One of the defining singles of Britain’s psychedelic pop summer of 1967 took its bow on the top 50 chart for August 9 that year. The Small Faces arrived with a release that had plenty hanging on it, given that four consecutive top ten hits had been followed by more muted success for “I Can’t Make It” and “Here Come The Nice.” The new track invited us to the hedonistic delights of “Itchycoo Park,” and soon everything was “all too beautiful” again.
Written and produced by the group’s Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane and mixed by Glyn Johns, “Itchycoo Park” was a typically groundbreaking offering by the Small Faces. Its lyric dared to hint strongly at recreational drug use, illustrated by one of the first uses of flanging, combining two audio signals to create a dreamlike delayed effect.
The single debuted at a tentative No.43, as the Small Faces’ friend, collaborator and Immediate Records labelmate PP Arnold slid to the anchor position with “The Time Has Come.” The week’s highest new entry was soul man Eddie Floyd’s new Stax release “Things Get Better,” and other arrivals included the Spencer Davis Group’s first 45 since the departure of Muff and Steve Winwood, “Time Seller.”
Summer in the park
But over the ensuing weeks, “Itchycoo Park” won its spurs, jumping straight into the top 20 and then spending six weeks in the top ten. It had a late September peak at No.3, as Engelbert Humperdinck’s unstoppable “The Last Waltz” continued at the top and Keith West’s “Excerpt From A Teenage Opera” climbed to No.2. In 1968, “Park” became the Small Faces’ biggest American hit, reaching No.16.
There was further proof of the song’s longevity when, during a period of reissue activity for the Small Faces in 1976, when their catalogue changed hands, it climbed back into the UK top ten, this time reaching No.9. Numerous covers of “Itchycoo Park” included one on the 2015 self-titled debut album by the all-star Hollywood Vampires.