One of the UK’s most charismatic and distinctive rock frontmen was taken from us when Steve Marriott, of the Small Faces and Humble Pie, died in a house fire on 20 April 1991. He was a cruelly young 44.
Thankfully, Steve’s achievements as a true figurehead of pop and rock music, especially in the 1960s and ’70s, are now widely acknowledged. His talents have been celebrated of late in the highly recommended musical All Or Nothing — The Mod Musical, which brings the Small Faces’ story vividly to life and continues to play to massive response.
Marriott, from Manor Park in east London, was a born performer. He started his first band at the age of 12 and starred on the West End stage in Lionel Bart’s hit production of Oliver! at just 13. Further stage roles followed, but as All Or Nothing documents, his heart was always in music.
His dreams came true when the Small Faces, formed in 1965, made it big and enjoyed several years of hit singles and increasingly influential and experimental albums. Marriott’s wanderlust and disillusionment with the business of music led him to leave the band and form Humble Pie.
There, he developed a creative partnership with a new group of like-minded players, including Peter Frampton. “It was the best band you could ever be in as far as I was concerned,” said Frampton, “because you’ve got my idol there. Steve would open his mouth and gold came out.”
Marriott fronted Humble Pie from 1969 to 1975, and briefly in a reunited version in the early 1980s. He also made some notable albums in his own name, including the 1976 solo debut Marriott. 1990’s Marriott & Band included versions of his treasured Small Faces songs ‘All Or Nothing’ and ‘What’cha Gonna Do About It.’
Shortly before the end of his life, Marriott was interviewed by this writer, and reflected with quiet satisfaction on his career. “I was seduced at 18,” he said, “and it was quite good but it paled very quickly. I realised it had nothing to do with music and everything to do with the shape of your bum…what’s been has gone, and I’m very proud of it.
“I’ve got what I wanted, which is just enough money to live on, in no great style but a nice way, and to have some respect from other musicians and play the pubs and clubs, where the music’s still real.”
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