Iconic musicians of the 60s and early 70s are rightly celebrated now. But the mid 80s could be a harsh climate for many such icons. And although the end of the 60s was only 15 years previously it genuinely felt like a different world musically back then.
I’d got into Marriott’s former bands, Small Faces and Humble Pie, via a compilation tape that had a track from each on. It led me to pick up compilation LPs of each band’s Immediate output and I was genuinely thrilled to see that the former guitarist/lead singer of both bands would be performing at the Bier Keller in Blackpool where I had recently moved. This would be 18-year old Darren’s third trip to the Bier Keller. The first I’d gathered a group of flatmates, friends and hangers-on to come and see Brian Connolly’s version of The Sweet. But that ended in disappointment and drunkenness when Connolly never showed up. The second time was for Tony’s McPhee’s Groundhogs, where I’d managed to persuade a flatmate to come along but he left after about three songs. The third time I was on my own.
I got there and there were no more than around half a dozen audience members and three band members. Marriott was deep in conversation in the tiny backstage area but I got chatting to bass player Jim Leverton who was hanging by the door. I fired off the titles of several of my favourites from the Immediate compilations and waited, expectantly, for Leverton’s response. “Nah, we don’t play any of those any more. But if you enjoy the blues you’ll enjoy this.”
I really wasn’t sure what to expect at this stage. The place was still almost completely empty although the crowd had grown to about 15-20. But Marriott and his two Packet of Three colleagues came on stage and launched into an explosive set: ‘Watcha Gonna Do About It”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “Tin Soldier”, “I Don’t Need No Doctor.” Many of these would be on Marriott’s Live At Dingwalls album that my dad bought for me soon after when I enthused to him about the gig.
It was incredible to see him giving it his all to no more than 20 people. It wasn’t a particularly long set but afterwards he sat at the bar while very single member of the audience queued in line to buy him a brandy, get something signed and have a chat.
I’ve still got the faded 31 year-old scrap of paper Steve Marriott, Jim Leverton and drummer Fallon Williams signed for me.
I didn’t get to see Marriott again until I moved to London five years later and saw him at the Half Moon in Putney. Knowing the band gigged regularly on the London circuit I was looking forward to seeing quite a bit more of him. But sadly, only a few months later came the news of the tragic house fire that took his life. At least I got to see the great Steve Marriott live.