Whether you’re a veteran mod, a revivalist or somewhere in between, All or Nothing has something for everyone. Charting the rise and fall of the Small Faces, this is a mod musical with a bit of something about it; it’ll have you twitching in your seat and have you singing long after the curtain calls. We popped down to see what all the fuss was about and give you a heads up about what to expect from the first Mod musical following the career of the iconic band.
Words by Danielle Morgan
Beginning at the end, the show opens with Marriott slamming his guitar to pieces mid performance, effectively signalling the end of the band’s rocky career. We then roll back the years and are greeted with ‘old Steve’, who narrates the rest of the performance from beyond the grave.
Penned and produced by self confessed mod Carol Harrison, the show has clearly been a labour of love; thoroughly researched, it is a fitting tribute to the mod maestros. With backing from Mollie Marriott, Steve’s youngest daughter, and PP Arnold, who supplied backing vocals for some of the bands material, it looks as though this is one production with the seal of approval from all the right people.
Italian suits, fast scooters and decent R&B were the benchmarks of the Mod. By 1963, Carnaby Street and the Kings Road were the cultural hub for music and fashion in Britain, with boutiques and coffee shops providing down and out working class kids a place to go and look good. The Who’s manager Peter Meaden put the Mod way of life down to ‘clean living under hard circumstances’, and that’s exactly what it was. Eventually, it spread across the country with Northern Soul clubs and all-nighters opening up across the nation. Mod being a prominent but low lying British subculture, it experienced a resurgence in the late 1970s and early ’80s, and played a major role in influencing the ’90s Britpop scene. The very name of the band was born out of the Mod movement; small because they were all short, but Faces down to the Mod connotations of someone who looks the part and rides the smartest scooter.
Picked up by Decca Records when they were barely out of school, the boys were paid a meagre £20 a week as they rose to the top of the charts and toured up and down the country. The Al Capone of Pop was to thank for that, aka Don Arden, who managed the band throughout their early career and rinsed the band for all their commercial success. Notorious in the industry for his illegal and aggressive business tactics, he threw the band into the spotlight and pocketed thousands in ticket sales every night. Success didn’t come easy for the Small Faces, and in one working man’s club in Sheffield, they were forced off stage mid-performance and turfed back into the touring van. That’s where Arden came in; he made £20 a week and an unlimited clothing allowance on the King’s Road seem irresistible to Steve and the band. Little did they know, corruption and betrayal would marr their career.
The Small Faces were no strangers to progression; as the Mod movement of the early ’60s gave way to whimsical Hippie sensibilities, so did the band. Their sense of style, sartorially and musically speaking evolved considerably during the decade. With the release of their experimental concept album Ogdens’ Gone Nut Flake, the hair got longer, the trousers flared and not to mention a considerable amount of drug taking took hold. Eventually it was too many drugs and bad business that broke the band. What started out as four mates gigging in small pubs and dingy clubs in their teens soon turned into a relentless touring schedule and a crock pot of personality clashes and conflicting artistic input.
Kenney Jones, Ian McLagan, Ronnie Lane and Steve Marriott have been well cast, with comic cameo’s from Sonny and Cher and Tony Blackburn providing the gags. The soundtrack takes us through the Small Faces ‘greatest hits’ if you like, from their only UK number one ‘All or Nothing’, to Mod anthems ‘Whatcha Gonna Do About It’ and ‘You Better Beleive It’ through to their late and arguably most popular work on tracks such as ‘Itchycoo Park’ and ‘Lazy Sunday Afternoon’. Safe to say, if you’re a Small Faces fan, you’ll be itching in your seat to belt the lyrics out to some of your favourite tracks.
Impressively, the show charts all of this without getting too heavy. There’s up and downs and a few gags too.We’re giving All or Nothing a big thumbs up.
You can still catch All or Nothing in theatres across the UK. Buy tickets here.