40 Years Ago: Humble Pie’s ‘Eat It’ Released
Steve Marriott and his boys in Humble Pie were firing on all cylinders at the start of 1973, fueled by the career-high No. 6 chart placing achieved by the previous year’s aptly named ‘Smokin’’ LP, which appeared to indicate the British group’s de facto conquest of America. Now all they had to do was top it.
Fortuitously, this newfound success gave the band a little extra clout with which to ask their label, A&M Records, to indulge some ambitious ideas relating to the recording of next album, which they boldly planned to entitle ‘Eat It.’
For starters, ‘Eat It’ would be a double-LP and, for seconds, it would feature an expanded lineup supplementing Marriott, guitarist Dave “Clem” Clempson, bassist Greg Ridley and drummer Jerry Shirley with sax player Sidney George and trio of back-up singers dubbed The Blackberries, whose past exploits included stints with both Ike & Tina Turner and Ray Charles as the Ikettes and Raelettes, respectively.
What’s more, each of ‘Eat It’s’ four vinyl sides would capture a different side of Humble Pie – thus presumably giving fans of all stripes a little bit of what they fancied, plus a whole lot more of what they needed in order to appreciate the full breadth of the band’s talents.
Released in April 1973, ‘Eat It’s’ Side One boasted four, brand new Marriott-penned hard blues numbers dripping with extra R&B sauce courtesy of Humble Pie’s new supporting cast, including a very tongue-in-cheek ‘Good Booze and Bad Women’ and extra funky ‘Drugstore Cowboy.’
Side Two featured a quartet of cover songs, which, as any Humble Pie devotee will tell you, the band was especially brilliant at reinventing – namely a stinging romp through Ike & Tina’s ‘Black Coffee’ and soulful treatment of Ray’s ‘I Believe to My Soul,’ where the sheer power of Marriott’s voice could be appreciated in all its glory.
For Side Three, Marriott revisited his softer side, not really seen since the band’s tentative first albums, pre-A&M, but totally justified by the naked acoustic sensitivity heard on “Say No More,” soft country twang of ‘Summer Song’ and easy-riding swing of ‘Beckton Dumps’ (which no doubt taught the Black Crowes a trick or ten).
Finally, Side Four showcased Humble Pie in their natural element: the concert stage, motoring through one of their heaviest songs ever in the devastating ‘Up Our Sleeve’ and stretching their chops across a thirteen-minute jam on the Motown nugget, ‘(I’m A) Road Runner’ – clearly in an effort to try (but fail) to top ‘Rockin’ the Fillmore’s’ face-melting cover of ‘I Don’t Need No Doctor.”
Alas, for all of its double-trouble, boogie rock goodness, ‘Eat It,’ couldn’t match its predecessor’s chart placement, but reached a nearly as respectable no 13, nevertheless, giving every indication that Humble Pie’s assault on America was in abundant good health.
Unfortunately, decreasing sales and disagreements with their record label were just around the corner for Humble Pie, and, as history would have it, ‘Eat It’ proved to be not their career’s coronation, but the first slip on the downward slope of success.