PRESS

“West & Marriott: The Queens-Cockney Connection”

International Musician and Recording World September, 1979

by Bill Stephen and David Lawrenson

In the scheme of things Steve Marriott and Leslie West have long been relegated to the rock n roll boneyard; probably unfairly as it only takes a slight change of fashion to dictate the tastes of the day.  Neither of them could be faulted for their musicianship and individuality of  style.

Marriott is still an exciting singer and frontman with a stage presence that
varies from the humourous to the intense, and West can still interject that
screaming guitar sound that formulated his style and reputation. And it can
easily be said that each of them was a force in the  quintessential rock bands
they helped form.

Initially their merger,  and formation of a band called The Firm seems unlikely
- in physical  appearance they look like Laurel and Hardy, and one can only
assume the scenario to result in a comedy of errors. But to watch them on stage - the  obviousness fades away and the focus sharpens, revealing two  excellent musicians who play healthy and powerful rock and roll that displays  a unique awareness of each others strengths and weaknesses.

As West  explains it " We know what each of us does best, and the idea is to let
that person take it. For me, it's great - I've never played just plain lead
guitar before. That way I can wait for the right moment, pick my shot, and
just lay it right in there" The result of picking the shot is usually a
screaming  guitar riff that cuts through the most jaded of audiences, or an
interchange  of licks with Marriott.

Steve Marriott hasn't had the hiatus that Leslie West has had. Until January of
this year he was leading the reformed Small  Faces, and since his beginnings in
rock, with that band, he's continued to  mature and contribute ot the impostance of bands like Humble Pie. But, as he says about the Small Faces...."it was a great band in the studio, but we couldn't seem to pull it off on stage". For Marriott, whose stage act semms as important to him as his writing, the lack of a "live band" - that resultant energy and inspiration seems to have been sadly missed.

Since his early days with the Small Faces, who were to London's East End what
the Who were to the West, Marriott has always been the centre of attraction of any stage he has strutted. In fact his introduction to showbusiness came as a child actor, before he realised that rock &  roll had more to offer.

Marriott himself admits that in those early days he couldn't play his guitar
very well, but he had a style and a confindence  which wouldn't be ignored.
What's more, the guy could sing. He was no great stylist, but he had an obvious affinityfor RnB and soul, and could belt out the blues as good as anyone.

After a string of UK hits Marriott decided to leave the Small Faces and formed
one of the early British "supergroups" Humble Pie. Wih Peter Frampton he found the perfect foil for his own raucous onstage style, for Frampton was a serious performer who was trying to live down his pin-up popstar image.

The Humble Pie line-up was completed by  Jerry Shirley and Greg Ridley, and
years of hard work by the band on both sides of the Atlantic resulted in them
becoming one of the most popular outfits of the early seventies. It was largely
Marriott's energy and dynamic  personality which kept the band going,
particularly after Frampton left and was replaced by Dave Clempson. Inevitably, though the inspiration of playing  with guitarists of the calibre of Frampton and Clempson, and his own efforts, his guitar playing improved, and he became an avid collector of instruments.

Marriott's guitar style largely reflects his vocal technique - loud and  beefy -
but he keeps it simple but effective rhythm playing. He plays and  sings as if
his life depends on it, which his early days in East London  probably did. To
many ears it may seem crude, but it's the essence of rock  & roll.

Akthough physically Marriott and West are about as opposite  ends of the
spectrum as you can get, there are many similiarities between the  two. Queens is the New York equivalent of the East End of London and that is  where Leslie West hails from. The "fat" kid from Queens was discovered in a  local band called The Vagrants by Cream producer Felix Pappalardi - the band didn;t break big, but Felix reckoned the guitarist had potential and formed Mountain around him.

Whatever else, you just couldn't ignore the man's  physical presence, and with
Pappalardi's pumping bass-line West's guitar really began to take off. There is
no doubt Mountain went a long way way  toward filling the large gap left by the
legendary Cream, but they had a  distinctive sound of their own.

Probably the biggest surprise of Mountain  on stage was seeing Leslie West with a Les Paul Junior at a time when nobody conisdered playing heavy rock without either a standard Les Paul or a Strat. He also managed to extract a definite Leslie West sound which seemed a  combination of pushing the strings up and across the fret board and finger  vibrato. Mountain's early work also included some healthy slide playing from West.

Although the big man became noted for his loud and heavy work, tracks such as Nantucket Sleighride, from the album of the same name, showed a more subtle and restrained approach. Unfortunately, the demise of Mountain was followed by work which, while pleasing a lot of fans, probasbly didn;t endear West to the great guitar stylists. Still, the gap between fans and the purists has always been a wide one, and as long as there is a stage to play on it's an even bet that West will get up there and just play rock & roll as only he knows how.

Despite his own talents, it seems that West needs  some catalyst to bring out
the best in him. Felix Pappalardi and Jack Bruce readily spring to mind, and
therefore his teaming up with marriott seems a logical step and one that could
put him back in the limelight  again.

West and Marriott concur that their development of a band grew out of a liking
for each others styles, and when they played together they found a unique
compatibility in ters of musical tastes and musicianship. The Firm,  used in the
English sense, meaning a gang as opposed to a Company, is made up  of West,
Marriott, Ian Wallace (ex King Crimson and currently on the recent Dylan album) on drums and James Leverton (formerly with Savoy Brown and Hemlock) on Bass.  Marriott fills in on various keyboards when need be. The band's musical philosophy, presumtuous but effevtive, is to play straight ahead rock & roll in a tradition that Marriott explains as "more like the Stones than, say, Boston"

Emphatically, West maintains that they're not  making a comeback - "We're
playing basically what we used to play. Only we  can play it better now. It's a
more mature sound. We've really waited for the right moment. I mean all of our friends have put out albums over the past few  years and never mind coming back from a 'has been', they 'never was'.

"I know" explained West "that I've started this group with Steven, and no
matter what happens I can hold my head high with respect for what  we've done together".

Expostulating on travelling the 'comeback' road  of rock & roll Marriott
interjects with "it depends what kind of respect you want to come out of the
situation with. If peopl are willing to give you an ear out of respect for you,
then that's ok. After all, we're doing what we did in the past, but now it has
a little more class and it sounds a little better.

I suppose we've got older, not so much hair and our bellies are  bigger, we've
developed a more mature attitude. I don't think really that  it's any different
from what we played in the sixties, quite honestly. The  difference is that now
I know how to play it."

Marriott does most of  the writing for the band. As he explains "I'm carrying
that weight right now. But I think that's only because it was my role in the
other two  bands".

"Steve does come up with most of the ideas" West explains "but then I come up with things after the fact - other ideas"

Marriott agrees, explaining that "half the part of writing good songs is the
arranging. If you've got thinking people in the band then they contribute  to
the arrangements and suggest various ideas. In that respect, everybody writes".

One of the reasons that Marriott gave for the maturing of their  music and their
development of style was the vast improvement of equipment over the last few years. Always a guitar collector, with some of the best in Les Paul, Gretsch
and Fender - he was recently turned on to another  instrument, the MPC guitar.

"I'm not a very good guitar player" contends Marriott "but I like to think that
I'm an effective player. I've never really liked effects. The pedals get int eh
way, and they're awkward. But with these new guitars, besides being well made, it gives me a chance to experiment without having to deal with the pedals".

Marriott is making reference to  the modular design of the MPC guitar, which has different effects available  to plug in in modular form inside the guitar. West, who at one stage was never without his Les Paul Juniors, has also turned to an MPC guitar for similar reasons.

"I found I was getting bored, I was limited in what I  could do with the guitar.
The MPC's really turned me on because I only have  two knobs to deal with, but I can have 12 extra effects I can use because of the modular design. They give me that little extra kick that I  need".

Out in Modeto, California, The Firm is putting down tracks or an album which is
nearly half done. Marriott has deserted the English lifestyle  of London Town
for the wooded quiet of Boulder Creek, just outside of San Francisco, and West, whose New York style and demeanour should seemingly  disallow him from living anywhere else, has taken to the beach town of Santa  Cruz, also in California.

The quiet, wooded setting hardly seems to fit  with the intenseness of their
earlier career accomplishments, yet you can be sure that when the time comes for them to get out and rock on stage the lazy atmosphere of Santa Cruz will soon disappear.

It will be interesting to see how this Queens-Cockney connection works. They
say rock & roll is a universal language, so it is up to the West Marriott
combination to prove it. Whatever happens, you can be sure that the music will be raw and rocking, just like the places they both spring from.
 

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Rave Magazine

Steve Marriott Interview

Rave Magazine  May, 1969

by Keith Altham

CAN YOU TELL US EXACTLY WHY YOU DECIDED TO LEAVE THE SMALL FACES?
    
"When you start with a group like the Small Faces you are playing for 
yourselves. Everyone is very together. Then someone decides you are the
spokesman for the group. Suddenly you are pulled out in front as      
someone special - you are, 'The ten by eight glossy teen scream of the year'. 
Every time you go on stage you play a selection of past hits - most of
which you would like to forget. I got tired of being an ego-freak, or 
whatever people thought I was. We weren't playing for ourselves any   
more. It was just time for a change. "I'm not a super-musician or anything
like that, but I know i can do some better things with our new group. I
do a little bit of everything- singing, composing, entertaining and
playing. That enables me to get together a final produce sometime, which
with the help of better musicians I can improve upon."
                                      
                                                                        
YOU MUST HAVE AT LEAST TWENTY CATS IN THIS HOUSE AND HALF A DOZEN DOGS-NOT TO MENTION THE GEESE AND THE DUCKS OUTSIDE. HOW DID YOU EVER GET SO FOND OF ANIMALS?
                                                      
"I don't know man. Even as a kid I used to dig Ducks. I had a chicken 
called 'Hamilton' that used to sit on my shoulder. There are no 'agros'
with animals. You give them love and affection and they give it back  
without any ulterior motives.
                                          
It all began as a bit of an accident. I got lumbered with a cat that  
belonged to an ex-girlfriend. That was 'Smelly Arfur'. Then I went down
to the Shepherd's Bush market one morning and bought my dog, Shamus.  
Then I met Jenny who had a dog called Love, and Shamus and Love got on
well together. Then there was this skinny Alsatian, that looked all ill
and poorly, that I couldn't resist.  "Animals are creatures - I don't
treat them as human beings. I mean what animal in it's right mind wants
to be wrapped up in a pink jacket when it has a perfectly good coat of
it's own? Freedom is the only thing I try to give them and food. Zoos
just sicken me. There's nothing more sad than to see a huge great
hairy gorilla rolling around in two yards of space.
Vivisection is another thing I feel very strongly about. I know there 
are probably arguments about having to experiment on animals, but I   
just can't stand the idea. It's horrible. I'd probably cudgel a             
vivsectionist if i met one. 
                                                        
                                                                          
HAVING BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL OVER THE YEARS, WHY AREN'T YOU RICH?
        
"Cos we spent it all. No - we spent a lot. Never really knew the value
of money - never really cared. We probably never saw a lot of the money
we should have. There were some very bad scenes but it's a groove being
poor anyway.                                                          
                                                                        
NOW THAT YOU ARE MORE DOMESTICATED AND SPENDING MORE TIME AT HOME - HOW MUCH BRAIN DAMAGE DO YOU GET FROM THINGS LIKE THE TV? 
                
"Quite a bit from things like the Ken Dodd show and those Palladium   
type shows. They are all so 'Workers Playtime' mentality, I don't believe   
it.  The only shows I really dig are 'The Untouchables' and those science   
fiction plays, 'Out Of The Unknown', Oh, and the 'Survival' series. I'm
not very sport conscious.                                             
                                  
                                    
DO YOU THINK MANAGERS ARE BECOMING OBSOLETE IN POP? 
                  
What you have to get is someone who will look after you before he will
look after himself, and that's very difficult. In my opinion in their 
job, the artist must come before their personal interest.
            
                                                                        
HOW MUCH RESPECT DO YOU HAVE FOR FANS?
                                
