Say No More

Songsmith Steve Marriott

I only had one Humble Pie record in my collection. It was the single Black Coffee, which I’d seen them perform on The Old Grey Whistle Test. Took it home, listened to the A-side, loved it. The singer, Steve Marriott, was in great voice. Then I did something which happens so rarely now : I flipped it over to see what they put on the B-side. I was expecting another soulful rock tune and I got Say No More, a song which stopped me in my tracks with its tenderness and desperation. This song opens the Songsmiths series.

Marriott is playing ukelele on the cut, which it turns out was the first instrument he ever learnt to play as a boy. The song immediately had a timeless, minimalist feel, with only the lyrics pointing to gold records on the wall, a swimming pool in the garden, and sniffing substances as indications of the rock n roll lifestyle which produced it.

Say No More from the album Eat It, Humble Pie, 1973

On closer listening, the song builds around what turns out to be a phone conversation between the singer and the woman he loves, who sounds like she has had enough of trying to keep up the relationship. Realizing it is probably too late to keep her from leaving for good, the singer strips himself bare. Does he go too far in his declarations and promises? He has little choice left. If he leaves things unsaid now, the title can’t be Say No More.

Musically, maybe it sounds a little dated today. People would probably identify the song alone in a blind test as folk. Personally, I can hear Steve Marriott poignantly holding a raucous voice in check, performing in a style which people like Rod Stewart1 had also made popular at the time. Replace the ukelele with a mandolin in another mix and this could be a song from one of Stewart’s early solo albums. The ending is beautifully weightless. He sings I can say no more and the song stops. 2 minutes. Why say more?

Well, it felt so bad to be where I didn’t need to be / Now it feels so good to know how you still care for me/ When it’s right in front of you/ It’s so hard to see/ But there it was so all about/ You know it took me a while just to suss it out/ And what I laid down up my snout didn’t help me none

Cause you held my soul in your hands/ It sifted through your fingers like fine silver sand/ Well I don’t need a swimming pool/ I don’t need to hang records on the wall/ I just want you babe and that’s all/ I’ll say no more

I laid all my cards on the table/ I can give you what you need now I’m able to/ Now I tell you how I feel I hope you come through/ Cause if you’re the sea then I’m your rock/ And if I’m the key then you’re my lock/ Well if you’re a foot then I’m your sock so wear me well

Don’t go away all alone/ Don’t leave me here babe with just this one-way telephone/ Without you I ain’t no big shot / Even now looks like I hit the jackpot/ I just need you babe, that’s my long shot/ I can say no more

Say no more by Steve Marriott

One Steve led to another

I was introduced to Steve Marriott in my mid-teens via another Steve who was in class with me. Steve Colley played me the 1971 album Humble Pie Performance : Rockin’ the Filmore more than once when I’d stayed for tea at his house after school, and that was where I first picked up on Steve Marriott‘s voice.

I realised later that Marriott had come through the 60s as the voice of The Small Faces, who had that string of hit singles. When he left to form Humble Pie2 he’d find the creative space he didn’t have with the commercial pressure on the chart-topping Small Faces. By all accounts, he would also plunge deep into an alcohol and drug-driven lifestyle from which there would be no coming back.

I went with our Steve and a group of friends to see Humble Pie at the Charlton Athletic football ground in May 1974. The day was organized by The Who, in full Quadrophenia mode. They invited Montrose, Lindisfarne, Bad Company, Lou Reed, Humble Pie, Maggie Bell and The Who. It was a swelteringly hot, and Humble Pie came on just as the sun’s arc sent us into the shade. Great set with Steve Marriott at his mischevious best.

Photo – Klaus Hiltscher 1972 – Wikipedia

To finish with the Steve Colley story, though, I must mention his alarm clock. He would set up an album on the record deck in his bedroom last thing at night and, when his Mum came in to wake him for school in the morning, she just turned the record on, leaving our Steve to emerge to his chosen music on full blast. His repertoire was generally for quite noisy morning music, with a preference for live albums – Jimi Hendrix and Rory Gallagher having pride of place. He would come into class at the very last minute in the morning – he lived right next to school – with that inimitable Steve-grin and mop of hair. What was that morning’s track? Maybe we’d say “Four Day Creep?” and he’d say “I Walk on Gilded Splinters“. That would mean he’d woken up to side B, not side A of the Filmore album. Either way, he’d woken up to the voice of Steve Marriott, who was the leader of Humble Pie. The small guy at the microphone with the big voice and ready to raise it.

Still want more?

Songster Steve Marriott Say No More – YouTube playlist of the Mariott tracks mentioned in this article.

All Too Beautiful, Steve Marriott’s official biography from 2004.

Retrospective article on Steve Marriott from 2021.

  1. Rod Stewart hitched up with the members of The Small Faces who Marriott left to form The Faces, no longer small. ↩︎
  2. The expression eat humble pie means to admit you were wrong. ↩︎

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1 Comment

  1. P.J.

    I really liked this song! The agility in his voice is delightful, the sound pure and lilting, growling and descending. I ain’t got no problem with the “datedness”! Thank you for this discovery.

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