Itchycoo Park

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"Itchycoo Park"
Single by Small Faces
B-side "I'm Only Dreaming"
Released 4 August 1967 (UK)
1967 (US)
Format 7"
Recorded Olympic Studios, London (1967)
Genre Psychedelic pop
Length 2:45
Label Immediate
Writer(s) Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane
Producer(s) Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane
Small Faces singles chronology
"Here Come the Nice"
(1967)
"Itchycoo Park"
(1967)
"Tin Soldier"
(1967)
Audio sample
file info · help

"Itchycoo Park" is a psychedelic pop song written by Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, first recorded by their group, the Small Faces. The song reached number three in the UK Singles Chart in 1967.

Song profile[edit]

"Itchycoo Park" was released by mod band The Small Faces in August 1967. Together with "Lazy Sunday", "Tin Soldier" and "All or Nothing", the song is one of the band's biggest hits and has become a classic of its time.[1]

The song reached number 16 in the American Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1968.[2]

Long running British music magazine NME cites readers poll voting "Itchycoo Park" number 62 out of the top 100 singles of all time.[3]

"Itchycoo Park" climbed the charts again when it was re-released on 13 December 1975.[4]

The song was one of the first pop singles to use flanging, an effect that can be heard in the bridge section after each chorus.[5] Most sources credit the use of the effect to Olympic Studios engineer George Chkiantz who showed it to the Small Faces regular engineer Glyn Johns; he in turn demonstrated it to the group, who were always on the lookout for innovative production sounds, and they readily agreed to its use on the single.

Although many devices were soon created that could produce the same effect by purely electronic means, the effect as used on "Itchycoo Park" was at that time an electro-mechanical studio process. Two synchronised tape copies of a finished recording were played simultaneously into a third master recorder, and by manually retarding the rotation of one of the two tape reels using the fingers, a skilled engineer could subtly manipulate the phase difference between the two sources, creating the lush 'swooshing' phase effect that sweeps up and down the frequency range. Because the original single version was mixed and mastered in mono, the flanging effect in "Itchycoo Park" is more pronounced in its original mono mix, and is noticeably diluted in the subsequent stereo mix.[citation needed]

Inspiration[edit]

The song was first thought of and largely written by Ronnie Lane, who had been reading a leaflet on the virtues of Oxford which mentioned its dreaming spires.[6]

A number of sources claim the song's name is derived from the nickname of Little Ilford Park, on Church Road in the London suburb of Manor Park, where Small Faces' singer and song-writer Steve Marriott grew up. The "itchycoo" nickname is, in turn, attributed to the stinging nettles which grew there. Other sources cite nearby Wanstead Flats (Manor Park end) as the inspiration for the song.[7]

Photo of Wanstead Flats, London E12 near Marriott's Manor Park home

Marriott and Small Faces manager Tony Calder came up with the well-known story when Marriott was told the BBC had banned the song for its overt drug references, Calder confirms:

"We scammed the story together, we told the BBC that Itchycoo Park was a piece of waste ground in the East End that the band had played on as kids – we put the story out at ten and by lunchtime we were told the ban was off."[8]

Ronnie Lane on the true location of Itchycoo Park:

"It's a place we used to go to in Ilford years ago. Some bloke we know suggested it to us because it's full of nettles and you keep scratching actually".[9]

Other possible etymologies[edit]

Another local park, in the nearby town of Ilford, called Valentines Park, was also often referred to as Itchycoo Park.[citation needed] Despite all these claims as to which park is the original Itchycoo park, in an interview Steve Marriot has stated that "It's Valentine's Park in Ilford. We used to go there and get stung by wasps. It's what we used to call it". The interview was repeated on a biopic of Small Faces bass player Ronnie Lane.[citation needed]

Itchy Park is located in the East End of London and dates back to the Victorian era.[10]

The hairy seeds from rose hips were called "Itchycoos" by English children in the 1950s.[citation needed] The seeds could be broken out of the berry and dropped down someone's collar between shirt and back to cause itching.[11]

M People version[edit]

"Itchycoo Park"
Single by M People
from the album Bizarre Fruit II
B-side Remixes
Released 13 November 1995
Format 12" maxi
CD single, cassette
Genre House
Length 3:53
Label Deconstruction
Writer(s) Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane
Producer(s) M People
M People singles chronology
"Love Rendezvous"
(1995)
"Itchycoo Park "
(1995)
"Just for You"
(1997)

"Itchycoo Park" was the fifth and final single from the re-released Bizarre Fruit: Bizarre Fruit II album by M People. It is a cover version of the 1967 song of the same name by The Small Faces and was M People's fourteenth single overall, released on 13 November 1995. The song peaked at number eleven and marked the album's 12-month unbroken residency on the UK Albums Chart.

