Jul 122011

I’ve always been a big Small Faces fan and an even bigger Faces fan. I mean, how great must Steve Marriott have been?  It took Ron Wood and Rod Stewart, both years away from anything like sucking, to replace him. So what happened? Humble Pie leaves me cold.  Really cold. More than that, actually: I think they’re terrible, and the problem isn’t the band, it’s Marriott. I submit in evidence what appear to be the two sides of Humble Pie: the sweaty, bombastic, screechy side (above) and the pseudo-soulful and rootsy side (below). (Note young Peter Frampton in the second clip.) I’d like to hear from any Pieheads who can explain to me what I am missing.


  27 Responses to “Please Explain: Humble Pie”

  1. All points you raise here are valid, misterioso. I came really late to Humble Pie, even years after digging Faces and then Small Faces (not to mention Steve Marriott’s excellent backing vocals on The Easybeats’ “Good Time”). And boy did you pick what must have been two of the weakest extremes of the band’s two styles. Well played!

    So about 15 years ago I took a chance on one of the early Humble Pie albums, with Frampton. It’s called Town and Country, and I like it and listen to it fairly regularly. It’s by no means a masterpiece – and it’s telling that 15 years later I still haven’t taken a chance on a second Humble Pie album. Anytime I download a particular song or watch a video from a song not on that album it sounds like those two turds you posted. Boy they suck! That rockin’ one sounds like early AC/DC if you scraped off the generally fun artiface and were left with nothing but the vomit-caked chest of Bon Scott. Marriott looks and sounds really bad at this point.

    On Town and Country, however, he and his bandmates maintain an air of gentlemanly folk-blues woodshedding, like a more rockin’ version of Traffic or what Clapton might have done had he holed up in the English countryside with Faces. I don’t know how much of an influence Frampton had in keeping Marriott’s new Gentleman’s Boogie vision so pure, but it’s a solid album, with tender moments, cool bass fills, acoustic guitars mixed together with fat-ass Gibsons, and an overall dry sound that reeks of wood. Sometimes all the guys sing. They really sounds like a band of brothers when everything clicks. And yes, the entire notion of Humble Pie is still ridiculous at its core.

    I’ll see if I can post my two favorite songs in the comments or, if you’d like, add them an addendum to your post – or maybe I’ll just play the album in its entirety this Saturday night, with some instructional commentary, of course.

  2. tonyola

    Yeah, Humble Pie was pretty bad but to be fair, that 1974 clip shows the band on its last legs and a booze’n’coke-saturated Marriott blowing his voice out. Here’s a clip from when Marriott was still functional and vertical. Lord know I’m no fan, but in 1971, Pie still know how to rock a crowd of “boogie”-screaming ‘lude-atics puking on their shoes.

  3. mockcarr

    Really, one must be pie-eyed to appreciate this.

  4. hrrundivbakshi

    Another C-60 band for me. I totally love the over-the-top “stoopidness” of tracks like “Hot n’ Nasty,” the bombast of tunes like “Natural Born Woman” and “Shine On” and a few silly songs in between. But that’s it. Their later stuff — in particular their live performances from the mid-70s — are unbelievably awful. I have a live version of “Honky Tonk Woman” somewhere that is literally painful.

  5. Yikes, that live stuff bites it!

    I think their studio version of 30 Days In The Hole is an unqualified winner. But nothing else lives up to it. I like the Black Crows imitation of Humble Pie better than Humble Pie itself.

    30 Days: http://youtu.be/sdXjm8pZMws

  6. misterioso

    tonyola, I agree the ’71 clip shows them in better form; I watched that one and didn’t use it primarily for quality reasons (i.e., bad video and synching of sound). But I also think that everything that annoys me about HP is present there, too.

  7. misterioso

    Interesting. In my digging on youtube for clips, I encountered HP playing Dr. John’s “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnI6W3l_1Oo) which I knew mainly from Weller’s version (on Stanley Road, live version here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Znt4mWPhROs), which, I know realize (duh!) is derived from Humble Pie’s version. Not bad. Still, Marriott’s over-the-topness, only occasionally (I think) on display with the Small Faces, gets to me.

  8. I’m really pleased to hear you dig these guys to this appropriate extent. Seriously.

  9. misterioso

    Must be this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEcslYWAdDg

    Absolutely dreadful. And yet, they were primarily known as a live act, weren’t they?

  10. misterioso

    Agreed on Black Crowes, and 30 Days in the Hole is the only Humble Pie song I ever remember hearing and liking.

