• The Small Faces classic, released 50 years ago today.
As it ended up overshadowing their “serious” work, the band may have grown to regret recording Itchycoo Park. Nevertheless, with the help of George Chkiantz and Glyn Johns, it all too beautifully melded pretty much every element of groovy 1967 psychedelia into something both unique and emblematic. Though the Beatles (with George Martin and Geoff Emerick) can claim the first high profile use of psychedelic flanging in Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Itychooo Park was the first pop single to use the Summer of Love’s signature effect.
It’s hard to know whether the Small Faces were playing catch-up with the Beatles here, or, like Traffic’s Hole In My Shoe, just having a poke at John Lennon’s pretentiousness. The fact the band didn’t really want the single released at all, and regarded it as a bit of a joke, suggests the latter. In style, subject and structure, the song is a lightly camouflaged parody of Strawberry Fields Forever. Both concern wild, hidden locations within large cities where kids could escape the drudgery of school and have some illicit fun. But Marriott and Lane, although dreaming of touching the sky, bring things down to earth. The abstract “nothing to get hung about” in SFF becomes the commonplace “get hung up, feed the ducks with a bun” in IP.
In both cases, the imagery is surreal nonsense (in the Lewis Carroll non-sense) and so the “meanings” have been endlessly “interpreted”. A particularly nice over-analysis of Itchycoo has it that the “Bridge of Sighs” and the “dreaming spires” refer to the privilege of an Oxbridge education, which the writers eschew in favour of finding true beauty in an Ilford park. In truth, many of the ‘interpretations’ were conjured up by the band’s management in a (successful) effort to get the BBC’s initial “overt drug references” ban overturned. But, of course, not before the ‘censorship’ had provided valuable publicity.
In the end, whether the band liked it or not — and pastiche or otherwise — the song, so of its time and timeless, is a classic that subverts and transcends its genre. Have a listen and let it blow your mind.