OGDEN’S NUT GONE FLAKE by The Small faces has been one of my favourite albums since I was a teenager when a mate and I used to trip out on Happiness Stan and Mad John all the time.
I think this was one of the first concept albums to be made and was certainly the first album to come out in a circular record cover.
This album is such a great piece of work that I found it confusing that not many people had heard of it but they did after they met me and my record collection.
I thought this album so special that I bought a CD copy for my son on his first birthday, hopefully when he’s older, he’ll start tripping out on it as his dad did.
Getting Stanley Unwin to narrate the story was a stroke of genius and to this day I still haven’t managed to imitate his unusual style of talking.
One side of the album is the story of Happiness Stan and his search for the disappearing half of the moon and dangly interspersed with some fantastic songs and the other side has six great songs that are just perfect for that little trip you’ve been planning to take.
So pack your bags and take the psychedelic journey with Happiness Stan and Mad John as they teach us the secret to the disappearing half of the moon and the meaning of life.
At home in England, their career reached an all-time high with the release of their classic psychedelic influenced album Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake on 24 May 1968. It is widely regarded today as a classic album, and featured an innovative round cover, the first of its kind, designed to resemble an antique tobacco tin. It stayed at number one in the UK Albums Chart for six weeks (it reached #159 in the US).
The two-act concept album consisted of six original songs on side one and a whimsical psychedelic fairy tale on side two relating the adventures of “Happiness Stan” and his need to find out where the moon went when it waned. It was narrated by Stanley Unwin, though original plans to have Spike Milligan narrating the album were dashed when he turned them down.
Critics raved, and the album sold well, but the band were confronted by the practical problem that they had created a studio masterpiece which was virtually impossible to recreate on the road. Ogdens’ was performed as a whole just once, and memorably, live in the studio on the BBC’s television programme, Colour Me Pop.
The title and the design of the distinctive packaging was a parody of Ogdens’ Nut-brown Flake, a brand of tobacco which was produced in Liverpool from in 1899.
The A-side is a mix of early heavy rock with “Song of a Baker”; psychedelic cockney knees-up songs “Lazy Sunday” and “Rene”; and the soul influenced ballad “Afterglow (Of Your Love)”.
The B-side is based on an original fairy tale about a boy called Happiness Stan, narrated in his unique ‘Unwinese’ gobbledegook by Stanley Unwin, who picked up modern slang from the band and incorporated it into the surreal narrative.
When Stan looks up in the sky and sees only half the moon, he sets out on a quest to search for the missing half. Along the way he saves a fly from starvation, and in gratitude the insect tells him of someone who can answer his question and also tell him the philosophy of life itself.
With his magic power Stan intones, “If all the flies were one fly, what a great enormous fly-follolloper that would bold,” and the fly grows to gigantic proportions.
Seated on the giant fly’s back Stan takes a psychedelic journey to the cave of Mad John the hermit, who explains that the moon’s disappearance is only temporary, and demonstrates by pointing out that Stan has spent so long on his quest that the moon is now full again. He then sings Stan a cheerful song about the meaning of life.
Due to the album’s complexities, Ogdens’ was never performed live, however it was performed as a whole once on the BBC’s television programme Colour Me Pop on Friday 21 June 1968.
Songs featured were “Song of a Baker”, “Happiness Stan”, “Rollin’ Over”, “The Hungry Intruder”, “The Journey”, “Mad John” and “Happy days toy town”. Although the band mimed to recordings made earlier in the studio that afternoon their microphones were left on to capture little ad libs.
In 2000, Q magazine placed Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake at number 59 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.
Playbox Theatre, UK, have performed the whole album as a theatre piece in November 2008. It was directed by Stewart McGill and performed by a young cast with a Small Faces tribute band, and it was narrated by Stanley Unwin’s son, John.
The album was originally released on vinyl in a circular novelty package resembling a paper replica of a giant tobacco tin, with a gatefold cover.
The award-winning artwork for the album cover was done by Mick Swan who was a product of the sixties art school scene.
1. “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake” – Marriott, Lane, McLagan, Jones
2. “Afterglow (Of Your Love)” – Marriott, Lane
3. “Long Agos and Worlds Apart” – McLagan
4. “Rene” – Marriott, Lane
5. “Song of a Baker” – Marriott, Lane
6. “Lazy Sunday” – Marriott, Lane
1. “Happiness Stan” – Marriott, Lane
2. “Rollin’ Over” – Marriott, Lane
3. “The Hungry Intruder” – Marriott, Lane, McLagan
4. “The Journey” – Marriott, Lane, McLagan, Jones
5. “Mad John” – Marriott, Lane
6. “Happy Days Toy Town” – Marriott, Lane, McLagan
To promote the album, the record label Immediate issued an advertisement that parodied The Lord’s Prayer. It caused uproar in the British press and outraged readers wrote in and complained.
Which were in the studios
Hallowed by thy name
Thy music come
Thy songs be sung
On this album as they came from your heads
We give you this day our daily bread
Give us thy album in a round cover as we give thee 37/9d.,
Lead us into the record stores.
And deliver us Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake
For nice is the music
The sleeve and the story
For ever and ever, Immediate
“We didn’t know a thing about the ad. until we saw it in the music papers. And frankly we got the horrors at first. We realise that it could be taken as a serious knock against religion. But on thinking it over, we don’t feel it is particularly good or bad. It’s just another form of advertising. We’re not all that concerned about it. We’re more concerned in writing our music and producing our records”
- Steve Marriott on the advert for Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake that parodied the Lord’s Prayer.
(thanks to Wikipedia for the information supplied)