his first bass and they knew each other a little bit. Steve remembers Ronnie and his drummer friend Kenny Jones from a group called the Outcasts. Long story short, they jammed together, bonded over Marriott’s record collection then started a new group called the Small Faces.
When the original organ player didn’t quote work out, they would grab Ian McLagen from Boz and the Boz People, you all remember them. Yes because he happened to be a great keyboard and yes because he happened to be a great guy but most importantly he was the right height. By 1964, ’65, rhythm and blues had taken over the London clubs and as part of the blue eyed soul scene, the Small Faces had a decided disadvantage when compared to the Rolling Stones, the Animal, the Yardbirds, Pretty Things, Them…unlike those other groups, the Small Faces were actually good looking.
These other guys were scaring everybody to death, ya know. And suddenly there were these cute little, cuddly, cheeky little devils, cheerful and friendly… playing like Booker T & The MG’s and singing like Wilson Pickett and having hits right away. My imagination isn’t good enough to picture all the sex they must have had. They became the darlings of the Mod movement. They lived the Mod lifestyle, you know, the right clothes for everything. Just as important as the right hair cut, the right dance steps, the tricked out scooters and the right amphetamines.
To further make the point of how important clothes were to the mods, the shrewd negotiators signed with heir first real manager, Don Arden, for about thirty dollars a week, a piece, because he threw in an open charge account on Carnaby Street. True! To this day, no one’s quite sure who got the better of that deal. They did a bunch of classic records which would define garage rock at its finest, and would make them a staple of our Underground Garage format. ‘All Or Nothing,’ ‘Watcha Gonna Do About It,’ ‘My Way Of Giving,’ ‘Sha La Lee,’ ‘Here Comes The Nice,’ ‘Itchycoo Park,’ ‘Tin Soldier,’ ‘Afterglow’ and of course the classic album ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake.’
But ‘Itchycool Park’ was their only hit in America and tragically they never came over. So after about four or five years, Steve Marriott gets itchy indeed yet again, and splits and forms Humble Pie, who we would get to know in America. And Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood joined Lane, Jones and McLagen for the band’s second life. Rod Stewart had been around in London in several groups — Steampacket, Shotgun Express, among others.
But we would meet him as the incredible singer in one of the greatest bands of all time, the far too short lived, Jeff Beck Group. Just to quickly illustrate how media coverage was slightly different back then, I remember my bass player breathlessly rushing into rehearsal holding up a Rolling Stone magazine declaring, ‘Look everybody, Rod Stewart is white!’ We said, ‘Get the hell outta here, gimme that thing. White! Ahh… the pictures just faded.’
We had never heard anybody quite like him. We also have Jeff Beck to thank for introducing us to Ronnie Wood. But, as a bass player. And those first two Jeff Beck albums have some of the greatest bass playing you’ll ever hear in your life. But it turns out, he was a great guitar player before he was a great bass player, in another British Invasion group that forgot to invade, called the Birds. B-I-R-D-S. It’s like 1964, Ronnie’s like 16, 17 years old, he was already a great guitar player. A fantastic tone… I’m still trying to get it. And by the way, the Birds were the darlings of the Mods before the Small Faces and the Who, so no surprise Ronnie Wood fit right in with the Faces. When Rod and Ronnie joined the group, they decided to slightly alter the name. But changing the Small Faces to the Proudly Large Noses would have made the other three guys feel a bit inadequate. So they decided to just drop the Small part and they became the Faces. They would tour America with great records like ‘Three Button Hand Me Down,’ ‘Had Me A Real Good Time,’ ‘Flying,’ ‘Stay With Me,’ ‘Ooo La La,’ ‘Pool Hall Richard’ and many others.
After all is said and done, both the Small Faces and the Faces had one thing very much in common — for a bunch of guys who never took themselves too seriously, they made some of the most soulful, beautiful music anyone’s ever made. They could rock as hard as anybody when they felt like it, and you may not have expected it, could be as touching and as personally engaging as a ballad could be delivered.
History would prove them profoundly influential in the ten years both groups existed. And regardless of how things may have ended, at their peak, both incarnations communicated what all great bands communicate, the camaraderie of a group of guys doing what they loved and knowing they needed each other to so it. It’s my honor, and my pleasure, to proudly welcome Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Kenny Jones, Ian McLagen, Ron Wood and Rod Stewart…The Small Faces and the Faces to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame!