‘Itchycoo Park’: All Too Beautiful For The Small Faces

Written and produced by Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, the song was a typically adventurous offering by the London pacesetters.

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Small Faces 'Itchycoo Park' artwork - Courtesy: UMG
Small Faces 'Itchycoo Park' artwork - Courtesy: UMG

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 10 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 during a European tour, 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, or phase-shifting, combining two audio signals to create a dreamlike delayed effect.

The group insisted the “we’ll get high” references were perfectly innocent, and simply about playing truant from school. Marriott told Disc and Music Echo: “‘Itchycoo’ was a send up really, we thought everyone would understand that but they look it seriously. It wasn’t a nasty send up – just a funny one.”

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The single debuted at a tentative No.43, as the Small Faces’ friend, collaborator, and Immediate Records labelmate P.P. 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 10. 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 catalog changed hands, it climbed back into the UK Top 10, 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.

Buy or stream “Itchycoo Park” on the 60s Summer Of Love compilation.

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