Saturday 17th August 2013
A slight departure from my usual style of blog today, although it is loosely connected with my walks. Whenever I’m out walking I have to have music playing on the iPod. Not very loudly – I still enjoy hearing the sounds of the environment – but just in the background, enough to keep me amused on tedious sections of my routes.
The other day was no exception – I was walking through Walsall town centre, with the music slightly louder than usual, to drown out the sounds of the local chavs. I always put the iPod into shuffle mode, so the selection is entirely random. A Bach harpsichord piece came to a gentle close . . . . suddenly I was aurally assaulted by the screams of a magnificent voice – “I WANT TO TEEEEEEELLLLLLL YOU . . . . EVEN YOU PEOPLE AT THE BACK OF THE HALL . . . . . ARE YOU READY ?!?!” A track I’d not heard in decades – “Are you Ready” by Humble Pie, from the “Rocking the Fillmore” album.
The voice belonged to one Stephen Peter “Steve” Marriott, possibly Britain’s finest ever rock vocalist, a man who died tragically at the age of 44, almost penniless . . . .
I was first turned onto Steve years ago by a friend who is a vocalist – “You gotta hear this guy” he said – “He has this voice that just blows Robert Plant away”. Now this was like a red rag to a bull, as I’m a massive Zeppelin fan, so out came the albums. I already knew some of Steve’s Small Faces stuff, but like most people my knowledge of him didn’t go much past “Lazy Sunday” or Itchycoo Park”. I wasn’t prepared for “Tin Soldier” – Jeez, that was some vocalist . . . . Next came an album I’d never heard of – Humble Pie’s “Performance – Rockin’ the Fillmore”. I knew OF Humble Pie – they were that band that Peter Frampton was in before he recorded THAT live solo album, weren’t they ?? The needle hit the vinyl, and I heard this phenomenal voice asking the audience “ARE YOU READY ?!?!” . . . . I listened to that album twice through, and had to agree with my mate – this voice was in a class of its own.
I’ve been a huge fan of Steve ever since, and I remember being really upset when I heard he’d died in a house fire, at the oh too young age of 44.
Rummaging around in a charity shop one day a few years ago I discovered a dog-eared copy of “All too beautiful”, a biography of Steve by Paolo Hewitt and John Hellier.
“Compulsive reading” said the Daily Express on the cover – they weren’t wrong. I read that book from cover to cover – what a tale of talent, fame, addiction, loss . . . . . Here we have a man of immense musical talent, writer of some of THE songs of the 60’s, reduced to stealing potatoes from a farmers field, when he should have been enjoying the millions of pounds his talents had generated. Millions of pounds that instead found its way into the pockets of unscrupulous managers, and up the noses of Steve and his bandmates, in the form of the Bolivian marching powder….
Amazingly, despite the problems in his personal life and his almost constant financial woes (he was even hounded by the mafia for a while, according to Hewitt and Hellier), Steve never lost the one thing that he, and only he, possessed – his magnificent voice. Check out his performance of “Stay With Me Baby” – this track was cut just a few years before his death, when Steve was scratching a living playing gigs in London pubs :
And here, performing his Small Faces classic “All Or Nothing” with his band Packet of Three. The man still had it, right up to the very end :
I could talk about Steve all day – his music touches me – but I’m just gonna shut up and let the man speak for himself the way he did best, through his music. All I ask of anyone reading this blog who isn’t familiar with Steve Marriott – go read the book, get hold of as much of the man’s music as you can, enjoy it, then let others know about the genius that was Stephen Peter Marriott.
R.I.P. Steve, and thanks for the music . . . . .
- Steve Marriott; Child Actor, Pop, Soul and Hard-Charging Rock n’ Roll (discosyconciertos.wordpress.com)
- Humble Pie ‘Rockin’ The Fillmore’ Box Set To Be Released (wncx.cbslocal.com)