Tell you what I’ll do, Steve Marriott told Ridley, Shirley and Frampton. I’ll skip off school and we’ll go and make a million dollars. For Shirley, who was drumming with the Apostolic Intervention, it was a no-brainer. Steve was already his hero. Frampton needed more persuasion, but Ridley was ready to throw in his lot with the king of the mods. Rolling Stones Svengali Andrew Loog Oldham managed them for a while and signed the group to his Immediate label and got them cracking on the debut album As Safe As Yesterday Is, a typical Marriott conundrum. Rolling Stone magazine used the term ‘heavy metal’ to describe this brutal introduction, but just as crushing rock riffs abound, so doers a lush form of English folk, blues and pop. The album opener, a cover of John Kay/Steppenwolf’s ‘Desperation’ is a pretty heavy way to make your presence felt. There are many other great songs here. Frampton’s ‘Stick Shift’ has the dual guitar attack down to a T and Steve’s ‘Bang!’ and ‘Buttermilk Boy’ reveal his melodic side hadn’t gone AWOL at all. Thanks to the success of ‘Natural Born Bugie’ the Pie hit the ground running and follow up discs Town and Country and the self-titled Humble Pie (1970) presaged the ability to move from a familiar repertoire to an increasingly heavy, moodier sound with producer Glyn Johns pushing all the right buttons.
Peter Frampton quit after Rock On ,but he left behind a desirable role. With key guests like Bobby Keys, P. P. Arnold and Alexis Korner helping out, not to mention the US backing genius of Doris Troy and Claudia Lennear, the Pie had perfected their potent style – R&B meets take no prisoners rock and roll – just in time to capture that bright light on Performance Rockin’ The Fillmore. This 72 minute wonder includes a mammoth jam across Dr. John’s ‘I Walk on Gilded Splinters’, another visit to Willie Dixon’s ‘I’m Ready’ and a ridiculously exciting take on Muddy Waters’‘Rollin’ Stone’ where Marriott reclaims his position as one of the UK’s best ever performers. Perhaps the best is left until last. Stevie’s blistering version of the Ashford & Simpson soul sizzling ‘I Don’t Need No Doctor’ still sounds like a contender for the best British singing ever. It’ll make the hairs on the nape of your neck stand to attention.
Performance certainly did the trick for the group. It was their first certified Gold record and helped to turn the previous album Rock On into precious metal.
In retrospect one would have to say this was the highlight of Humble Pie in the Frampton era, but the arrival of Clem Clempson for Smokin’ gave them a different but equally viable guitar sound since he brought in the kind of chops he’d perfected with the jazz-rock troupe Colosseum. Guests here include Steve Stills on keyboards and vocals, Alexis Korner on mandolin style guitar and more thrilling female BVs, this time from Apple recording artiste and soul legend Doris Troy and Madeline Bell (Blue Mink).
By now one can hear that the Pie have got the whole sexually charged heads down and boogie vibration off pat and another double, Eat It gives fierce rival Rod Stewart a run for his ‘Maggie May’ money.
From here on in Humble Pie always present a credible front. Personnel changes will complicate their latter history and Steve’s ridiculously early death, as well as the sad passing of Greg Ridley, means that their later recordings have a poignant, posthumous appeal. But, remember them in their pomp at the Fillmore East, New York City, before a baying crowd of fanatics and converts. Then you’ll realise they just don’t make ‘em like this anymore. Check out immediately!