Itchycoo Park

Album: There Are But Four Small Faces (1967)
Charted: 3 16
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  • Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane of Small Faces wrote this song, which is about skipping school to hang out at a park. Of course, with the lyrics, "What did you do there? I got high," it was fairly obvious that they were doing in the park, although the band denied that it was about drugs, kind of like John Lennon did with "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," which was released the same year. Marriott told Creem in 1975: "The thing about 'Itchycoo Park' was that the era was wrong, and the word 'high' freaked everybody out. All the radio stations. But that song was real. Ronnie Lane and I used to go to a park called Itchycoo Park. I swear to God. We used to bunk off school and groove there. We got high, but we didn't smoke. We just got high from not going to school."
  • "Itchycoo Park" is the nickname of Little Ilford Park in London. An "Itchycoo" is slang for a flower found in the park called a "Stinging Nettle," which can burn the skin if touched. Said Lane: "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."
  • This was the biggest American hit Small Faces ever had (they were much more popular in England), but according to Ronnie Lane, they considered it a joke when they recorded it; the band would screw around in the studio to get a laugh out of their manager Andrew Oldham. The song came out sounding so good that they started to take it seriously.
  • Regarding the origins of this song, Ronnie Lane explained in a 1991 interview with Record Hunter: "'Itchycoo Park' basically came from me. I lifted it from a hymn, 'God Be In My Head,' and I also got the theme to the words in a hotel in Bath or Bristol. There was a magazine in the room with a rambling account of some place in the country and it was about 'dreaming spires' and a 'bridge of sighs' – there was a write-up on this town – and I just thought they were nice lines."
  • This song features one of the first uses of phase-shifting production, which you can hear when the vocals and drums become distorted in the song. The technique was called comb filtering, which could later be created using a processor, but at the time required three tape machines - two of them playing the same thing at different frequencies and the third one recording it. According to Glyn Johns, who engineered the sessions, it was a staff producer at Olympic Studios named George Chkiantz who came up with the effect, and Johns was looking for a place to use it. The Faces were always looking for new sounds and encouraged Johns to use the technique on this song.

    Keyboardist Ian McLagan recalled to Uncut magazine: "We tried to replicate the phasing effect when we played it live. It was hopeless."
  • In the UK, this became a hit for the second time when it was rereleased in 1975, going to #9. A cover my M People made #11 in the UK in 1995.
  • On its release, the BBC immediately banned the song because of overt drug references - "What did you do there? - I got high" and "I feel inclined to blow my mind, get hung up, feed the ducks with a bun, They all come out to groove about, Be nice and have fun in the sun."

    So Small Faces manager Tony Calder explained the song had an innocent interpretation. In Marriott's biography, All Too Beautiful, by Paolo Hewitt and John Hellier, Calder says: "We told the BBC Itchycoo Park was waste ground in the East End which the band had played on as kids. We put the story out at ten and by lunchtime we were told the ban was off."
  • McLagan (from Uncut magazine): "I never liked 'Itchycoo Park' because me and Ronnie had to sing, 'It's all too beautiful,' and you sing that a few times, and you think... It's not."

    "But years after that I'd finally, properly, checked out the words, and realised it was about education and privilege," he added. "The 'bridge of sighs' is the one in Cambridge. The 'dreaming spires' are a reference to Oxford. Then 'to Itchycoo Park... That's where I've been,' Ronnie was saying, 'I didn't need privilege or education. Found beauty in a nettle patch in the East End of London."

Comments: 30

  • Steve from EdinburghNope. Nettles and itchycoos are two completely different things.

    Nettles have leaves covered with spines containing a stinging mixture of formic acid and other irritants. The sting can be lessened by rubbing the affected part with dock leaves.

