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Steve Marriott

Legends come in all shapes and sizes, the talented Mr. MARRIOTT having his share in spades. A soulful songwriter, singer and guitarist, he came to prominence via two seminal combos, with 60s mod/garage outfit SMALL FACES and as leader of late-60s/70s hard-rock blues act, HUMBLE PIE; for many, the former’s `Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake’ LP of 1968 was a turning point in concept rock music. A secular solo career in the 80s was somewhat overshadowed by numerous re-vamps of his songs, and of course his untimely death early the following decade.
Born Stephen Peter Marriott on 30th January 1947 in Bow, London, he cut his teeth as a child actor, winning the role of the Artful Dodger in the stage musical production of Oliver before taking up a solo career. At the tender age of 16, Decca Records released his first 45, the Kenny Lynch-penned `Give Her My Regards’. Steve’s first job working in a music store paid dividends as he met likeminded R&B enthusiast RONNIE LANE (then of The Pioneers), who set about forming fashion-conscious mod supremos, SMALL FACES – very much rivals of The WHO. Unsatisfied with their stretch into psychedelia (the jocular `Lazy Sunday’ was released into the charts without his veto), MARRIOTT and his newfound uninvited sidekick PETER FRAMPTON (then guitarist of The HERD) laid out the blueprint for a supergroup of sorts, HUMBLE PIE. Together with SPOOKY TOOTH exile Greg Ridley (bass) and The Apostolic Intervention sticksman Jerry Shirley, the ‘Pie were soon riding high in the UK Top 10 with `Natural Born Bugie’. The early half of the 70s served as a testing time for the band as album after album – they’d moved from the defunct Immediate stable to US major A&M – was pasted by the British press; in America they achieved gold status for their self-indulgent near-covers concert double, `Performance: Rockin’ The Fillmore’ (1971). Disillusioned again, Steve duly re-united the SMALL FACES in the mid-to-late 70s, and when that idea was exhausted he re-formed a version of HUMBLE PIE.
Squeezed somewhere in between this – and an unfruitful attempt to supersede Mick Taylor in The ROLLING STONES – was the frontman’s debut solo set, MARRIOTT (1976) {*6}, a worthy attempt at unifying his blend of bastardised British blues and American soul/R&B. With an “All-Stars” combo behind him (most notably ex-T. REX axeman Mickey Finn), there were grand rock’n’roll blasts by way of versions of LEON RUSSELL’s `Help Me Through The Day’, Freddie Scott’s `Are You Lonely For Me Baby’, Charlie Walker’s `You Don’t Know Me’ and a fresh take of SMALL FACES’ `Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am’.
Serious back-taxes allegedly unpaid by HP manager Dee Anthony were to blight MARRIOTT’s subsequent career at the turn of the 80s, while bad luck and injuries led to further personal problems as his marriage broke up. Eager to help out his wheelchair-bound buddy RONNIE LANE, he and a team of friends got together for a one-off “Majik Mijits” concert set in ’81; the album was issued in 2000.
Recorded live at Dingwalls 6.7.84 (as it said on the tin), PACKET OF THREE (1986) {*6} was released by indie label, Aura, while mod acts such as The LAMBRETTAS and PURPLE HEARTS duly called up the man (now about to marry his third wife, Judith/Toni Poultney) to cut a rendition of SMALL FACES classic `All Or Nothing’ for a Band Aid Trust venture. Always a joker to avoid the strains of his financial debacles and alcohol bouts, he formed the Official Receivers band from his Arkesden rented cottage in 1987, and they featured Mick Weaver (keyboards), Jim Leverton (bass) and Ian Wallace (drums).
Declining offers from the likes of Andrew Lloyd Webber, MARRIOTT as his backing band, The DT’s (from Birmingham), 30 SECONDS TO MIDNITE (1989) {*6} featured only two MARRIOTT originals (`Phone Call Away’ and `All Or Nothing’) and no less than ten covers from:- JOHN FOGERTY (`Knocking On Your Door’), SMOKEY ROBINSON (`One More Heartache’), DONOVAN (`Superlungs’), BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS (`Get Up, Stand Up’), Sam Theard (`You Rascal You’), TALKING HEADS (`Life During Wartime’), the Shirley Ellis hit `Clapping Song’, the JOHNNY KIDD & THE PIRATES classic `Shakin’ All Over’, and two by CURTIS MAYFIELD (`The Um Um Um Um Um Song’ and `Gipsy Woman’).
The turn of the 90s saw MARRIOTT rekindle his love of performing live, but just as things looked bright and profitable (he’d linked up with HUMBLE PIE sidekick PETER FRAMPTON once again), tragedy struck when, after a binge drinking session the previous night, Steve was found dead at his home on the 20th April 1991, the result of a discarded cigarette.
© MCS June2012

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