Background[edit]

For most of 1995, the band had been on a World Tour that had taken them from Switzerland to Australia, Germany to Brazil and the parent album, Bizarre Fruit, had remained in the UK album Top 40 for a year having peaked at number 4 on release and selling consistently with three UK top 10 singles and chart hits across Europe and Australasia and a US Dance No 1.

In January 1994, before the second leg of the Elegant Slumming Tour, Heather Small had walked into rehearsals singing "Itchycoo Park" which she had heard on the radio that day. Mike heard her humming it and they decided to experiment and perform their version of the song, adding it to their encore, as the last song of their set list after "Don't Look Any Further" and "Moving on Up". It turned out to be a massive crowd pleaser for the fans, so after performing it for eighteen months they decided to record it in the Summer of 1995, whilst remixing Love Rendezvous. Both tracks would feature on a revised and deluxe version of Bizarre Fruit that was released to mark exactly one year after original release. They decided to turn the mod psychedelic pop original into a gospel-tinged dance stomper.

Arrangement[edit]

M People took the song far away from its original mod 1967 psychedelic pop roots to a dance-orientated modern psychedelic dance/gospel song.

After the gospel piano chords of the 10-man intro the M People choir sings "If you reach (on high)" three times; the song's mood builds and builds through to a progressive electronic drum roll which then segues into a medium-paced dance track led by gospel piano and layers of synths and rattles. When lead singer Heather Small sings the opening lines, she is backed by swirling keyboards and echoed tapping in a styling very true to the four to floor dance beat with which the band had become synonymous.

The main gospel influence of the song alongside the gospel keyboard and piano is the choir, present throughout the song. In the bridge of the song, they provide the lead to the call-and-response with: "What did you do there?", "What did you feel/touch there?" and "But why the tears there?" to which Small sings the reply "I got high", "Well I cried/I touched the sky!" "Tell you why!", respectively. In the second verse the choir’s strong support continues to Small’s suggestions to: I’ll tell you what I’ll do?" with: "What will you do?" and "You can miss out school.": "Won’t that be cool?". The strength of the choir is underlined by their repetitive refrains of "Beauty", Beautiful!" and "It’s all too beautiful" and "So Beautiful" at various points within the song.

The trippy effect produced by phasing (or flanging) in the middle eight of the Small Faces original version is replaced by a euphoric interjected chords and a trippy echo is layered on Small’s vocals "I feel inclined to blow my mind..."

Reception[edit]

"Itchycoo Park" was greeted with overall praise from fans, but critics did slate them for this cover version of what was considered to be a 1960s classic. Chris Evans, who worked at BBC Radio 1 at the time, claimed the song to be "sacrilege" after playing it on his Breakfast Show. After their previous covers of "Someday" and "Don't Look Any Further" on previous albums had been applauded, "Itchycoo Park" proved the most controversial, appearing in polls: ‘Worst Cover Songs’. The Observer Music Monthly claimed that "the rowdy grandeur of the original had been replaced by the band's faux soul".

Steve Marriott once said that The Small Faces "(We) were a mix of R&B and music hall. The R&B came from Detroit, the music hall from Stepney. That's what 'Itchycoo Park' is about…having a drink and a party."

Chart performance[edit]

The single entered the chart at number 11, similar to "Open Your Heart", despite marginally greater sales, peaking at that position in its first week selling 64,500 copies. This was healthy sales but there were new entries that week from Blur's "The Universal" (#5), Boyzone's "Father and Son" (#8), Björk's "It's Oh So Quiet" (#9) and Bon Jovi "Lie to Me" (#10) which sold just 450 more copies than "Itchycoo Park".

The single spent a total of eight weeks on the chart moving from 11 – 14 – 19 – 26 – 30 – 35 – 43 – 72 with total sales of 113,000 copies making it the third biggest selling single from the Bizarre Fruit/Bizarre Fruit II album.

Airplay[edit]

After "Love Rendezvous" peaked at number 32 on the UK Top, but gained another Airplay Top 10 to peak at number nine, "Itchycoo Park" was given four weeks of airplay and distributed to radio on 18 October 1995.

Radio stations all over the country were quick to play the single, as it was a totally new track that was not available on the Bizarre Fruit album. It entered the chart at 42, but then scaled the chart to 25 to 14 and 10. When the single was released it climbed to peak at number 6 getting support from nationwide station: BBC Radio 2.

The single became their 14th consecutive Top 40 Airplay hit and their ninth consecutive Top 10 Airplay Hit.

Promotion[edit]

The video started rotation on MTV stations from 9 November 1995. The band performed the song with the choir on the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party on Sunday 6 December at Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London, marking their third consecutive performance at the annual event.