    Itchycoos are dried out rose hips that, when squeezed open, release dried seeds that can be tipped down the back of someone's shirt or similar: they do not sting, but they do cause horrible itching. I used to dread the return to school at the end of the summer holidays because of them.
  • Al from Rochester, NyPsychedelic revelations…it’s all to beautiful. Definitely Acid inspiration. Give credit where credit is due!
  • Jordan Kamnitzer from Los AngelesThis song was banned on several radio stations, due to the psychedelic drug lyrics dealing with a trip.
  • Patrick from MelbourneAs a post war kid, I saw Steve and the nascent Small Faces appear, during the interval, at a Saturday morning presentation at the Coronation cinema in Manor Park. They were called the Coronation Kids at that stage in their fabulous career. I also played with my mates on our bikes in Itchycoo Park (Little Ilford Park) and experienced the stinging nettles first hand. The Small Faces, such a pivotal band in the history of English pop music.
  • Seattleguy from SeattleSmall Faces charted this song in 1967 while apparently it was 1969 when Rod Stewart replaced the departing Steve Marriott as the singer. Surely Rod was not an unknown to the band when this song was made and in fact I have always enjoyed hearing Rod's voice on Itchycoo Park at the very end, when "It's all too beautifu-u-ul" is sung repeatedly. Rod sings it as " It's ALL too beautifu-u-ul". One had to listen very closely to this part of the song to realize that was him singing in the background because his voice was not emphasized in the recording. I recall this because I always enjoyed showing this to my friends whenever the song came on the radio in pre-internet days, to their delight. In the last several years, however, somebody must have remixed the song because when I now hear the song on the radio his voice at the end is now very much emphasized, compared to how it used to be years ago.
  • Max from OxfordAs I bet you already know, the Small Faces were signed to Don Arden who was infamous for being a cruel and violent business manager. This is the father who allegedly set his dogs on his pregnant daughter Sharon Osbourne, (Ozzie's wife). She lost the child and refused to have anything to do with him for over 20 years.
    When the Small Faces split they lost Steve Marriott but gained Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, becoming The Faces. Ronnie later joined the Stones.
  • Max from Oxford"Gor blimey 'allo Mrs Jones, How's your Bert's lumbago? (Now mustn't grumble...)". Who else would get away with a line like this is into a song? I suspect very few vocalists could - possibly Ian Hunter. Marriott (bless him) was a master at singing in a cod Cockney accent and this comes to the fore on the album "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake" where certain phrases are embellished with an exaggerated Cockney flat 'a' sound at the end of a sentence. (Pronounced as the 'a' in 'at'). Example: in 'Rene' he sings 'love is like an 'ole in the wall-a, a lineup in the warehaase, no trouble at all, and if you've got the munnee, you'll have a ball... she'll 'ave yours-a' etc.
  • Steve from New York, NyThis song is phenomenal - it captures the joy of just taking a day to blow everything off and dig the sunshine, green grass and blue skies! And if you want to hear an absolutely BRILLIANT cover version - check out the Blue Murder (lead guitarist and vocalist John Sykes of Whitesnake fame) version - it stays true to the original while adding some ass-kicking heavy metal type riffs. Will never ever forget one time on vacation in California - 1st day at Venice Beach - 83 degrees, bright sunshine, immaculate blue sky, gorgeous girls in skimpy bikinis everywhere you turn! All of a sudden some dude hits the boardwalk blaring the Sykes version of "Itchycoo" on the was a moment that, like the song says, was just all...too...beautiful!
  • Diane from Los Angeles, Cait's been that kind of week, i kept hearing itchykoo park over and over in my head until i had to hear the lyrics again and smoke a bud!
  • Robynjoy from Auckland, New ZealandI was at high school when i first heard this song, although there were many artists, groups around, Steve Marriott and the Small Faces were TOPS. I loved this song and still do to this day
  • Frank from Granchester Meadows, Greenland"Green Circles" is another great one off of this album. does anyone remember that one?
  • Nady from Adelaide, AustraliaMy dad used to play this song all the time when I was little:)
