Author: Simon Spence
A fascinating book about a fascinating man. A man of talent but, you know what? He was complex. I still admire his talent but, given the choice, if I was there, back then, when Marriott was alive? I’d only do that from afar. I’m not too sure I’d like to hang around the guy. Not after reading this account, at any rate.
What’s more, this is a book in which Spence has taken information from 125 interviews – many of which are seen for the first time – to fill this book including accounts from David Bowie, composer Lionel Bart, Marianne Faithful, Peter Frampton, Zoot Money, Ian McLagan, Ronnie Lane, singer Kenny Lynch, Kenney Jones, Elkie Brooks, Gered Mankowitz, Andrew Loog Oldham, Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend plus even more important voices from: wives, children, lovers, family, friends, producers, managers, journalists and many more, including Marriott himself. It’s packed with information across 462 pages.
Despite the open and frank nature of the tone of the book, it has been given a blessing by the Marriott family. They deserve much praise for allowing such honesty to be printed in the page.
Right from the off, we learn that Marriott was, “…a show off, a loudmouth, a child star, a pop star and a rock star, a drunk and a drug addict. He was loveable, kind, funny and charismatic but could also be vicious, belligerent, reckless, violent, sadistic, quite evil (especially when alcohol was involved). Above all he was a performer.”
This book follows Marriott through his childhood, the early days as a child actor, his time with The Small Faces, Humble Pie and his later musical career ending, as many will already be aware, with his tragic death. There have been many rumours and unanswered questions relating to Marriott’s passing and Spence does his best to address those. But there’s also the aftermath to examine and the resentments that have flowered, for want of a better word, after Marriott passed away.
The result is a completely and wholly fascinating story. And I love the layout of this book. The basis of the layout is not new or innovative but Spence has tweaked it to add spice and insight. That part is rare. In fact, I haven’t seen it before. If I have, it was a while back. What am I babbling on about? Well, there’s no long-form narrative here. The entire book is packed by quotes and only quotes. Each headed, in bold, by the name of the speaker.
So, for example, we get to the mid-60s and a chapter entitled Itchycoo Park which begins with a long quote from then future manager, Don Arden about The Small Faces looking for a new manager. Then Marriott follows with his own quote on the same subject. The two continue playing quote tennis for a bit, padding out the scene and the subject until Victor Gersten, the band’s solicitor, enters the story. Gersten then talks about his role in the matter, Arden’s son David then talks in a separate quote and then we’re back to Don again. It’s like having these people in the same room…or maybe on the stand in a court room.
Which is great but the genius is that Spence is not afraid to pitch in if an error is noticed or if the author feels the need to flesh out the quote as background context.
Take, fellow musician, Tim Hinkley’s tale of Marriott being locked in the coal cellar by his parents if he was naughty and the horrible conditions in said cellar. Well, Hinkley got this from Marriott and the tale (a piece of “truth bending” from Marriott) has been found to be an exaggeration so Spence pitches in to tell you all about it under the Hinckley quote.
It’s that element of the book that elevates the story to new heights.
Oh and a nugget to finish with? Steve Marriott was turned onto the blues by…his granny. True story.
A superb book, featuring excellent glossy page photographs, this is a must buy.
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