Pat Blythe – The Stories Behind The Songs – Part Three
Some things just happen for a reason. A parking spot just as you need it. That cheque you’ve been waiting for arrives in the mail at precisely the right time. The job opportunity comes along right when you need it most. Somebody mails you a CD out of the blue while you’re considering what to write for the next column. Well….the latter just waltzed into my mailbox….it’s the most beautiful rendition of this classic I’ve ever heard. The vocalist was only twelve when it was recorded.
I’ve written many, many pieces about the wildly talented Sam Taylor and have mentioned him in numerous columns. I’ve lost track of how many photos I’ve taken of him (thousands), the number of “guitar faces” I’ve captured….and even the guitar itself. The musicians and singers he has shared the stage is wide-ranging and numerous….Bobby Curtola, Jerome Godboo, Toney Springer, Robbie Lane….and venues from Toronto to Nashville…..Toronto’s Hard Rock Cafe, Hugh’s Room, BB King’s Blues Club (after his performance he was asked to come back and open for King). At AHI’s personal request, Taylor has been performing with him in various venues around Southern Ontario, including AHI’s album launch We Made It Through The Wreckage.
L-R – Todd Pentney, Tim O’Reilly, Shawn Killaly, AHI, Sam Taylor perform at the album launch of We Made It Through The Wreckage at the Music Gallery in Toronto
I first met Taylor at Seven44 guesting with Robbie Lane and The Disciples. Taylor had caught the attention of Lane a few years ago and Lane has since become both a close friend and mentor. Taylor’s performance that night instantly resonated with me. A professional since the tender age of seven years, Taylor began crooning his heart out at a very early age. By nine, he was performing with London (Ontario) Orchestra. He recorded “Smile” at the age of twelve. He beat out Justin Bieber twice at London’s Western Fair talent contest, two years in a row. (Taylor came in first, The Beebs second) At thirteen, he found his first guitar under the Christmas tree, changing the course of his life.
L-R – Greg Godovitz, Jace Traz (in back on drums), Sam Taylor, NYE, 2017
A gifted musician, a brilliant songwriter, a wonderful singer and the best hair I’ve ever photographed…..all wrapped up in one individual. With a big heart, a big voice and the ability to make the strings on his guitars truly sing, the real beauty is, since he’s only 25, we are truly fortunate to have years of listening pleasure to look forward to.
The Sound – Sam Taylor
Song #1….and there is only one…..
This song is another one of my all time favs. Many thanks to travelling companion, maestro of musical knowledge and dear old (as in long time) friend Greg Simpson, he of the daily TAFT (Today’s Almost Forgotten Track) and Teniversary posts, posted a post on Steve Marriott which reminded me of one of my favourite songs. While investigating this particular ditty I discovered a number of interesting tidbits. Does Itchycoo Park really exist? What is an “itchy coo”, why was the song banned and who names a band Small Faces? I love this tune and still have the 45. (If I have to explain the latter you’re too young to be reading this column) PsychedeIia personified (at least in my mind). I’ve played this record so often I don’t think there are any grooves left. I now have it in regular rotation on my phone.
Itchycoo Park – Small Faces
All about cutting school and hanging out in the local park, the song was conceived by Small Faces bassist Ronnie Lane and co-written with singer/guitarist Steve Marriott. In an interview with Record Hunter Lane explains, “I lifted it from a hymn, ‘God Be In My Head,’ and I also got the theme to the words in a hotel in Bath or Bristol. There was a magazine in the room with a rambling account of some place in the country and it was about ‘dreaming spires’ and a ‘bridge of sighs’ ….I just thought they were nice lines.” Several years later Lane decided to “check out the words, and realised it was about education and privilege. The ‘bridge of sighs’ is the one in Cambridge. The ‘dreaming spires’ are a reference to Oxford. Then ‘to Itchycoo Park….. That’s where I’ve been,’….I didn’t need privilege or education. Found beauty in a nettle patch in the East End of London.”
Small Faces – L-R – Ronnie Lane, Steve Marriott, Jimmy Winston, Kenny Jones
Yes, Itchycoo Park does exist and is the nickname of Little Ilford Park in London. An ‘itchycoo’ is British slang for Stinging Nettles, a plant found in the park which burns the skin if touched or brushed against. “It’s a place we used to go to in Ilford years ago. Some bloke we know suggested it to us because it’s full of nettles and you keep scratching,” according to Lane. Another explanation, “The hairy seeds from rose hips were called “Itchy Coos” by English children in the 1950s. The term, with the same meaning, also appears in the Scots language from around the same period. The seeds could be broken out of the berry and dropped down someone’s collar between shirt and back to cause itching.” (Wikipedia) From Retro Dundee “Pluck an itchy coo bud, split in half, remove the seeds (which were covered in fine, fluffy fibres) and place down the back of your mates shirts. Watch them itch, scratch and squirm in class all day.” I found out from first-hand experience what running through (unsuspectingly) a field of stinging nettles can do to one’s bare legs. It was my first visit to England in 1970 and these plants abound in North Yorkshire. My cousin thought it was hilarious, I certainly didn’t. …..but yes, we’re still talking forty-odd years later.
Itchy Coos (Rose Hips)
Radio stations across the U.K. banned the song because of its ‘obvious’ reference to drugs. The two lines in the song:
“What will we do there?”
“We’ll get high”
Small Faces manager Tony Calder and Marriott came up with a plausible explanation. “…..we told BBC that “Itchycoo Park” was a piece of waste ground in the East End that the band had played on as kids — we put the story out at ten and by lunchtime we were told the ban was off.” According to Lane they were high on the freedom of skipping school, not on drugs. It was all conjecture.
Little Ilford (Itchycoo) Park
One of these days I’ll have to do some research on band names. Apparently a friend of Marriott’s came up with the name, referencing the diminutive stature of three of the band members and the fact that they all had “small faces”. Steve Marriott (guitar/lead vocals), Ronnie Lane (bass/vocals) and Kenny Jones (drums) were all around 5′ 6″ tall (or under) with Jimmy Winston (keyboards) being slightly taller. The term “face”, comes from English mod culture and was a name given to a respected “mod”. The fact the latter part of the name was kept when they joined up with Rod Stewart speaks volumes.
Another interesting note, the song was one of the first to use “phase shifting” or “flanging”. Thanks to Olympic Studio engineer George Chkiantz who came up with the effect and demonstrated it to the band, we hear the outcome in the bridge sections of the song. “Two synchronised tape copies of a finished recording were played simultaneously into a third master recorder, and by manually retarding the rotation of one of the two tape reels (flanges) using the fingers, a skilled engineer could subtly manipulate the phase difference between the two sources, creating the lush ‘swooshing’ phase effect that sweeps up and down the frequency range. Because the original single version was mixed and mastered in mono, the flanging effect in “Itchycoo Park” is more pronounced in its original mono mix, and is noticeably diluted in the subsequent stereo mix.”
Tin Soldier – Small Faces
Celebrating Robbie Burns with my family in London this past weekend was wonderful. With three new wee “bairns” added to the family — Cameron at 18 months, Jordan at seven months and tiny Murphy at seven weeks — and another one on the way, they all bring added joy to any family gathering. The next generation of Scots.
Joe Kelly of My Psycho Ex
Headed down to UG3 Live to see My Psycho Ex perform at a private birthday party last night. More on these guys next week as I’ve run out of time and need to get this filed.
YouTube, Wikipedia, Retro Dundee, Record Hunter
Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.
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“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence — 33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat also worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance!