It’s Steve Marriott’s birthday, and it’s the 30th of the month and the 30th Song of the Day, so why not this song by Humble Pie, a single from 1972 that leads off the second side of Smokin’. I remember liking this song when it was out, but I was only 13 and was a little uncertain about bringing into the house such a raucous disk. Marriott, who was once the singer for The Small Faces, the band that eventually became “Rod Stewart’s band” in a sense, is a shouty singer. Very strong pipes but he sometimes overdoes it.
It was a treat whenever this song showed up on the radio, but, y’know, if you want a lot of airplay you should be a bit more circumspect with the drug references. This song packs ’em in. It’s a gritty, dirty rave up about getting busted and packed off to “30 days in the hole.” Drug busts of rock stars were pretty common, and this song celebrates it, almost, as a badge of honor. What I liked about the vocal was the way Marriott seemed kind of pissed off but also having the time of his life. It fucking kicks ass.
And with the red Lebanese, the black Napalese—not girls, kids, but very, very high grade hashish—and the “Newcastle Brown”—not the ale, no, “sure smacks you down” should give you a hint—to say nothing of a really obscure reference (for me): “take the urban noise with some Durban Poison”—guy’s reading off the menu for top-flight dealers everywhere (oh, and don’t forget “Chicago green”). Then there’s the “dirty room and a silver coke spoon”—just another rocker born with a silver spoon at his nose—“a greasy whore and a rollin’ dance floor” and, my favorite lines “Only seeds and dust / That you got bust on / You know it’s hard to believe.” Sounds like our man was picked up holding residue. What ya gonna do?
Anyway, you might understand why I was a little reluctant to have the song in the house. Sure, I was completely clean in those days (I hadn't even smoked a cigarette), but there were children present!
Marriott, as might be expected from that list, came to a bad end. I’m not saying the drugs done him in, it’s more like bad luck in the music biz made him need the drugs and booze, and that did him in. That hedonistic lifestyle is alright if you’re The Rolling Stones, but if you’re a band like Humble Pie, having to play relentlessly to make the bread that airplay and hit-making provide for bigger acts, then you might start overdoing it. Marriott lasted til 1991, but after 1975, he really wasn’t where he once was.
The Small Faces were never The Who or The Stones, but they had a great run of good music up through 1968 or so. Then Humble Pie, for Marriott, while Mod Rod took The Faces (not “small” anymore, after losing diminutive frontman Marriott) to a bigger level. Then, y’know, Peter Frampton (yeah, that Peter Frampton) left the Pie and became insufferably unavoidable on the radio round about 1976. All were more radio-friendly than Marriott, even though other people—like Paul Rodgers of Free then Bad Company—took a similar sound higher up the charts. Marriott was just too ballsy for Prime Time. Outlaw music for disaffected teens, yup.
Anyway, Marriott’s vocal on this song never fails to give me a big charge. I love how gutsy it is—the cheer of a guy who’s getting ripped and to hell with the consequences. 1972 is a good year for that attitude. You Know Who won one of the biggest landslides in U.S. history as president, and such escapes as might seem cheering were devoutly to be wished. Don’t take my word for it; check out Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972. Thompson’s a man who would’ve been right there with Marriott, reeling off the list of what it takes to get him through the night. Like the man says, “it’s gonna lessen your load.”
Well, anyway, I’ve put in my month (though January has 31 days). Tomorrow we’ll hear from a guy who really has a bad attitude.