  11. BigSteve

    Hugo Burnham posted this clip on Facebook today:


    Not the kind of thing you’d think he’d like, but Brits do love that ‘maximum R&B.’ Marriott certainly looks dissipated in this clip, but at least he’s having fun.

    I think I’ve told this story before, but I saw the Pie in the early days (post-Frampton), and got to experience Marriott destroying his voice. He had the habit of standing on the edge of the stage and singing directly to the audience without the benefit of the mic. Sad.

    To me this stuff is as interesting as Bad Company (i.e., zero interesting). You want to give him the benefit of the doubt because the Small Faces were so great, but Humble Pie is pretty much just generic boogie rock.

  12. 2000 Man

    I like Smokin’. It’s a pretty good album, but it’s not great. I’ve never grabbed anything else because the bad can be really bad.

    Jerry Shirley had a radio show here in Cleveland on the Classic Rock station for a long time. It gave them some kind of classic rock cred, I suppose. He did a christmas donation thing where he’d stay in a semi truck at a mall until Cleveland filled it with money and toys and clothes. Then he would keep the money and donate the clothes and toys. He got caught, and I think he disappeared from the face of the earth.

  13. That’s a sad demise, even by rock standards!

  14. saturnismine

    They had their moments.

    BS, why is it “sad” that Marriott would stand at the edge of the stage and sing sans mic? It’s just an old larger than life showbiz gesture. He would’ve blown out his voice either way.

  15. plasticsun

    I agree with Mr. Mod about Humble Pie’s first album – it is not a bad listen. I think the real problem with the vast majority of Humble Pie’s output is, as a recent article in Mojo stated, that Marriott decided to use his incredible voice for vocal gymnastics rather than singing. Boogie? I cringe as I type the word. If you listen to the Small Faces, he is much more subtle and uses different aspects of his voice.

  16. BigSteve

    Because the audience couldn’t really hear him anyway. And the music was not worthy of the gesture.

  17. saturnismine

    I imagine this show filled with people who are enjoying themselves while Marriott’s up there on stage, *putting out* for them, while you stand amidst them sternly, with your arms folded in Leggy Mountbatten-esque detachment thinking “we cannot really hear his sub-par, so-called ‘blues wailing.'”

    way to get caught up in the moment, Steve.

  18. “Leggy Mountbatten-esque detachment…” Now you funny, too!

  19. saturnismine

    “Marriott decided to use his incredible voice for vocal gymnastics rather than singing.”

    It was the Robert Plant-ification of the british blues based male vocalist. Just as Daltrey went all curls and fringe, Marriott went all upper register and wailing over dramatic full stops.

    How could they resist? They saw this newer band having unprecedented success with it.

    Marriott, in particular, must have felt entitled to that kind of performing since Zeppelin ripped off his reading of “You need Lovin'” and Page had asked Martiott to be in the band before asking Plant.

  20. saturnismine

    everybody funny.

  21. BigSteve

    I remember this show as being filled with luded out hairballs occasionally rousing themselves to bellow approval when they noticed the tiny singer going through the motions of ‘putting out’ for them. This is not the kind of moment that catches me up.

  22. tonyola

    So it doesn’t rank in the ten greatest moments of stagecraft. Big deal. It’s called playing to the crowd, and for a couple years Humble Pie did it fairly well.

  23. saturnismine

    Well said, Tony.

  24. misterioso

    tonyola, it must have worked on some level: Humble Pie was a popular live act more than a record seller. But it is always interesting to see what holds up across time and what doesn’t, and for me it really doesn’t in a big way. I just want to grab Marriott by the scruff of the neck and make him listen to himself and tell him he’s better than that. Or was.

  25. misterioso, I hope that this Saturday Night’s show provides you with a few comforting thoughts on Marriott’s post-Small Faces career. It will be the least I can do, especially since I recall an earlier SNSI episode in which I cut on Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, the beginning of the end of Steve Marriott, if you ask me. He was pretty good at cock-rocking music, but so few bands are very good at that style. He should have taken Page up on his offer to join Led Zeppelin – or had his act together enough at the end of the decade so that he could have stepped in for Bon Scott in AC/DC.

  26. saturnismine

    Mod, that’s some right fine thinkin’ you’re doin’ there (about Stevie Marriott and AC/DC). And I mean it, man.

    Cue HVB’s objections…

  27. misterioso, this evening I hope to more fully explain Humble Pie for you. Tune into tonight’s Saturday Night Shut-In.

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