Saturday, 19 January 2013

Big Face and The Small Faces (Another Tale From The Two Puddings)

     One of the side effects of steroid treatment can be weight gain/water retention. I’ve put on over two stone in the last few months. Mainly around my stomach which feels like I’m wearing an inflatable corset most of the day. But also around my face and my jowels which is now quite moonlike. Sometimes known as ‘Cushing Syndrome’ (though I can’t see why as Peter Cushing had a rather slender, high cheekboned visage) and also the Hilary Mantel effect. But they say that it will all drop off when the medication ends so nothing but a temporary irritation. I have been determined not to let this blog slide into one of those 'woe-is-me' medical diaries but the titular link between the two subjects here seemed hard to resist...

     You may (or may not) be aware that my Father has recently published a book of reminiscences about his early days as a publican in the London in the 1960’s. ( ):

"I am a DJ...' : Dad and Mum (on right) in 'the Devil's Kitchen'.

      It’s an interesting and amusing nostalgic romp through a period that will never be seen again. It’s not so much about us as a family as about the various customers and characters that came and went in an otherwise poor and unprepossessing part of London that until this summer’s Olympic Festival, most people only knew as somewhere they drove through on their way to a destination a bit grander (Chigwell perhaps).

      The book is set in a time when I was just a small boy but it has dislodged many memories that have floated to the surface. The pub used to have bands playing on a regular basis. Some reasonably well known, many others were ‘cover’ groups who would do versions of current hits. If they were playing on consecutive nights they would leave their gear set up and I would love to tip-toe down in the afternoons, turn the switches on and the volume low (-ish) and strum my fingers across the guitar strings. These glossy brightly lacquered intruments seemed to possess their own built in glamour ("Sunburst Finish" anyone?).

If my description of "play, eat and bed" sounds somewhat austere and monastic then really it was great fun and a regime I still swear by (just add 'drink' after eat) - I couldn't wait to get home from school each afternoon...

     One day I came home from school and as I was trudging up the three flights of stairs to our living quarters dragging my duffel bag behind me I became aware of loud music coming from the first floor dancehall (known as 'the Devil's Kitchen' on account of the lurid fluorescent paintings of monsters all over the walls). “Go and have a look, but don’t disturb them” said my Mum. I opened the door carefully and saw a group of small young men in the hall surrounded by their large PA system. The evident leader calling the shots was wearing a cheesecloth shirt and a battered broad-brimmed straw hat. He was Steve Marriott and they were the Small Faces. To be honest, I’d never heard of them and I don’t think most of the world outside Manor Park had at that point. I watched discreetly for a few minutes but I’ve always found band rehearsals and recording a bit of a tedious procedure to sit through. Continual starts and stops going over the same piece endlessly. For some reason I really missed a trick here and neglected to do a sketch; the 1966 view of the pub exterior above is the best I can find.

     Later on The Faces and The Who became huge global names. But until Paul Weller and the nostalgia of Britpop came along The Small Faces remained something of a Mod connoisseurs band. Steve (Stevie) Marriott ended up marrying a schoolfriend of mine and seemed to be enjoying a few years of domestic bliss before tragically dying in a fire at his cottage in North Essex.


  1. I just found your blog, so am a newbie...hope the recovery is coming along OK and that the pesky steroids aren't leaving you too drained.

    Was the Two Puddings that pub near 'Mooro's' Nightclub? I grew up a few miles away, and used to look longingly at both as a kid passing by on the 25 bus, wishing away the time until I would be old enough and glamourous enough to get admitted to either/both. Sadly, by the time I got there, Mooro's had gone, and my horizons had been re-set to the West End.

    But my Dad had already done his bit for our family in the Puddings, if that helps. It must have been a rare and amazing place to grow up in.

    1. Hi Kolley and welcome.

      Yes, you're right: Mooro's (formerly the Black Bull) was a project of Bobby Moore's. I can understand what you mean about a 'rare and amazing place' but at the time it was all I knew and all commonplace.

      Later on we ended up living in various pubs in the Essex suburbs but as long as there was a Central Line tube station near at hand I didn't mind. Like you, by then all I wanted was the West End (or 'the Other End' as we always called it).

      "As the Fulham Road lights
      stretch and invite into the night.." etc...

      Well, for me it was the Tottenham Court Road lights - Gateway to Soho!

  2. Fantastic memories... And I wonder just whose guitars you might have had a secret strum on at various times?
    Your Two Puddings picture is a classic. I always think a child's drawing (especially a talented one like you) distils its subject in a way that we so often lose as an adult. Your picture says all it needs to - no more, no less. Brilliant!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thanks C - characteristically generous comments. Wish I could still draw in that direct and unfussy way though!