  • Stormy from Kokomo, InThis song brings back huge memories of my senior year in high school in Kokomo, Indiana in 1968. I loved all of the so-called "psychedelic" songs back then and shows like Ed Sullivan who would have these groups on a Sunday evening show. Unfortunately, none of the so-called "oldies" radio stations of today play some of these "obscure" songs that we all loved from the 60's. Songs like this one, "Pictures of Matchstick Men", "Sugar on Sunday", etc. Thanks to Songfacts, we can relive our youth! Thanks!
    Stormy, Kokomo, Indiana
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesDon K. Miles, when you find that time machine, take me with you. Itchycoo Park, Different Drum, Incense and Peppermints, Tomorrow, Reflections, Hot Smoke and Sassafras, Pretty Ballerina, Green Tambourine, Pictures of Matchstick Men, Groovin', Light My Fire, Crimson and Clover, Marrakesh Express, Wear Your Love Like Heaven, Jennifer Juniper, (that whole *album*!), San Francisco, Reach Out in the Darkness, White Rabbit, Mr. Tambourine Man, White Room, Light My Fire, even Spill the Wine...
  • Steve from Atoka, OkI was playing in a rock band in the sixties in lawton, ok. This was during vietnam and lawton is a military town (Fort Sill), we played behind chicken wire because of fights throwing beer bottles and chairs, but there was this soft beautiful song on the juke box that i would play every break called Itchacoo Park. I loved it and I never hear it anymore. It brings back a lot of memories. We were the caretakers.
  • Jack from Jacksonville, Hijesse and red were trying to be a part of this band but couldn't make the grade
  • Neil from East London, Englandmy father grew up in manor park from late 40s into the sixties and was an avid mod at that height of the times.he also knew marriott as a teenager.he used to tell me about little ilford park being localy known as itchycoo park long before the song came out.supposedly this came about from the tales of young teenagers getting amourous in the park getting stung etc and comming home with fluffy dandelion like seeds stuck to their clothes
  • Lester from New York City, NySteve Marriott, of course, went on to front 'Humble Pie', a group that included some incredible guitar playing by Peter Frampton. Steve died in a fire in his home a number of years ago.
  • Eddie from Elkesley, Englandin 67 when i was 16. it didnt matter about the lyrics.the song was so different.and steve marriots voice was awesome. it inspired the song.
  • Julian from Minneapolis, MnA great song, a seminal band. Some sounds in common with the early Who -- no wonder Kenney Jones was asked to join after Keith Moon passed.
  • Fremont from Concord, NhWow, this sounds so much like Zeppelin. You can tell that Led Zeppelin was inspired by these guys.
  • Rob from Vancouver, CanadaGreat song....underrated band
  • Fyodor from Denver, CoWonder if this was an influence on The Beatles' "It's All Too Much"? The Beatles song was released in 1969 but recorded in 1967.
  • George from Richmond, VaLoved the weed back then and this song was made to get high to.
  • Leya Qwest from Anchorage, AkFeeding ducks with a bun, eh?
  • Don K. Miles from Colonial Heights, VaOne of many and yet a handful of definitive, in the moment "60's" songs. Bells, beads, flowers, fringed vests, purple suede boots. Just a week, just one more week, please.
  • Fintan from Cheltenham, EnglandThe title comes from an overgrown bit of bomb-site wasteland full of nettles (itchy...get it?) in Millais Avenue, E12 where Ronnie Lane used to play.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyThis was the group "Faces" before Rod Stewart joined. When Rod became their lead singer ("Stay With Me") they dropped the "Small" portion of the group's name.

  • Chris from Marana, AzWhen I was a junior and senior in college at Rutgers, I used to live across the river from the campus in a town called Highland Park. This was about a mile or two walk from the classrooms. Every day I'd walk down across the bridge to the campus, listening to my walkman. Just before the bridge was this place called Johnson Park.

    Sometimes before I'd go to class I'd get myself in a really good mood. Inevitably this song would come on, on my walkman, and I'd make a sharp right turn into the park instead of responsibly contuining on to class.

    I didn't make it to class too often. I'd sit down by the river watching the ducks and geese and watch the river flow, taking in sun...

    Yeah, this is a great song for ditching responsibility to. :)
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesM-People covered this in 1995 - it was big hit in the UK, but many radio DJs were so outraged that they refused to play the cover on request.
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