The Stories Behind The Songs
Although Lazy Sunday was a big hit, drummer Kenney Jones says it was “the final nail in the coffin in finishing us off”.
Not representative of the band’s style and released without their knowledge, it nevertheless became a big hit – and, says drummer Kenney Jones, “was the final nail in the coffin in finishing us off”.
While on an extensive tour in the spring of 1968, the Small Faces were blissfully unaware that they’d scored their biggest UK hit single since All Or Nothing – which made No.1 almost two years previously. Lazy Sunday, which started out as something “to make each other laugh more than anything else”, as frontman Steve Marriott put it, is arguably still their best-known song.
“We didn’t know anything about it,” drummer Kenney Jones explains today. “Steve Marriott bought a copy of Melody Maker, we read through it, looked at the charts and thought: ‘Fuckin’ hell, we’ve got a hit record here with Lazy Sunday.’”
Composed at Marriott’s flat in Chiswick overlooking the Thames, it was inspired by feuds with his neighbours. The then-20year-old Marriott had installed several large speakers in the flat, much to the chagrin of his fellow Eyott Green residents.
“He rented this beautiful two-storey apartment with beautiful carpets, paintings, furniture, and it was all wrecked,” recalled keyboard player Ian McLagan. “And it stunk; the dogs had shit all over the balcony.”
In retaliation for the neighbours’ constant banging on the wall, Marriott and his friend Mick O’ Sullivan (the subject of Here Come The Nice and co-writer of Green Circles) also laced the neighbours’ water supply with LSD.
While Lazy Sunday is credited to just Marriott and bassist Ronnie Lane, all four members of the band got into the tonguein-cheek spirit of song, sending up their East End childhoods.
“Steve wrote most of it,” says Jones. “It started off about the neighbours banging on the walls either side of him, and Ronnie Lane went along with that, but it was mainly Steve. We all added bits, because it was all about the culture we were part of.”
Cockney histrionics and an affable enquiry about backache all added to the song’s comical music-hall charm. As did a low-budget promo shot at the drummer’s family home in Stepney in East London. It also featured Jones’s former neighbour pretending to strangle Marriott.
“We all just went along with the video in the end because the song was already a hit,” says Jones. “If you look at the house next door to where Steve is, that’s where my aunt Mary and uncle Bert lived. Uncle Bert had lumbago, so I put that line in there.”
A suggestion from Hollies singer Allan Clarke that Marriott should sing in less of a transatlantic accent was said to have inspired the over-the-top cockney affectations in the vocal performance (“That sounds like it’s true,” says Jones, “Allan Clarke probably did say that”). It also further cemented Marriott’s Artful Dodger guise, a role he’d played on the West End stage in Oliver! eight years previously, aged 13, performing the songs Consider Yourself and I’d Do Anything.
For all Lazy Sunday’s success, the band members’ feelings for the song haven’t always been all that positive. Jones suggests that Lazy Sunday not only stunted the band’s progression, but was also “the final nail in the coffin in finishing us off”.
Recorded as part of Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, their third studio album, it was released ahead of that record as the first single from it – against the band’s wishes.
“We were trying to lose our teenybopper image and were progressing, especially after recording Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, which we were very proud of,” Jones says. “When another rinky-dink commercial record with Steve singing in a cockney accent came out, our feeling was that we wanted to be recognised for our playing and where we were progressing to. We weren’t very happy that Andrew [Loog Oldham, Immediate Records co-founder] had put it out without our say so.”
Despite the band’s difficult relationship with Lazy Sunday, many people regard the song as an essential part of the Ogdens album’s surreal celebration of a now bygone age.
Fifty years after its release, Jones continues to have bittersweet feelings about the track’s classic status.
“It’s not something I’d like us to be remembered for. It’s not
one of my favourites.”
“It’s not something I’d like us to be remembered for,” he says. “Over the years I’ve come to realise that everyone loves the song. It’s not one of my favourites. It was a thorn in our side but I’m stuck with it. I’ve had to go along with it, in a sense. But I do see the good side. It’s also awkward to play live. We used to play it with my band the Jones Gang, because our bass player Rick Willis wanted to bring it in, but I cringed every time. We don’t do it any more.”
Following on from the relative immediacy and easy hit status of Lazy Sunday, the band struggled to translate Ogdens on stage. At a New Year’s Eve concert in 1968, Marriott walked off stage and quit, dramatically citing his frustration with the band’s pop image. He went on to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton and gain the rock credibility he craved.
Although Jones went on to enjoy a successful career with the Faces, and later with The Who, he says the Small Faces were “the most meaningful for me because they were the most inventive and creative band”. “I miss them every day,” he says, “I can’t get away from them because I don’t want to.”
Today Jones, the last surviving member of the four-piece, is currently working on other projects related to Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake. For all its eccentricities, it’s a groundbreaking record that influenced the Sex Pistols and Led Zeppelin and spent six weeks at No.1 in the summer of 1968. Lazy Sunday is still ultimately the album’s bestknown song, part of a legacy and a group that Jones still looks back on fondly.
“They were my friends and my music buddies,” he reflects. “I know the three of them are dead, but I feel their presence with me and I know they want me to do this. I’m keeping it alive.”