The band also by six backing vocalists, while Mike, Paul and Shovel play behind her.

Music video[edit]

The video was shot at a London studio in a purpose-built hotel set on 23 October 1995 by Director, Maria Mochnacz for 'DreamChaser Productions'. The introductory shot is of Heather in a darkened room lying on a bed in a blue svelte dress and high heels with a spotlight flickering directly on while she wakes up, meanwhile the camera moves over her.

The next shot is of a dream sequence seen in a double vision of following Heather Small around the corridors of a grand hotel and subsequent scenes range from an overhead shot of Heather on the bed, and through camera trickery, she is made to look like she is levitating off the bed as she sings. This is inter-cut with shots of the rest of the band walking around both the corridors of the same hotel and a darkly lit corridor daubed in graffiti and spied from above with overhead CCTV camera footage.

Remixes[edit]

The Hed Boys and Junior Vasquez remixed the single for both promotional and mainstream distribution following their remixes of both previous Bizarre Fruit singles, Open Your Heart and Love Rendezvous. Additionally, American DJ David Morales serviced a 'Classic Club Mix' and 'Beautiful Instrumental', respectively. The Morales mix made it number 17 in the Pure Club Classics Top 30 list of the All Time Dance Club Classics and also gave M People a number 1 on the UK dance chart.

Live[edit]

The live backing vocalists sing the obligatory gospel intro to the song and Paul plays the gospel piano riffs throughout. The guitar riff supports the euphoric build up alongside the progressively faster drum roll, which break into the dance tempo of the song. There have only been a few events when the band have performed the song with a full live choir, most notably this was at "The Crowd is on the Pitch": The Euro 1996 finals at Manchester's Old Trafford Stadium in June 1996. Snake Davis performs a sax riff alongside the drums during the instrumental middle eight and Shovell provides percussive support during the vocal middle eight and plays EWI throughout the choruses.

Track listings[edit]

CSS
  1. Itchycoo Park (Radio Edit) 3:50
  2. Itchycoo Park (Morales Classic Club Mix) 7:52
12" Maxi
  1. Itchycoo Park (M People Master Mix) 5:53
  2. Itchycoo Park (Hed Boys Post Op Mix) 9:01
  3. Itchycoo Park (Morales Classic Club Mix) 7:52
  4. Padlock (Junior Vasquez Classic Club Dub) 6:59
CD Maxi
  1. Itchycoo Park (Radio Edit) 3:50
  2. Itchycoo Park (M People Master Mix) 6:40
  3. Itchycoo Park (Morales Classic Club Mix) 7:52
  4. Itchycoo Park (Hed Boys Post Op Mix) 9:01
  5. Itchycoo Park (Morales Beautiful Instrumental) 6:22
Chart Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[12] 11
Australian ARIA Singles Chart 21
New Zealand RIANZ Singles Chart[13] 27

Uses and other notable versions[edit]

Notes[edit]

Notes:

  1. ^ "Guide to British Music of the 1960s". Making Time. Retrieved 10 August 2007. 
  2. ^ Hewitt & Rod Stewart, Paulo; Hellier, John. Steve Marriott - All Too Beautiful... Helter Skelter. p. 160. ISBN 1-900924-44-7. 
  3. ^ "NME Readers all time top 100 singles published 1976". NME. Retrieved 10 August 2007. 
  4. ^ "Top 40 Hits of Mid January 1976". everyHit.com. Retrieved 10 August 2007. 
  5. ^ "Itchycoo Park by Small Faces Songfacts". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  6. ^ Oxford's Bridge of Sighs is mentioned in the first line. Hewitt, Paulo; Kenney Jones (1995). small faces the young mods' forgotten story. Acid Jazz. p. 99. ISBN 0-9523935-0-6. 
  7. ^ "Small Faces London- Ilford Park". Making Time. Retrieved 10 August 2007. 
  8. ^ Steve Marriott, All Too Beautiful p.154
  9. ^ Hewitt, Paulo; Kenney Jones (1995). small faces the young mods' forgotten story. Acid Jazz. p. 98. ISBN 0-9523935-0-6. 
  10. ^ Itchy Park Retrieved 16 September 2008
  11. ^ "Itchy Secrets". www.show.me.uk. Retrieved 10 August 2007. 
  12. ^ ""Itchycoo Park", UK Singles Chart". Chartstats. Retrieved 29 April 2011. 
  13. ^ ""Itchycoo Park", in various singles charts" (in French). Lescharts. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  14. ^ "Itchycoo Park, soundtrack to Severance film". 2006. Retrieved 22 September 2007. 

References:

External links[edit]