Interview with John Hellier – the Small Faces Biggest Fan

Over the 5 years that the Small Faces “Groping With A Stoker” mailing list
has been going the most requested song lyrics for any Small Faces song has been
the b-side to ‘Afterglow [Of Your Love] – “Wham Bam Thank You Mam”. This
classic song saw the light of day in March 1969 after the Small Faces had split up.
Although the band wasn’t around to promote the songs, the single still
reached number 36 and Wham Bam Thank You Mam [along with Afterglow] has
remained a firm favourite amongst fans.

I did an interview this week with [Sir] John Hellier who must be the Small
Faces No1 fan. John, as you know publishes the brilliant Small Faces quarterly
fanzine “The Darlings Of Wapping Wharf”, besides writing sleeve notes for
record companies, organising memorial concerts for the late Steve Marriott & Ronnie
Lane and the yearly Small Faces convention . Here is a few questions based
around ‘Wham Bam’

MICK: What are your thought’s on Wham Bam Thank You Mam?
JOHN: Wham Bam is probably the heaviest song they ever recorded and was
written solely by Steve. When he first played it to Ronnie,Ronnie just looked at
him and said “F**k Off!” Ronnie hated it.  It’s the way Steve was starting to go
and was possibly more suited to Humble Pie than the Small Faces. I personally
dig it.

MICK: do you have a preferance with wham bam, me you and us too, and the
later version steve re-recorded in 1976 for his solo ‘,Marriott’ album?
JOHN: All versions are cool and the 1976 re-make is particularly cool but if
I was to choose I’d stick with the original 1969 single.

MICK: It’s been alleged that Marriott thought the Small Faces couldn’t follow
up ‘Ogdens’…
Wham Bam Thank You Mam was intended for inclusion on the follow up album to
‘Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake’.The follow-up album was provisionally entitled
‘1862’,. You’ve heard all the tracks for inclusion on the follow up album ‘1862’
[wham bam, autumn stone, call it something nice’ ‘dont burst my bubble etc etc]
What are your feelings on the follow up album. Do you think it was a worthy
follow up to Ogdens and Marriott had nothing to worry about?

JOHN: We both know the track listing now for 1862 and yeah, it’s impressive.
I think it would have made a smashing follow up album to Ogdens and the band
wouldn’t have broken up. Instead they would have gone on to conquer America in
a similar way to the Who. I would still like to see 1862 released. All the
tracks are available and the cover shot was to be the band outside the church
hall. The church hall is still there so a good late pic of the band could be
superimposed onto it. A possible Wapping Wharf release!

Many thanks John.

I think Uli Twelker and Roland Schmitt hit the nail on the head when they
said in their book ‘Happy Boys Happy’ this quote about Wham Bam: “By total
contrast, the introductory riff to ‘Wham Bam Thank You Mam’ is as unique as a
fingerprint”.

Six years later when Marriott re-recorded the track for his solo “Marriott”
album, Uli and Roland also quote: “On the remake of the Small Faces “Wham Bam
Thank You Mam” Ian McLagan’s organ is missing, but the take is convincing due
to it’s speed and energy – Ian Wallace’s driving drums, Steve Marriott’s
singing is much clearer than on the original, and an inventive break leading onto
another exciting guitar solo.”

Indeed there are many mixes and versions of Wham Bam Thank You Mam but the
most obvious choices on general release would be the original ‘Mono’ ‘Stereo’
‘Guide vocal’ ‘1993 Stereo remix’ and ”Alternate version. The alternate version
being the one titled ‘Me, You And Us Too’ which is played at a much faster
pace plus most of the lyrics are different.

The *guide vocal mix* of ‘Wham Bam’  is quite a good mix in my opinion
because the double-tracked vocals of Steve Marriott are right up in the mix and
where a lot of the official releases end with Marriott singing ‘Oh yeah’ this
version is extended and carries on for a few more words plus there is a “Wooo”
after the line “Well she was a lady of charms”. Also, the guide vocal mix is the
version that was first released on the ‘Springboard’ label LP in 1975 and
wrongly credited to ‘Rod Stewart & The Faces’. 9 years later it was reissued on
the ‘Line’ label LP “Small Faces Rarities”. It’s debut on cd form was in 1995
when Charley Records released a 4-cd box set titled “The Small Faces: The
Immediate Years” which saw the track cleaned up to excellent quality.
I will transcribe this longer version below.

Wham Bam Thank You Mam was intended for inclusion on the follow up album to
‘Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake’. ** The follow-up album was provisionally entitled
‘1862’, the title lifted from a sign that hung above the front entrance of the
derelict church hall next to Steve Marriott’s house Beehive Cottage. Steve had
applied to the council to buy the building, turn it into a recording studio but
his request had been denied.

**The material the Small Faces recorded at Olympic Studios for inclusion on
the new album besides ‘Wham Bam Thank You Mam’ was a version of Tim Hardin’s
‘Red Balloon’ and demo’s of new songs entitled ‘The Autumn Stone’, ‘Collibosher’
‘Call It Something Nice’ and ‘Wide Eyed Girl On The Wall’. ‘Wham Bam’ was
full of loud raucous guitars, a song lyrically filled with allusions to sex and
women of the night. It was a preview of Steve Marriott’s music for the next 5
years.

All did not go well though in the studios recording the new album and Ian
McLagan would say years later in his book ‘All The Rage: “When we were recording
“Wham Bam Thank You Mam” at Olympic Steve Marriott tried my patience one too
many times. I told him to get f***ed and walked out. I may have even mentioned
that old chestnut, “I’m leaving the group”. Whatever, I left the studio
feeling better than I had in a month of Sundays. Eventually I realised that It was a
bad move, so the next day I went back. Steve was as sweet as a nut and
apologised to me. Then he played me the track of “Wham Bam Thank You Mam” that
they’d cut after I left. He was very pleased with himself. He’d got Nicky Hopkins
in to play piano on the new track. So the point was well made. He was sorry
about anything he did or said, but If I did leave I wasn’t to worry, because he
could get Nicky Hopkins any time I walked out. Nice one Steve. Both versions of
the song were released eventually. Nicky’s is much better, in my opinion”

I’ve transcribed below 3 sets of different lyrics. The original version that
charted. The alternate version titled ‘Me, You, And Us Too’ plus Marriott’s
re-recorded version on his solo alum ‘Marriott’. Members of the Small Faces list
helped out with certain words to the original…

Many thanks to Des McKenzie who came up with the ‘Sahidi’ references in ‘Wham
Bam’: “It sounds like ‘Sahidi’ to me so I chucked the word ‘Sahidi’ into
Google and a brief run through the pages contained refs to ‘Islamic martyrdom
(including Sufiism which Ronnie Plonk Lane had an interested in) as well as
related topics such as ‘Sahidi rhythms!.

Also special thanks to Martin McCartan and Brian Clark for their help on
various words/ad-libs. In interest Brian says of the ‘Gris Gris references in the
song: It’s definitely “gris gris” this is surely a nod to the Dr John
song/album Steve Marriott was so into at the time.

Another facinating read from Brian Clark was this: this talk on Wham Bam
lyrics
has me fassinated. This is the way we saw it “she was a lady of charms” this
referrred to a witch, a voodoo queen who used charms and spells (Gris Gris) to
attract young men, I think Steve was referring to Marianne Faithfull who
dabbled in the occult when she was with the Stones and also tried to seduce Steve.
The only way you could escape her spell was by giving in “she was good to
those who took off all their clothes”  or by playing music,the only defence
against voodoo “or played guitar”

Mandy Taylor adds: I was reading you guys debating whether Steve is singing
the voodoo line “Gris Gris”……on Wham Bam….which he is…the guy who
posted earlier today got it right…..but it’s not the only Dr John
reference…….Steve actually got the Wham Bam Thankyou Mam phrase as one
Dr John uses a lot in his 1968 single Mama Roux – in fact he also wrote the song – (Atco single #6635)….Mama Roux was a kind of New Orleans Rene Tungate. No-one has got the point in the second verse I don’t think about drug abuse…. “consumption on the floor, stretcher out the door” is about a junkie shooting up his last line and ending up dead…..and of course when that happens you have to “close your breath and hold your eyes”, ‘cos you’re dead….and you certainly “turn the corner of surprise” when you realise you’re meeting the devil…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Right, for your enjoyment? here are the different transcribed songs, all
togeva now…

WHAM BAM THANK YOU MAM [extended guide vocal]

Well she was a lady of charms, [wooo]
A string of young boys on each arm,
She was good to those,
who took off all their clothes or played guitar,

Love comes, stays, goes,
Anyway your mind blows,
Wham bam thank you mam,
We’ll boogie ’til the rooster crows his thing,
Oh yeah

He lived alone, love for none,
He said “pain never hurt anyone”,
Wow no, no, no,
Surprise surprise,
Consumption on the floor,
Stretcher out the door,
And that was it,

God forsaken empty shell,
Forgotten in a bad smell,
Wham bam look out sam,
The devil claims his own,
To moan in hell.

Shang-a-langa,
Shanga-doo-lang,
Shang-a-lang,
Sahidi momma,
Sahidi momma,
Sahidi gris gris

Well close your breath and hold your eyes,
Turn the corner of surprise,
And there you are.

Well our lives are run by ego freaks,
A walking book of rules he seeks
To keep you in your pigeon hole
Bash you if your soul steps out of line,
…fine,
C’mon,

Oh Yeah, now,
Come on, come on, come on,
Come on now, now,
Yep!

ME, YOU AND US TOO [Wham Bam alternate version]

Love me ’till you cry and burn
On fire,
I’ll give you me in return,
Yes I will,

Isn’t life strange,
Living things change,
While it goes on,

There’s nothing in there book of rules
That we can do,
With just me, you, and us too.

He lived alone, love for none,
Said “Pain never hurt anyone”,
Ha, consumption on the floor,
Stretcher out the door and that was it,

Always score for the game you choose,
And that me, and you, and us too,

Aahhhh aahhhh ahhahhah,
Me, you, and us too,
Hmmmm hmmmm hmmhmmhmm,
Me, you, and us too,

If you’re thinking why,
Just look up in the sky,
And there it is,

Tell your lovers to go,
‘Cause there’s nothing they can do,
Like me, and you, and us too.

Me, you, and us too,
Me, you, and us too,
Me, you, and us too,
Me, you, and us too…

MARRIOTT: WHAM BAM THANK YOU MAM 76

You got to love me ’till you cry and burn
Your on fire,
I’ll give you me in return,

Cause it aint strange,
How living things change,
While it goes on.

Well love comes, stays goes,
Anyway your mind blows,
Wham bam thank you mam,
Gonna get down till the roooster crows.

Yeah,

He lived alone, love for none,
He said “Pain never hurt anyone”,
consumption on the floor,
Stretcher out the door and that was it,

Just a Godforsaken empty shell
Forgotten in a bad smell
Wham bam look out Sam,
The devil claims is own to moan in hell

And If you’re thinking why,
Take a look up in the sky,
And there it is,

Our lives are run by ego freaks,
A walking book of rules,
He seeks to keep ya in your pigeon hole,
And bash yer if your soul gets out of line.

I feel so fine…

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