This year’s Hall Of Fame class shows many different possible trends. With half of the inductees having been eligible for less than five years, we see the possibility of future classes being comprised of recently eligible artists only, which is bad news for the KISS army and the Rush faithful. With Tom Dowd, Cosimo Matassa, and Glyn Johns being inducted in the Award For Musical Excellence (formerly known as Sideman) category rather than the Ahmet Ertegun Award category (formerly known as Non-Performer), we see that either the Hall Of Fame people consider engineers to be musicians, with the control board their musical instrument; or the Award For Musical Excellence really is more than just a renaming of the Sideman category, and we’ll see different things done in the future than they’ve been doing now. Worst of all, the induction of Freddie King as an Early Influence shows that the Hall Of Fame is neither apologetic about their mistakes (such as inducting Wanda Jackson as an Early Influence in 2009), nor any longer concerned about how they define concepts.
But a close second to King’s miscasting as an Early Influence for the honor of being the darkest cloud on the horizon is what is fondly referred to as the “joint nomination” of the Small Faces and Faces, or “Small Faces/Faces” as they were printed on the ballot. This was one of the most heated debates, if not the most heated, during the time between the announcements of the nominees and of the inductees. In a two-part effort, I’m going to dissect both sides of this issue, dealing primarily this time with the issue of Small Faces/Faces, and how the Hall nearly got it completely right this time.
It’s not an entirely foreign concept, mind you. The induction of “the Drifters” stood for both the Clyde McPhatter-era and the era that began as a renaming of the Five Crowns. The induction of Ricky Nelson also included the years billed as “Rick Nelson”, which admittedly is an incredibly fine hair to split. The induction of “Genesis” included both the years with and without Peter Gabriel. Van Halen’s induction included the post-Roth years derisively referred to by Diamond Dave devotees as “Van Hagar.” No one had a second thought about inducting the funk outfit under the joint moniker of “Parliament/Funkadelic”. We wouldn’t see the necessity of separate inductions for the Young Rascals and the Rascals, and perhaps most germane to the topic, there’s been a certain amount of ambiguity as to whether or not the induction of Jefferson Airplane also hailed the accomplishments of the Jefferson-less Starship era.
For the record, I supported the joint nomination. Like the Hall, I agree that it’s always been one band. As one NomCom member put it, the band could best be defined as “[Ian McLagan], Ronnie [Lane], and Kenney [Jones] working with...whomever they work with.” That definition has the diehard Small Faces fans foaming at the mouth, incensed. For some of them, Steve Marriott WAS the Small Faces, or at the very least the Small Faces couldn’t and didn’t exist without him, similar to how some would say the Beatles weren’t really the Beatles with Pete Best on the sticks, or Sammy Hagar was never really a member of Van Halen. For them, if any joint nomination should have taken place, it should have been “Small Faces/Humble Pie”, but they wouldn’t have done that, because they feel Marriott deserves induction at least twice.
The problem with this train of thought is that it all but sides with every case of Front Man Fever out there, and even pushes it to further extremes. If Steve Marriott was the Small Faces, then not only was Smokey Robinson the entire worth of the Miracles, Hank Ballard of the Midnighters, Paul McCartney of Wings, and so on, but then also Barry Gibb was the BeeGees, Diana Ross was the Supremes, Felix Caveliere was the Rascals, Steven Tyler was Aerosmith, etc. Put simply, this train of thought pretty much misses the entire concept of a group or band, and while there are occasionally members that hold the group together, it also usually takes a group consensus of dissolution for a group or band to be broken up. That isn’t what happened here. Steve left, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood came in, and the group continued.
There’s one other big and one lesser argument that are also used to argue against the joint nomination (and upcoming induction) of the Small Faces/Faces. The big one that still gets pulled out quite frequently is that their sound and style were much different in the Rod Stewart era than it was in the Steve Marriott era. Well, it’s easy to say that “Stay With Me” is much different than “Sha La La La Lee”, but it’d be sheer ignorance to say that the sound jumped from point A to point B without having ever evolved. The main piece of evidence I would like to submit at this point would be First Step, the first album released with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood as part of the band. If you listen critically, you’ll find that tracks like “Stone” and “Devotion” still emulate much of the same elements from the later songs of the Marriott days, like “Autumn Stone” and “Afterglow (Of Your Love).” Is it exactly like “Autumn Stone” or “Afterglow (Of Your Love)”? No, but then again, it wouldn’t be an evolution if it sounded exactly like those songs. Plus, it’d be unfair to expect Stewart to just impersonate Marriott without bringing anything new to the table himself, and Wood to be pretty much nothing at all in the band. Then there are songs like “Around The Plynth” and their cover of “Wicked Messenger” that point to the eventual direction of songs like “Ooh La La.” This album is a critical step in the evolution of the sound of the band.
Furthermore, it’s also worth noting that First Step is credited to “Small Faces”, not “Faces.” That means that Rod Stewart and Ron Wood were officially members of the Small Faces before the named got whittled down by a word. Steve Marriott was replaced, the group continued, and THEN the word “Small” was removed from the name. It would be technically correct to induct all six members under the moniker “Small Faces” and leave it at that, or “(Small) Faces” would work as well to better indicate the continuity of the history.
Which comes to the more minor argument some use to discredit that album by saying that they didn’t want to be called “Small Faces” or “Faces”, but the record company forced them to go with the familiar name. The proper response to this argument is “Boo-de-freakin’-hoo.” The Five Crowns were forced by the execs at Atlantic to adopt the name “the Drifters” to get their career going. Paul Revere And The Raiders wanted to keep the fact that one of the members was in fact named Paul Revere on the QT, but the record company insisted on capitalizing on it as much as possible, which even led to the Revolutionary War outfits. The corporate brass of White Whale Records forced the Turtles to spell their name correctly, rather than replacing the “u” with a “e,” “i,” or “y” like they had wanted. Let’s also keep in mind that many performers in music, movies, and television have to adopt stage names to make their act more memorable and more pronounceable. So yeah, the argument holds no water. Whatever the reason, whosever decision it was, the group was still known as the Small Faces at the time, and then later chose to call themselves the Faces.
In conclusion, the joint nomination of the Small Faces/Faces may be unpopular, but it is pretty defensible, and ultimately, imo, the right call to make. My main concern with it at this point is the potential for abuse this has down the line, which will be addressed in part two.