CR AWARDS: “Bowie And Rod Owe A Lot To Marriott”
Humble Pie bandmate Jerry Shirley pays tribute to Classic Rock Inspiration Award Winner Steve Marriott.
The late, great Steve Marriott was crowned a Classic Rock Inspiration last night at the Classic Rock Awards. We spoke to his former bandmate Jerry Shirley about what made the Small Faces/Humble Pie man such an inspiration to rockers as varied as Gene Simmons, Lemmy and Paul Weller…
Jerry Shirley: “In the 60s it was part of the job – to be in show business you had to look good. That’s all there was, apart from dancing girls – there were no inflatable pigs or fireballs and explosions. It was just you, your instrument and your stage presence. He gave pop a lot of image – all the Small Faces did. They looked great. It was freaky to be around them because they were cut from the same bit of cloth. I was 14 when I met them and they were so tiny but they were also giants at what they did.
“When I started to work with him it was like a big brother, little brother thing. He was big on ‘Listen to this’ – a fireball of natural energy. He was constantly playing a stream of brilliant music on his Dansette in his flat in Knightsbridge. He had a way of homing in on good music. Everything from Ray Charles to Charlie Mingus to Lenny Bruce. He was a fantastic educator.
“He was also very well read and smart. You can’t have the theatrical upbringing without being clever. The Italia Conte life he’d lead gave him work in Oliver and bit parts on TV and in movies. He had a show biz education in drama school. He was a sharp little cookie. He wasn’t that ‘Orlright mate?’, Jack-the-Lad character people expected. He was actually well-spoken. He took elocution lessons.
“He had so much tremendous success early on; he couldn’t put a foot wrong. When it got wobbly he wasn’t so equipped. He didn’t deal with the shit.
“We didn’t see it but when things did go wrong later on in Humble Pie he developed this idea that ‘I might as well screw up before it screws me up’. He hit the self-destruction button. That was a heartbreak seeing a friend and hero get like that. But there is far more to celebrate.
“I wish he’d handled it better after 1974. Humble Pie got success and we were all determined to crack America because we could and because we’d been written off in England. When he had the bit between his teeth he was fantastic but when success arrived and the major league of comestibles entered the scene he was too sensitive to handle it. He had the metabolism in that he could abuse himself for days and still perform and play and sound great where others would have long since collapsed. The bits in between, life, not so good.
“Friendship and relationships were fine when life was good, when things got rocky he wasn’t. That was sad.
“When people like David Bowie and Rod Stewart became bigger than him it was a shame but he was outwardly gracious. He never said, ‘Oh without me you’d be nowhere’. Before they overtook him it was like a compliment. First time he heard Whole Lotta Love he smiled even though they’d taken it from the Small Faces version of You Need Loving. After a while it must have gnawed at him. But he should be with us today.”
(Interview: Max Bell)
The awards issue of Classic Rock is on sale now.
Buy the digital edition here http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/id451398560?mt=8&affId=1621074&ign-mpt=uo%3D6 or here http://bit.ly/sQiaRB
Zinio editions are available here http://bit.ly/ukyn52 or here http://bit.ly/rAwV8P
Tags: Steve Marriott