To the outside world, I’m a woman of a certain age who recently stopped coloring her hair. Most people would probably assume that I enjoy pop or country music, and I do, but they’re not my faves by a long shot.
My preferred genre of music is rock. And I like my rock like I like my cheese: hard and well aged.
Many years ago a close friend got into my car and saw the Wilson Phillips cassette in my console among Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and The Allman Brothers. She was astonished and teased me about it for years. It was, admittedly, out of character but those harmonies were addictive!
Over the years, as my musical knowledge grew, my secret love of harder rock, especially recorded live, deepened.
Derek and I have put a couple of challenging puzzles together lately. During puzzle sessions we call out to our Amazon Echo for music. “Alexa – play 30 Days in the Hole by Humble Pie.” It’s raw and loud and sounds live off the floor. Lead singer Steve Marriott’s voice strains and soars. It gives me happy feet. It’s the same reason I prefer Bryan Adams’ You Want It, You Got It album, or Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, instead of those artists’ later efforts. They don’t have the sheen of success on them yet and they’re rough around the edges.
The more we talked about Humble Pie and lead singer Steve Marriott, his collaboration with Peter Frampton, his other band Small Faces, and the fact that he died at 44, the more curious I became. So I read the biography, All Too Beautiful. (Titled after a lyric in the song, Itchycoo Park) Marriott was a typically tortured, addicted artist, but he was also unlike anyone else I’ve read about. And I’ve read a lot of biographies and autobiographies.
A bit paranoid, the British star ran from success. Despite selling millions of records he was so broke he’d comb his posh neighborhood for recyclables so he could buy milk for his infant daughter. Much later, he attracted a multi-million dollar deal for a Humble Pie reunion – his fourth- and the prospect unsettled him so much that he abandoned Frampton partway through the recording sessions. He blew the deal for both of them.
During Live Aid, while his friends were performing for the world, Marriott had a solo gig at a 250-seat venue. He never got his due. He had fame but none of the other spoils enjoyed by other famous rock stars. His story weaves in and out of the history of The Who, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones. They were all pals. They met up often while on the road. Marriott auditioned to replace Mick Taylor in the Rolling Stones, and the story goes that Keith Richards wanted Marriott, but Mick Jagger said no, ostensibly because Steve was a much better singer.
He lives on via YouTube, in interviews and performances. Friends said he wrote his hit songs fast and shared writing credit with a bandmate even when he wrote them alone. He could also lose his temper and fire an old friend on a whim. Fascinating character. Immense talent. His own worst enemy.
After I finished the book, I visited YouTube for the songs mentioned in its pages. The Small Faces hit Tin Soldier was eerily familiar but I didn’t remember the original. (Not to be confused with One Tin Soldier)
Derek remembered – the Canadian band, Streetheart. We played it on the radio at various stations. It was a big hit in Canada. And like many of Marriott’s songs, it’s been covered dozens of times by various artists.
So, it all comes full circle. That’s my (not) guilty pleasure. What’s yours?