I've been a fan - I was a Buddy Holly fan. Used to save all his pictures                  
and get the album covers. 'Fan' is such a silly word. I want people to
respect me for something more than my face. If they like what i do or 
enjoy my songs I would prefer it to stop there. I don't really want a 
'fan' club in the accepted sense. If you've been a teen scream, you   
know what it is to have 'fans'. I suppose there has to be a compromise.     
Give, but not too much take.                                                
                                  
                                      
NUF NIS AND REEB (SPEL IT BACKWARDS FOR THE MESSAGE) WAS ALWAYS THE WAR CRY FOR THE SMALL FACES - IS IT STILL YOUR ATTITUDE?
                  
It never really was. It was in defiance of what you really believe.   
Just something to shout. A joke to keep you going. More a war cry for
abroad than anywhere else.                                                    
                            
                                            
WHY DO YOU THINK SO MANY MARRIAGES SEEM TO GO WRONG IN POP? 
          
Possibly because it is so difficult for the wife to accept that music 
to a musician is a way of life. It has to come first so often that your   
wife must occasionally feel neglected. It hurts a woman's pride. It's 
just something you have to learn to live with - you can't fight it. 
 
                                                                        
THIS HAS ALL GOT RATHER SERIOUS - WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH ABOUT LIFE?
    
Frankie Howard, Tommy Cooper, Marty Feldman, Peter Sellers and Keith  
Moon. Moon is the World's greatest practical joker - he's evil. Stink 
bombs in the crack of your door, hotel hose pipe under your door and  
books above it. You're guaranteed to end up in trouble if you're a    
friend of Keith's.  
                                                
                                                                          
WHAT MAKES YOU AFRAID?
                                                
When I was a kid, it used to be a Policeman. Adults used to frighten  
you by threatening you with fetching one. Now I feel kind of sorry for    
them.  Some of them i have met are a gas - I mean they really don't
like what they do but they don't know how to do anything else. Our
Police are a great deal better than other places in the world, but
giving a Policeman a gun is rather like giving a 'nutter' an axe!
Planes are about the only thing that really scare me today. It's no
use people saying that it's no more dangerous than a car or taxi. If
you are driving one of those you have a chance - and "you're" driving.
I've had bad experiences in planes flying over the North Pole in storms
and engines catching fire. It just gives me the horrors. After a flight
on a plane I'm shattered. Everywhere by boat for me.
                      
                                                                          
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT CHILDREN  
                                      
I don't know if I would make a good father yet. I don't know that i   
would be able to bring up a child able to adjust in our present       
Society. I would want my child to grow up free. Free from all the bias
and conditioning that most of us go through. Not force feed it with my
ideas and my prejudices and opinions. I couldn't cope yet.
                  
                                                                          
COLOUR PREJUDICE - DOES IT MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU?
                      
It's so stupid, what can you say? It's almost as thick from one end or
the other. That is - the Black Power Movement are just as stupid in   
thinking all white men are devils as the reverse. It makes no difference
to me whether a man is purple, puce, red, green or beige. Man is a man-                   
except some of them have got more rhythm! 
                            
                                                                        
AS A YOUNGSTER YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER IN FILMS - HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF RETURNING TO AN ACTING CAREER? 
                                    
No, because I was never very good at it. Most pop stars in films are  
jokes and considered so by serious actors - quite rightly so in my    
opinion. I wanted to be a singer - I always wanted that. In all my    
early films I just played myself. It's all right for someone like Mick      
Jagger. I mean go on Mick - go on, my son. I'm sure he'll be a gas.
Not me.   
                                                                          
AND NOW A WILFRED PICKLES QUESTION. IF YOU WERE NOT YOU - WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE?
                                                          
Ray Charles - which is a Wilfred Pickles answer!
                      
                                                                          
DO YOU THINK THERE IS ANY DANGER IN POP MUSIC OUT-GROWING ITSELF. CAN 
IT BECOME TOO CLEVER?
                                                    
Of course it can. Feel is the most important thing in any group. When 
people get really freaked out on technique and electronics they should
go and listen to an early Muddy Waters album. That man plays the World's                   most useless guitar but with such feeling that it doesn't matter. Feel
is what it is all about.                                              

 

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