Review - All Or Nothing: The Authorised Story Of Steve Marriott by Simon Spence

There have been a few books on Steve Marriott, one of which, I literally vanquished from my Kindle because it was so bad. All Or Nothing: The Authorised Story Of Steve Marriott by Simon Spence, published in March 2021, is a different kettle of fish.

 Dispensing with the usual narrative style of a biography, the book is comprised of an exhaustive set of interviews with Steve’s family, band mates, friends, managers, road crew, record label people, acquaintances, partners – and, well, I did say it was exhaustive. The work that has gone into it is impressive. The problem is that when others have tried to tell Steve’s story is that it’s not the full shilling. Accuracy has gone out the window and, certainly in the case of the book banished from my Kindle, personal agendas have been the cause, not necessarily beneficial to Steve and those close to him.

Steve Marriott is a complex figure. What can’t be called into question is his talent: he was literally able to play any instrument he lay his hands on, from harmonica, to guitar, piano, and keyboards. His voice was astronomical. He was small in stature, and this added to the shock of those seeing him sing live or in the studio for the first time. In the book, reactions can pretty much be summed up as they couldn’t believe the voice coming out of this little guy. And he could write songs brilliantly.

On a personal level, it appears that Steve could either be loved or hated. Some describe him as a lovely guy, others found him incredibly difficult. There were those who, like Small Faces bandmate and close friend, Ronnie Lane for instance, saw both sides. The book doesn’t shy away from this, nor does it shy from the difficult relationship Steve had with his parents, who appear to have lived their dreams through him. Then there were the various degrees of success of his career, replete with sketchy managers.

Steve was famous from an early age, having started as an urchin in Lionel Bart’s Oliver! He then became something of a child star but caused consternation with his family when he gave it up to chase a career in music. The success of The Small Faces came about fairly early after the band started when Steve was eighteen. A theme throughout the book is that Steve would leave a band just as it became successful. In an interview, Steve said he did not like things to become formulaic, instead enjoying a band on the rise.

Another strong theme through the book is Steve’s drug and alcohol problems that could wreak havoc. Those interviewed for the book hold no bones when discussing this. Steve had an alter-ego, Melvin the bald wrestler who went on the rampage after enough cocaine and alcohol was consumed. Later on, Steve couldn’t recall what had happened and would get upset when told about it. Some suggest in the book that he had mental health issues – there were certainly lots of instances where he collapsed with nervous exhaustion from sheer overwork.

 And for all that, there were the warmer moments – from Steve cooking, something he loved, and telling a friend the greater points of slow cookers, his love of Noel Coward and reading, supporting Ronnie Lane with his struggles with MS and bringing his first wife Jenny home from hospital at the start of their relationship to a safe haven that allowed her recovery. And there is also his love of animals.

 Overall, the book presents a very complex character in a way that is neither extremely reverential, nor completely damning. In other words, for all the awe and admiration Steve draws as a music legend, he was also a person with his virtues and flaws like anyone.

 It’s a book that any music fan worth their salt should take a look at and one that fans of Steve Marriott wanting to find out more about the man need to pick up above the others.