Small Faces keyboard player Jimmy Winston tells of how the band evolved
some forty years ago. This is the first interview that Jimmy has given
since his departure from the band in late 1965, after just two singles.
Starting right at the beginning, what did you do prior to forming the
JW Prior to joining the Small Faces I really
wanted to be an actor. At about 17 or 18 I had started to appear in a
few films as an extra and through doing that I really developed a taste
for acting. As an extra you only get the odd line here and there and you
end up doing loads and loads of nothing really. When I was 20 I ended up
going to a theatre workshop drama school, got a grant and done a proper
course. It was the very week that I left drama school that I first met
Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane. I was doing a spot of compeering in my
dad’s pub, the Ruskin Arms, and they came in.
did the formation of the Small Faces come about?
JW As I said I’d done my training at the
theatre workshop and was preparing to get an agent and do the things you
do after drama school. Then one night I was in my dad’s pub and in came
Steve and Ronnie. They were having a few beers and Steve wanted to get
on stage with the resident group and play a bit of harmonica. He got up,
played and was good. We then got chatting over a few beers and it was
that night really that the Small Faces were launched. I hadn’t met
Kenney yet, but the three of us got fairly plastered on ideas and all
the possibilities. Strange really because up until that meeting I had
been geared up for an acting career but after just the one meet with
them I was prepared to throw it all up in favour of joining a new group.
At that time I had a small house in Stratford and we went back there
afterwards and carried on into the night. At that early point there was
only enthusiasm and goodwill.
the early days you played a Rickenbacker guitar, was there any reason
for that? That was before Pete Townshend played one wasn’t it?
JW No, Pete already had one. Back then it
was quite an unknown guitar. It had a very interesting sound especially
the 12 string electric version which was very nice. I don’t think
anybody tries anything that they haven’t seen somebody else using. We
all used to go to music shops around the East End and just dribble
basically. We were using hire-purchase cheapo’s and there right in front
of us would be all these Rickenbackers and Gibsons. You could use a
dozen different electric guitars and they’d all sound pretty much the
same but the Rickenbacker had it’s own distinctive sound, as did a
the move to keyboards?
JW Well to be honest I was an out and out
guitarist but Steve had already geared himself up to be the lead
guitarist. At that stage Ronnie was also playing guitar (Steve had just
sold him his first bass while working at the J60 music shop). We had
three guitarists and a drummer. After much discussion (and beer) I
decided to change to keyboards and Ronnie started to learn the bass. I’d
never played keyboards so when people want to unjustly say, “he wasn’t a
very good keyboard player” I can nearly agree. It was just a case of
finding what you needed for those initial songs. A lot of what we were
playing at that time was pretty simple really. On some of the tracks I’d
play guitar anyway, especially the ones I sang lead on.
much rehearsal time was allocated before the band played live?
JW About 24 hours (laugh). I mean it wasn’t
a lot of time. Within a couple of days from that first meet we’d set up
a rehearsal. The great thing about that moment was that we merged
instantly. There was no conflict at all at that early stage. What I
really liked about that time was that we would get together and just sit
around playing acoustically; we didn’t have to set up with 2,000 watts
of power. Within just a couple of weeks we were doing a raw set.
you remember the very first gig?
JW The very first paid gig was our local
youth centre up the road in East Ham. It was called the Kensington youth
centre (the band had done a few unpaid “warm up” gigs at the Ruskin
Arms). They didn’t know what to expect, we kind of bluffed our way
through the set. We only knew five songs but with different variations
we got away with it. We went down really well. The raw sound of the very
early days was very good. I’ve recently been listening to some of these
new Small Faces compilations and I think those early things are the
theme for everything else they ever done. “E To D” was the first number
we ever played, started life as a raunchy instrumental, and I can hear
that embedded in nearly all the songs.
numbers were in the set at that time?
JW Apart from “E To D” there was “You Need
Lovin’”, “Baby Don’t Do It” and “Jump Back”. Can’t remember any others
but they all had a certain kind of feel about them and all developed
into lengthy jam sessions. Never played any of them the same twice over.
soon after the first gigs did the band start attracting the press?
JW Well it did happen very quickly. After
the youth club gigs it was only a very short period of time before we
started the Cavern Club residency in Leicester Square, every Saturday
for about six weeks. After a couple of weeks we had built up quite a
following, quite good really as there was no real advertising, just a
couple of posters on a board outside.
did you come to meet Don Arden?
JW During our Cavern Club residency Pat
Meehan, Don’s assistant, came down and had a nose at us. He didn’t say a
lot but was obviously interested. We were invited to meet Don Arden at
his office in Carnaby Street, which we did and we were all very, very
impressed by what we saw and what we were told. Don Arden was Mr. Big in
the business and signing with him could only be a good thing, or so we
thought at the time.
the first hit record the Small Faces became tagged with the teeny bop
image. What did you make of that considering you started out as a
raucous R&B band?
