Forget Jagger and the Stones.
Stevie Marriott was THE MAN.
Stevie Marriott and Humble Pie were THE BEST British Hard-Rock band of the early 1970s. Who else but that little dervish with the monster vocals could rush from one end of the stage to the other in seconds, then strut his stuff from back at the drum set to the very front mike to deliver a blistering wail or put down some solid licks off his Black Les Paul? Ever see Jagger do that? Or Stewart?? Roger Daltrey???
Nah, none of them had the energy of Marriott who could do all of what they did and with a guitar strapped to him. He was the consummate frontman – screamin’ Steve and played guitar with wild abandon.
“Smokin’” found Marriott at the peak of his powers and of his career. He proved, on this album, that even with the departure of Peter Frampton, the Pie was a Rock and Roll force to be reckoned with. “Black Lebanese, It Got You Weak in Your Knees. Newcastle Brown…” – and who can forget “You Take A Greasy Whore Add A Rolling Dance Floor” – Heh Heh – the lyrics of that great rock and roll song “Thirty Days in the Hole” which epitomizes the rock power of this album.
But wait there’s more – much more. Besides “30 Days” there was “Hot and Nasty” with Marriott wailing on both voice and organ, tasty licks provided by Clem Clempson, the solid bass and drums of Greg Ridley and Jerry Shirley, and backing vocals courtesy of Stephen (yep, that’s right) Stills and Rick “Foreigner, Peter Frampton, Bad Company” Wills; that raucous version of Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody”, Ridley and Marriott’s “Sweet Peace and Time”, and Ridley (with Clem) on “Old Time Feeling”. The Pie – fuelled by Marriott’s voice, the twin guitar energy of Marriott and Clempson, and the driving rhythm section of Ridley and Shirley, Nah, Nothin’ could be finer.
There wasn’t a bad track on this album, excepting perhaps “Road Runner’s C Jam” which was recording in the jam spirit of the 1970s but perhaps a tad too long.”Smokin’” was indeed one of the best Rock and Roll albums and arguably the Pie’s best. Unfortunately by the next year and the next album Marriott had pushed his I wanna be Wilson Pickett too far, his drug use had become too excessive, his marriage went kaput, and the Pie went downhill fast. Had Marriott stayed stable, energetic and the Pie remained on that hard rock formula, who knows? They very well might have given the Stones a run for their money. At any rate, when the Pie dissolved in ‘75, Stone(d) Keith Richards was so taken with Marriott’s vocal abilities and guitar prowess (they had been friends for years) that he placed him on the short list to replace Mick Taylor. Evidently during Marriott’s rehearsal with the Stones he got so carried away and enthused that Mick Jagger was so intimidated that he sternly told Richards – NO MARRIOTT.
And don’t forget Jimmy Page years earlier had approached Marriott to join a band he was forming called Led Zeppelin, only to be told by Marriott’s then-manager Don Arden (yes, Sharon Osbourne’s daddy)that he could only do so if he wanted his legs broken!
Even during the post-Pie period, with a voice wrecked from a few too many catawails and too much good booze and bad drugs, Marriott could still wow an audience.
No doubt Marriott was one of the best rock and roll frontmen, but also one of Britain’s finest showmen in the Cockney Music Hall tradition too. His sad death – smoking in bed after returning to Britain following recordings with Peter Frampton in 1991 – deprived rock and roll of one of the absolute greats.