Jan 06

THE SMALL FACES – “All Or Nothing”

Popular110 comments • 4,398 views

#223, 17th September 1966

You can still hear records that sound like this in the charts occasionally, because the big late-90s Britrock boom was built on this template and some of that generation of bands have lingered. It seems to be a model that guys like Richard Ashcroft, who take themselves and their music pretty seriously, reach for, and I can understand why.

The Small Faces have picked up an expressive vocabulary from soul, with lots of stock interjections and hints of call-and-response, even if there’s no actual response. It’s a music that values noise and technique (though not yet to the point where they become a priority) and I don’t know where that came from, maybe just from in-circuit cockfighting among the newer groups. And then you’ve got some vestiges of pop songwriting or reflex: those “ba-ba-ba-das”, for instance, and the dynamics – tantrum swings of aggression and volume – might be half-borrowings from the foghorn pop of Cilla, too. But it’s not as disciplined as pop has been – even if it’s only three minutes long it feels longer, feels like the band are giving themselves space and time to preen a bit.

This all combines into a sound I recognise as “rock” – whether it rocks or not – and react against, even though it’s interesting seeing it develop here. It’s deeply unfair to blame the Small Faces for the iniquities of their descendents, but I find “All Or Nothing” charmless anyway. I think the bullish interruptions – “Come on children!” “Mmm yeah” “You know what I mean!” and the familiar rest – strip out the vulnerability the song needs to be sympathetic, and leaves it red-faced, self-satisfied, even bullying.



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  1. 101
    Rory on 13 Aug 2012 #

    I’m with Rosie. It all felt anticlimactic after the games themselves and that fantastic opening ceremony, whose soundtrack has barely left the Now Playing slot on my iPod. When I heard David Arnold was the musical director I was quite hopeful, but it felt far less musically coherent and engaging than Rick Smith’s magnificent effort. Maybe some of that was down to the mixing we heard on TV, which played up some of the ropey aging vocals of certain performers in a way that might not have been as noticeable in the stadium – as with Macca in the opening.

    It picked up towards the end. Muse were great (although I rate the studio version of “Survival” much more highly than swanstep, it seems), Brian May was having a blast, and Roger Daltrey was definitely the exception among the aging rockers, sounding fantastic. But the Spice Girls reunion just made me think how much better the Sugababes and Girls Aloud have done it since their heyday, and some of the other acts seemed second-string.

    As for the visuals, many segments felt like a poor imitation of Boyle’s achievement, without any of his sense of narrative. I liked the octopus, but have no idea what relationship it bore to anything else going on. The pixelated lights in the crowds were impressive, in a “look, we’re a giant disco ball” way. Apart from that, they just seemed to want us to stare at the union jack for three hours. All hail the hypnoflag.

    Those giant shots of supine models on the sides of trucks were a major misstep, too. There you go, women of the world, why tire yourself out with sport when you can put on a frock and strut your stuff?

  2. 102
    weej on 13 Aug 2012 #

    Chris TT didn’t like it.

  3. 103
    swanstep on 13 Aug 2012 #

    All hail the hypnoflag.
    Ha! I love that. It’s funny, I remember the Sydney Olympics as being very covered in Aussie flags but looking at Kylie and Vanessa Amorosi clips from the 2000 closing ceremony just now, very few flags are in evidence. Indeed, everything looks very relaxed and uncrowded (on every level) compared to the London scenes today.

  4. 104
    swanstep on 16 Aug 2012 #

    Apparently the US broadcast of the Closing Ceremony on NBC edited out (among other things including Muse) Ray Davies’s Waterloo Sunset and the Kate Bush-themed segment. Americans, however, got all of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. Staggering.

  5. 105
    Mutley on 16 Aug 2012 #

    Ray Davies on the One Show last night still going on about his brother – he should have performed with Beady Eye at the Closing Ceremony. The One Show – it gets “legends” as guests – e.g. Ray Davies, and the preceding night two Olympic gold medal winners, and then largely ignores them in favour of items about toad motorway crossings and the like. Pure 1950s TV with added technology.

  6. 106
    anto on 16 Aug 2012 #

    re 105 : Ray Davies ” When I’m writing a song I visualise it first.”

    Matt Baker ” How, exactly? ”

    Ray Davies ” Well with Waterloo Sunset for instance that
    started with an image. ”

    Matt Baker ” And what was it exactly? ”

    Educated guess Matt. A sunset over Waterloo Bridge?????
    God give us strength.

  7. 107
    hectorthebat on 30 Apr 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (1976) 91
    Q (UK) – 50 Greatest British Tracks (2005) 21
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)

  8. 108
    Erithian on 3 Dec 2014 #

    Sad news tonight – Ian McLagan RIP.

  9. 109
    enitharmon on 4 Dec 2014 #

    Sad news indeed. Rest in peace Ian and thank you for the music. You were the least flamboyant of the four but you held it all together so well.

  10. 110
    lonepilgrim on 6 Sep 2015 #

    ‘All or nothing’ seems to set or fit the template for ‘rock’ (as it developed from the 60s and 70s) of taking a basic tune and then extemporising around it vocally and or instrumentally. You can hear it in Joe Cocker’s version of ‘A little help from my friends’ amongst others. At the risk of falling into sexist cliche its mostly boy friendly as it places virtuosity and complexity over emotional truth or subtlety. This single has the virtue of being relatively concise but it hints at worse things to come.

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