JW It certainly didn’t bother me. The early
teen thing was quite nice as the fans were always younger than us and
the kids would go wild. Older, more intellectual, fans are more sober
about how they respond to you, so they don’t come around so quickly. As
the band got bigger they’d then say “Yeah, I dig them too” but they
don’t make the fuss that the kids do. Much later I read Steve’s comments
about kids being mistreated at gigs. Apparently they were pushed around
and physically hurt by bouncers. That’s terribly sad and nobody wants to
are your feelings now about Don Arden? And did he bring any positive
things to the group?
JW Well it’s probably all been said and
nothings been said! He was a friendly sort of rogue in his own way. We
were very young and very gullible and at the time we thought he was what
we were looking for. Back then if you met somebody who was normal and
nice and having a cup of tea you wouldn’t have any faith in them. We
were in his office sitting by his big desk. He was in a three-piece suit
with a cigar in his mouth and certainly had the look of success about
him. He had a great ability to be able to market a product but his
problem was that he wasn’t sensitive enough and aware enough to think
long term. Everybody should have got what was due to them for the
efforts they put in. I’m sure he could still have earned a good living
by doing this. He was a business impresario; he could take something,
which he had no feeling for, and still go and sell it. I’ve always found
that quite sad.
was your closest friend in the Small Faces?
JW I don’t know if that can be answered.
What you’ve got to remember is from that first meeting at the Ruskin
Arms we had no pre-history. Steve and Ronnie hadn’t known each other
long, it’s not as if you’ve known somebody from schooldays, and it was
all remarkably fresh. My energy was with Steve really because he was
very similar to me in a way. He had a lot of drive, a lot of attitude
and there were lots of things he wanted to do. With great respect to
Ronnie and Kenney they were slower and just coming out of their shell,
they hadn’t done much whereas Steve and myself had both been out there
for a few years trying to find something that would carve into a career.
Our energies were definitely higher so in a way we fascinated each
other. It was kind of good that we could bounce ideas off of one another
and get a lot going very quickly. Yes, I would say I was closer to Steve
because I’m drawn to things that have a lot of interest about them and
he certainly did have that.
you describe the musical talent of each individual member?
JW At the time everybody was raw, we were
all learning. Steve was new to the guitar, I was new to keyboards but
Ronnie and Kenney had played together in a previous band and they worked
together well. What united us was the fact that we all loved the same
kind of music. Because the focus on the music was good we all learnt
good ranges. Steve was determined to get his guitar style just right and
he did. Vocally Steve would listen to so many great American singers,
people such as Ray Charles, James Brown and others of that ilk. He would
listen to their interpretation and style and studied how they’d perform
on stage and when you do that to the extent that Steve did, it just rubs
off on you.
you a mod before forming the band? And what did you think of the mod
movement at that time?
JW I suppose I was really. I actually had a
Lambretta just for the record. What you had back then was two types of
mod in a way. Of course, there was the movement and the jacket and the
parka and all of that but if you were in the music business, as we were,
you had the other type of mod. Without wishing to sound derogatory, we’d
tidy it up a bit. We never consciously said to ourselves we’re a bunch
of mods; let’s dress like this. How we dressed was how we dressed before
we formed the band. We were in a nice position to tidy ourselves up when
Don Arden opened accounts for all of us in nearly all the Carnaby Street
boutiques. We were then able to become better quality mods with a little
bit more flare. Once the first record “Whatcha Gonna Do About It” was
released and became a hit we became more conscious of the whole mod
image. There was Don Arden saying things like “Come on boys, dress the
part and make me lots of money”. Up until Don it was a lot rawer, like
the Who. The Who were representative of kids on the street.
are your recollections of making the film “Dateline Diamonds”?
JW Not a lot. Half the time we’d go in and
do a few days work but we didn’t really know what was going on. We’d do
odds and ends of shots but we had no idea how they were going to mix
together and what the logical steps of the sequence were. In a strange
way it was exciting because running around doing something in a film is
in itself exciting. But at the end of the day you think to yourself
“What the fuck was that all about?” It was a kind of PR thing really
from the management and certainly not a good career move.
What television shows do you remember doing with the Small Faces?
