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Faces formed in 1969 by members of Small Faces after lead singer/guitarist Steve Marriott left that group to form Humble Pie. The remaining Small Faces—Ian McLagan (keyboards), Ronnie Lane (bass guitar, vocals), and Kenney Jones (drums and percussion)—were joined by Ronnie Wood (guitar) and Rod Stewart (lead vocals), both from the Jeff Beck Group, and the new line-up was renamed Faces.
The band had a unique arrangement, as Rod Stewart had signed a separate solo recording contract with the Mercury label shortly before joining the group, who were signed to Warner’s. Band members often contributed to Stewart’s solo albums as contract players, and Faces live shows of the period would feature as much of Stewart’s solo material as that of the band, which later fuelled tensions amongst them when they began to effectively be viewed as Stewart’s ‘backing band’. The group lacked a single main songwriter as from the beginning each member would work in tandem to offer songs for each of their albums (Stewart and Wood most often wrote together as a duo, as did Lane and Wood, while Lane would usually contribute at least one solo composition per album). While Stewart was the primary lead singer, both Lane and Wood would also sing lead vocals on several tracks (Lane usually sang lead on his own solo compositions). Their first two albums, First Step (1970) and Long Player (1971), lacked a hit single, but their third album, 1971’s A Nod Is As Good As a Wink… to a Blind Horse, bolstered by the success of Stewart’s solo work, became a worldwide hit, peaking at number 2 on the UK Albums Chart and number 6 on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart and spawning the band’s first hit single, “Stay with Me”.
I don’t think a whole lot needs to be said about this band that hasn’t already been said several thousand times over. They epitomized the hedonistic 70s in a way that was appealing, and they achieved Superstar status in a relatively short period of time. The Faces had already established themselves years earlier as The Small Faces and, among a string of hits, their Summer-of-Love anthem Itchykoo Park has achieved a certain immortality, for better or worse. But with personnel changes and a huge change in direction, and with the addition of Rod Stewart, who had already made a name for himself with the likes of Jeff Beck, The Faces were primed and poised to become sensations.
And they did – for half of the 1970s.
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