Humble Pie | Review

Classic Albums Humble Pie

Humble Pie ‘Eat It’ A&M Records 1973

Humble Pie had hit their stride by 1972 having conquered the American Market with sold-out rock arenas and a Gold selling live album. So what was the next step? A very ambitious Soul-infused double album. Multi-faceted and incredibly diverse, Humble Pie’s experiment defied all expectations with the release of ‘Eat It’.

Under the astute management of Dee Anthony who treated his bands and artists like prizefighters, every ‘Pie show was like a title bout where they had to take the trophy home. But ‘Eat It’ was a step away from the stadium rock formula, and back to Steve Marriott’s Mod-Soul roots.

Formed in the late 60’s in the tiny village of Moreton Essex (Pop. 366) Humble Pie was formed by Marriott, the pint-sized ‘Artful Dodger’ from the Small Faces, together with guitarist Peter Frampton from The Herd, Greg Ridley bassist from Spooky Tooth and relatively unknown drummer Jerry Shirley from The Apostolic Intervention. As mentioned, by the time of the release of Eat It, Humble Pie had put a few runs on the board, with albums like ‘Rock On’, ‘Performance Rockin’ The Fillmore’ and ‘Smokin’.

At the height of the success of Rockin’ The Fillmore, guitarist Peter Frampton pulled the pin for a crack at being a solo artist. Once again the management of Dee Anthony steered Frampton to be a household name in the States with the success of Frampton Comes Alive, which sold 8 million copies in the USA alone.

Back to Humble Pie without Frampton, in a coup the remaining three members enlisted Dave ’Clem‘ Clempson from the Prog rockers Colosseum. In 1972 Humble Pie released Smokin’ the first album with Clempson. To say that the band slipped into a higher gear would be an understatement. Constant touring in 1972 sharpened their tools and in terms of live performances ‘Pie were right up there with The Who, The Stones and Led Zeppelin.

In drummer Jerry Shirley’s autobiography entitled ‘The Best Seat In the House‘, he claims Jimmy Page and Robert Plant had scrambled to get seats to a Humble Pie show, proving they were a very different band with Clempson. Frampton’s playing replaced by a grittier and rougher sounding Clempson.

Marriott’s intention on Eat It was to incorporate a more soul-gospel orientated sound. Moving away from the traditional Blues-Rock approach, the band hired a trio of backup singers called The Blackberries, led by Venetta Fields, Clydie King and Billie Barnum, who had previously worked with Ike and Tina Turner.

Venetta Fields later moved to Australia and worked with Richard Clapton and John Farnham among others.

What makes Eat It a stand out after all these years is the diversity Marriott laid out. The rockers were laced with a soul dimension and the acoustic songs added more variety. Side two consists entirely of soul covers and side four finishes off with live tracks recorded at a concert in Glasgow.

When the first song ‘Get Down To It‘ starts, its intro gives no clue what’s about to unfold. What happens is a joy of fused elements resulting in a damn fine pop-soul song. Ridley’s bass work punctuating Marriott’s white soul singing. It’s Marriott magic throughout - not only with his writing but that little Englishman could sure belt it out! His vocals, incongruous with his diminutive frame. But the Small Faces always did punch above their weight!

Next up is ‘Good Booze and Bad Women‘ with Clemson unleashing a fast and slick solo. For Marriott the lyrics of this song would well prove life was more than imitating art!

“Got 24 hours to get rich, Get rich
I'm having shorties with the roadies
While the group is knocked out with turn tails
Tonight I'm a rambler“

Steve’s life sadly ended aged 44 when he fell asleep with a lit cigarette which burnt down his house with him in it.

Eat It was recorded at a time when Marriott was experiencing marital problems hence the acoustic compositions seem incredibly personal, particularly track three “Is it for Love‘.  

Side one finishes with ‘Drugstore Cowboy‘ with the lyrics carrying an obscure message:

“I've been resting, a drugstore cowboy
Higher than a hawk's nest
I was let down by an East End plowboy
Who needed more time to rest
Oh I had to rest and think again.“

Could Frampton (from SE London) be the mystery ‘East End ploughboy’? It’s a straight out rocker once again with the Blackberries adding that soul element.

Side two is where Marriott takes his white soul persona to another level, getting the groove going with Ike and Tina Turner’s ‘Black Coffee’. If that isn’t convincing enough, Marriott’s treatment of Ray Charles’ ‘I Believe To My Soul’ earns him his stripes. If there was any doubt that little nugget Steve couldn’t cut it with the best of the black soul singers, this performance alone should put the matter to rest.

Side two continues with ‘Shut up and Don’t Interrupt Me’ by Edwin Starr and Johnny Bristol. The tempo is fast and funky, featuring some fine sax work by Sidney George.

Roosevelt Jamison’s ‘That’s How Strong my Love Is’ is an epic finish to side two with Marriott’s vocals matching the power of the Blackberry singers effortlessly.

Side three takes us on an entirely different journey with the acoustic ballads. The opener ‘Say No More‘ pleads:

“I just want you Babe
And that's all
I'll say no more
I laid all my cards on the table”

Its time to get personal and Marriott is also incredibly open on the next two songs ‘Oh Bella’ and ‘Summer Song‘.

But it’s the closing track of side three ‘Beckton Dumps’ that gets my vote. It’s a jaunty rocker with a great riff and it’s impossible not to get your feet moving on this one. It’s a humorous day-in-the-life of Mr Marriott at home, hiding the dope in case the police visit, etc. Great stuff!

“Well, I feel too old to get a hair cut,
And I ain’t had a shave in months.
Now when I don't go out I keep my door shut,
And I get on back to good old Beckton Dumps”

Side four of Eat It is a live show from Glasgow featuring only three songs. This is the Humble Pie you would be familiar with - long solos, thumping bass and a bellowing Marriott.

Starting with ‘Up Our Sleeve’ and then a Stones tribute with ‘Honky Tonk Women‘ and closing with a 13 minute cover of the Holland-Dozier penned ‘Road Runner’.

Humble Pie’s fall from grace came soon after this album. The following albums Thunderbox and Street Rats both released in 1975 signaled the end for that incredible line-up.

Harry Steilus

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