JW Ready Steady Go was the first and most
important one. I think we did two or three of those. There were quite a
few others but I can’t remember them by name. There were certainly other
artists that we took up a kind of friendship with by doing those shows,
people like Sonny and Cher. They were climbing at the same time as us
and I ended up dating Cher’s sister. Ready Steady Go went out live so
whatever blunder was made was on there, living proof. We were running on
overtime doing those early Ready Steady Go shows live. Before we formed
the band I used to watch the show and think “Cor, wouldn’t it be great
to play on there”. All the television shows that we did were exciting
but the Ready Steady Go shows were a bit special. They had Paul Gadd,
who went on to become Gary Glitter, moving the audience around. He was a
crowd arranger! Various artists used to introduce other acts. I remember
Eric Burdon (of the Animals) introducing us as the New Faces! I never
liked him at all after that. I don’t know whether he done it on purpose
or not. Silly bastard!
What moments with the Small Faces bring the biggest smile to your face?
JW My period with the band was relatively
short compared to the whole of their career but it was the initial time.
One day something is completely impossible, next day it’s occurred. For
everybody in the band these early days were good times. We were all
young and naďve yet we all just got on with it, we were given a free
licence if you like. I loved those times because they were less
complicated and they were, to me, what the Small Faces were all about.
It was great to be on stage performing something we’ve only been doing
for two weeks and getting away with it. Later on when things started
getting a bit more sophisticated and clever it began to go downhill.
much musical input did the band have in terms of production and
JW In the early days everything. The songs
were kind of self-arranging really. They’d be written and put together
in the middle of the night somewhere. We’d be sitting around playing
acoustically with Kenney playing drums on his knees. We’d get the rough
outline that way and take it into the studio to tidy it up.
you play on the whole of the first Decca album?
JW No. I recorded a certain amount of tracks
that ended up on the Decca album but not everything. I was on about half
the tracks and by the time the album came out I’d left the band so never
got to get my picture on the front cover. I done two singles with the
Small Faces and the second one which Steve and Ronnie wrote “I Got Mine”
completely flopped which came as a surprise to all of us because it had
got such good reviews.
Because you were the only tall member of the group did the other guys
express any displeasure with the way you looked?
JW When things were fine, no. I was a couple
of inches taller and also a few years older, that’s just the way it was.
In some ways, I suppose, I was a little bit more streetwise and maybe
done a few more things than the rest of them. But let’s be honest here,
if you look at bands and say I’m sorry that person can’t belong to the
band because he’s an inch and a half taller than the other one, well, I
mean let’s all give up now. That’s really pathetic. You’ve got to have
your major fall-out first and then all these silly negative things come
to a head. I mean we were out one night when a girlfriend of mine came
up with the name “Small Faces”, it was conceived for the band as it was
then and it was fine. All these funny little bits were written into the
story after the event really, the very thought of manufacturing a group
of people all five foot two tall, weighing two stone! It’s really not
what the Rock’N’Roll is all about is it? As I say these things were
created later on by less enlightened folk. But Don Arden, yes, he would
look at four t-shirts all size 32! In real terms the band in the early
days never gave it a second thought. It’s only later on in moments of
bitterness and anger that you can come out with all this crud!
you quit the Small Faces or were you fired? Was it over personal or
musical differences or a combination of both?
JW It was the combination of a few things.
There’s the notorious old story concerning my brother and his van. He
loved the band and he was extremely keen. Like the rest of us he didn’t
have a lot of money but with the few hundred pounds that he did have he
offered to buy a van and do the roadying for us. We just wanted to play
and previously had no transport; we certainly didn’t want to hump the
gear on the underground! We were earning virtually nothing at the time
and agreed to give him 10%. He was going to purchase the van, insure it,
tax it, and do all the driving. Everybody agreed that was fine, I
thought so as well. Seeing as I was older than the others and the
tallest! it was always me that went and collected the money after a gig.
I’d automatically deduct my brothers 10% and pay him. The rest of the
band got a bit grumpy about this, dunno why. It was one of those
incidents where I got stuck in the middle and I did get into conflict
with Steve and Ronnie over this. I’d always been close to my brother and
they weren’t being fair to him. I think they used this later as a bit of
a lever. Against all good advice we ended up signing for Don Arden. He
certainly wasn’t happy with the 10% contract. Don Arden saw it as 10% of
a lot of his earnings and I think right from the beginning he was trying
to do something about it. So right from day one Don Arden had a problem
with me because I sided with my brother. Somewhere in the scheme of
things that’s what occurred. Don Arden called me into his office and
told me that this wasn’t going to work and suggested I put another band
together and he would record us. He kind of gave me an alternative. He
said we would be able to go straight into the studio and promised me the
earth. I wasn’t particularly happy about the situation, the Small Faces
were doing well and the future for the band looked rosy but at the same
time we were not getting on, there were a lot of rows and it was
becoming a drag. In retrospect I’d have been better off leaving Don
Arden and going somewhere new.
was your opinion of the Small Faces after you had left?
