The Infinite Jukebox: The Small Faces’ ‘Lazy Sunday’


The Small Faces only had one no.1 single in their career, but if there was any justice to pop, they would have scored the top again two years later, in 1968, with ‘Lazy Sunday’. Instead, they had to settle for a no. 2, unable to force their way past Louis Armstrong. It’s not right – and I love ‘What a Wonderful World’.
It was two years on. The band were no longer the mod rockers of old, the little band with the astonishing power, the blues-edged group of tremendous energy. They’d left the manager who’d been ripping them off, they’d signed to Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate Records, they’d embraced psychedelia without abandoning their musical roots, and in ‘Lazy Sunday’ they were ready to produce a masterpiece. A casual, lazily-thrown-off song that chucked in a bunch of ingredients without seeming to care if they worked together or not, but a masterpiece because it all did. Multi-faceted, combining rock, and pop, and music hall, and psychedelia, Cockney urchin charm and the freedom that was breathed in with the air of 1968, in your face and heedless of your face. ‘Lazy Sunday’ was everything you wanted and didn’t expect, in just a few seconds over three minutes.
A progressive band would have needed at least three sides (with a Roger Dean gatefold cover) to do so much.
The big, bold sounds hits you in the face with a loud electric piano roll-up by Ian McLagen, topped by a tap on the kit from Kenny Jones and Steve Marriott, the chirpy cockney settling in to tell you what it’s all abart. But cockney kid though he may be, heart of London, this is 1968, no Pearly Kings and Queens, Marriott’s yet younger generation. Wouldn’t it be nice to get on with me neighbours? he complains, and the band agree with a brisk, brief, brash guitar-dominated thrash, but they make it very clear, they’ve got no room for ravers. (cue party noises, oy-oying, as if something’s leaked from a Tremeloes session). Oh yes, it’s a generation thing.
They stop me from grooving, they bang on me walls, they’re doing me crust in, it’s no good at all, oh… But Marriott and Plonk Lane can’t keep it in, and McLagen and Jones are there with their mates, and besides it’s a Lazy Sunday Afternoon and he’s got no mind to worry, close my eyes and drift away.
And Lazy Sunday afternoons aren’t meant for worries. Everybody troops down to a Rainbow Room, but there’s one of those neighbours, and Steve’s not for arguing on a Sunday, gor blimey Mrs Jones, ‘ow’s your Bert’s lumbago? but sweeping on even as she mumbles in the background ”ere, mustn’t grumble’ and Plonk’s mouthing ‘tiddly bass’ as Steve’s offering to sing a song with no words and no tune, to sing on your khazi as you suss out the moon, oh yeah.
And the chorus sings out with it’s buoyant urgency, and we feel that maybe in this London gallimaufrey someone’s been smoking something the Law would rather they didn’t, on a Lazy Sunday Afternoon, Aroo dee doo dee doo, aroo dee doo dee die day (roll of piano), Aroo dee doo dee doo, aroo dee doo dee doo dee, and the tone of the sing changes for a moment as Marriott turns to his white soul boy roar, singing with desperate urgency that there’s no-one to hear me, there’s nothing to say, and no-one can stop me from feeling this way, stripped down into his core, his generation’s time…
But that’s too much for a Lazy Sunday Afternoon in 1968, in the summer, in London, surrounded by strangers who you still know all too well, let things drift, let the music cool, close my eyes and drift away, close my mind and drift away, close my eyes and drift away, and so we do, leaving Steve and his mates to sleep it off in their peace and quiet.
It feels ramshackle but then it’s meant to do. It’s The Small Faces, chucking in stuff with abandon, playing up to their roots, mocking them and themselves but still relishing who and what they are, and how the world looks on a lazy Sunday afternoon when you’ve nothing to do and all the day to do it in. The Rascals found themselves groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon, full of yearning and aching, but The Small Faces could never be that laidback, even when they were laid back, and boy were we glad of it!
Aroo dee doo dee doo, aroo dee doo dee die day.

6 thoughts on “The Infinite Jukebox: The Small Faces’ ‘Lazy Sunday’

  1. Great piece, Martin. I love to Small Faces. One of those rare bands that just got it so right, and you nail exactly what is so good about Lazy Sunday…

    It’s absurd that they only had one Number One, when they produced such a body of perfect singles. Then nailed the experimental, psyche album with Ogden’s Nut-Gone Flake, right down to the round sleeve.

    In my opinion, their absolute masterpiece was Tin Soldier, but I reserve the right to revise that opinion regularly.

    1. Once, long ago, in a pre-Xmas pub, amongst people who I’d only previously known through the Guardian’s ‘What do you want to talk about?’ coment thread, we were talking music and I gave my opinion that there was one major Sixties band who, for all their success, were massively and undeservedly underrated. When I named them as the Small Faces, there was unanimous agreement, both as to their being overlooked, and their being superb.

      Since then, I’ve gone on to collect more or less their entire catalogue, mainly through the two boxsets, one each for the Decca and the Immediate years, plus a healthy number of mostly instrumental tracks you can find on YouTube. Their energy, their directness, the sheer enthusiasm in everything they did, and of course Steve Marriott’s voice.

      I’m not as enamoured of ‘Tin Soldier’ as you are, George: for me, I love ‘Lazy Sunday’ and ‘Afterglow (of your love)’ tremendously, but there’s only one unchallenged favourite of all, and that’s ‘All or Nothing’.

      1. Spot on, Martin. As for Lazy Sunday, Afterglow and the absolute rough diamond that is All or Nothing… I did say I reserve the right to revise that opinion regularly, and I regularly do, almost always when I hear any one of those three. Do love the soulfulness of Tin Soldier, though.

  2. Nobody is ever right or wrong in their choice of favourite songs, only for themselves. I’m sure that in the nearly 200 songs I’ve included already in this series, there are several you might think are absolute crap – I mean, I like and defend ‘Sugar Sugar’ – but these are the songs that inspire me. If you were to produce a similar list, it would include stuff I didn’t like, but what you love most in music is what you love, and no-one can tell you you’re wrong.

    I assume you’re aware of the YouTube video of the Small Faces doing ‘Tin Soldier’, with P.P. Arrnold singing with them?

  3. I may have mentioned that I missed the British Invasion because I spent the 1960s being a jazz snob. What finally perked my interest was psychedelic music, from both California and the UK. So, where others revere The Beatles and the Stones, I revere The Small Faces & The Move. This is a fabulous song.

    1. Apparently, the group recorded it for a joke and it was released without their approval. Sometimes, bands are the worst judges of their own music!

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