The Small Faces
The astonishing story of the Mod legends and their ill-fated frontman, Steve Marriott: There was something in his psyche, says his Humble Pie bandmate Peter Frampton. Some huge problem
There was A lot of catching up to do when I interviewed Roy Harper for the feature in this month's issue. We've kept in touch, sometimes vaguely, rather more regularly recently, but I hadn't seen him for many years, one thing or another scuppering various plans to get together. With Roy fast approaching his 70th birthday, talk between us meandered around the subject of how he'd be remembered. There was much laughter when it seemed to him that it might be for kissing a sheep. This was a story put about when people were wondering what had happened to him after he was hospitalised in the early '70s for what was eventually diagnosed as a serious degenerative condition.
They did all these tests, he explains. They said they were going to do an angiogram to see what was happening in my lungs. They shove a catheter up your ephemera and feed a tube into your heart and lungs. Then they shoot this dye through it. The surgeon said, When I count to three, you'll feel like your head's been blown off, but don't worry about it. I said, Fine. I'm always up for a new experience, fire away. It was quite an experience, a lot hairier than I expected.
That's when they discovered I had polycythemia, which means I was producing too many red blood cells and that I'd have to lose a pint of blood a month forever. Anyway, while they were still sorting all this out, the press started asking questions about what was wrong with me. At the time, BP Fallon was doing my PR. He knew there hadn't been a diagnosis, but he'd been with me when the doctors asked what I'd recently been up to that might have made me ill, and I told them I'd tried to bring a still-born lamb back to life by cupping my hands around its mouth and blowing into them. I actually never touched the lamb at all, but in Fallon's version of events I'd ended up in hospital after giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a sheep.
This was the story that went out to a ludicrous number of newspapers. Suddenly I'm president of The North-East Lancashire Sheep Shaggers Association. For years, it was the only thing people wanted to talk about, how I nearly died after kissing a sheep. I spent years trying to explain what had happened and in the end just gave up and went along with it. I mean, why not?