JW In a way I was disappointed and angry
because things had gone on behind my back. I felt very let down. I’d
done as much as anybody else to make the band successful but I look back
now and realise I’ve done a lot of things over the years that perhaps I
wouldn’t have done if I’d stayed on with them. It hasn’t been all doom
and gloom and although I missed out on the fame I certainly didn’t miss
out on any fortune. I suppose, deep down, I wish things could have been
sorted out better. Perhaps it could have been with a different type of
you ever see them live after you left?
JW No, I was a bit uptight with them and of
course, I had the opportunity of putting another band together straight
away. It was the only thing to do really.
you ever met Mac and what do you think of him?
JW I’ve never met Mac. It’s not his fault. I
suppose I could have nothing against him and in the same respect he can
have nothing against me. He ended up in a good gig but with respect to
the guy he ended up in something that was already going. A certain
amount of birthing and whatever sets something in gear had already
all the Small Faces numbers recorded after you had left the band are
there any that you wish you’d been involved with?
JW I liked “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake”. I also
liked the psychedelic side of the band. With my band “Winston’s Fumbs”
we actually got to Psychedelia before them. Ogden’s was undoubtedly
their masterpiece. Even back when I was with the band we mucked about
with our own kind of language. Stanley Unwin was our history and we all
loved his humour so for him to end up on that album was superb. There
are some things on that album that Steve didn’t like because by then he
was getting into raunchy Rock. Some of the commercial funny stuff,
although it was done tongue in cheek, was starting to embarrass him. He
wanted more credibility in a true music sense and that’s why it all
folded shortly afterwards. I love good Pop with ideas and fun so from
that angle I really loved the album.
are your thoughts on the resurgence of interest in the Small Faces and
can you hear their influence in contemporary bands?
JW Yeah, I think it’s good. I think it’s
desperate to put it mildly. I think the industry in the UK needs an
enema badly. There’s always been the good bits, we know that but when
the recession hit this country the music business clamped up and went
very tight and mean and wouldn’t get behind anything so they kept
picking things that were cheap to record and put out. Just a bunch of
people with a drum machine and odds and ends. We had a long period of no
creativity, the last few years or so (interview conducted 1996) it’s
just starting to break again and I feel there’s more to come. It’s great
to see guitar bands with a bit of attitude again, shades of 1965 eh!
sort of music do you listen to nowadays?
JW To be honest with you my taste hasn’t
changed very much. It’s grown, there’s a little more courage about what
I like. I love the earliest roots of Rock’N’Roll, Soul and Blues. I love
good Pop writers as well. I like writers who have something to say about
life and survival, people like Jackson Browne. Don’t mind a bit of
opera, not all of it by any means. I like Modern Jazz, Fusion Jazz, Folk
and Country music. Probably the only genre of music that I’ve never been
keen on is Traditional Jazz. If you write, as I do, you tend to listen
to stuff with an angle, you go out with a basket to collect ideas. You’d
be a liar to say you didn’t. Everybody learns from previous examples and
ideas. I love the Eagles; at their best they go into a whole new chapter
of writing. My influences are certainly wide and varied. It’s the only
LEAVING THE SMALL FACES JIMMY CONTINUED TO BE MANAGED BY DON ARDEN AND
FORMED JIMMY WINSTON AND THE REFLECTIONS. THEY COVERED A TRACK FROM THE
SMALL FACES FIRST ALBUM “SORRY SHE’S MINE” FOR THEIR DEBUT SINGLE.
ALTHOUGH IT DIDN’T SELL WELL AT THE TIME IT IS NOW EXTREMELY COLLECTABLE
AND COPIES CROSS HANDS FOR HUNDREDS OF POUNDS. BY LATE 1966 JIMMY HAD
FORMED, POSSIBLY, THE FIRST PSYCHEDELIC BAND IN LONDON, IF NOT THE WHOLE
COUNTRY, WINSTONS FUMBS. A GREAT ACT THAT FILLED VENUES WHEREVER THEY
PLAYED. THEIR ONLY 45 “REAL CRAZY APARTMENT” IS CONSIDERED TO ME A “MOD”
CLASSIC THESE DAYS.
WENT ON TO APPEAR IN THE ORIGINAL LONDON CAST OF “HAIR” AT THE
SHAFTESBURY THEATRE AND FEATURED ON THE BEST SELLING ALBUM FROM THE
SHOW. DURING THE 1970’S HIS REKINDLED ACTING CAREER SAW HIM APPEARING ON
MANY TV SHOWS OF THE DAY INCLUDING THE AWARD WINNING “HAZELL”.
DAYS JIMMY, MARRIED WITH TWO GROWN UP CHILDREN, RUNS A SUCCESSFUL SOUND
EQUIPMENT BUSINESS FROM HIS HOME IN WOODFORD GREEN IN ESSEX AND STILL
MAKES THE OCCASIONAL APPEARANCE ON STAGE AT ANNUAL SMALL FACES