In 1969, a new supergroup was born. Consisting of former Small Faces lead vocalist and guitarist Steve Marriott, vocalist and guitarist Peter Frampton from The Herd, Spooky Tooth bassist Greg Ridley, and drummer Jerry Shirley from The Apostolic Intervention, the band’s potential was enormous. That potential would end in bitter disappointment, poor record sales, and acrimony just 6 years later, reducing Humble Pie to a footnote in rock history. But while they never enjoyed the lasting success of some of their contemporaries, they still delivered some of the finest rock and roll moments of the 1970s. Here, we count down the 10 best Humble Pie songs of all time.
10. Black Coffee
When Humble Pie recorded a cover, they made it their own. Their version of Ike and Tina Turner’s “Black Coffee” took the basics of the original, shook them up, and refashioned them into a supremely tasty slice of Pie. Described by Society of Frock as ‘alive,’ ‘allegorical’ and ‘as hot as a fresh cup of morning brew,’ the song features one of the best vocal performances of Steve Marriott’s career. The decision to counter his raspy vocals with the sublime harmonies of the Blackberries was inspired. It may not have made much of an impression on the charts, but time has proved it one of the best and most popular Humble Pie songs ever made.
9. Shine On
By 1971, Peter Frampton was ready to spread his wings. Humble Pie’s fourth album, “Rock On,” is the last to feature the original line up of the band, and the last opportunity to hear some of Frampton’s songwriting before he flew the nest. As Ultimate Classic Rock notes, in contrast to Marriott’s exuberant, hard-rocking blues, Frampton’s efforts were always meeker and milder, although no less listenable. “Shine On” is classic Frampton, and would later help push him to full-on rock star status when he included it on the monster hit, “Frampton Comes Alive!”
By 1974, Humble Pie were still capable of making great music, but commercially, they’d started slipping further and further behind contemporaries like the Who and the Rolling Stones. A hastily put together album of mainly covers named after a 17th-century slang term for toilet wasn’t necessarily what the record label was hoping for, but that’s what they got in 1974’s “Thunderbox.” It wasn’t a bad record, but neither was it a great one. It stalled at No.52 in the US and failed to chart in the UK at all. But there’s still some diamonds among the rough, not least the titular track, a hard-rocking piece of blues nicely sweetened with some sublime backing vocals from the Blackberries.
7. Up Our Sleeve
Any questions over Steve Marriott’s status as one of the best blue-eyed soul singers of all time are laid to rest on “Up Our Sleeve.” A straight-up piece of hard rock, Marriott’s raspy vocals are devastating in their power. His guitar licks are none too shabby either, standing up nicely against Clem Clempson’s pulverizing riffs. It’s not subtle, but that’s the point.
6. Live With Me
By the time their self-titled third album was released in 1970, Humble Pie were moving away from the mellow sounds of their early days into hard rock territory. The album wasn’t faultless by any stretch of the imagination, but it had a couple of nuggets, including the epic, organ-heavy “Live With Me.” With a superb vocal from Peter Frampton and an atmospheric climax, it’s one of the most listenable tracks on an otherwise so-so album.
5. Hot ‘N’ Nasty
Peter Frampton’s departure from Humble Pie in 1971 didn’t signal the end of the band, either in terms of output or success. Their first outing after his departure came in the form of 1972’s “Smokin’,” a sensational album that quickly became their biggest selling album up to that point. With its combination of sizzling covers and fiery originals, it was exactly as the title claimed. The funky, R&B-inspired “Hot ‘N’ Nasty” is one of the best tracks, with Marriott turning in an incredible performance and Clem Clempson proving a more than worthy replacement for Frampton.
4. Natural Born Bugie
When Humble Pie first got together, they had no intention of being a singles band. But if a record label wants a single, a single is what they’re going to get. Despite pushback from Marriott (who, at the time at least, associated singles with screaming teens rather than serious music fans), the band dropped their first single in 1969. Timed between their first and second albums, “Natural Born Bugie” was an earthy, groove-packed piece of boogie that showed the world exactly who and what Humble Pie was, and exactly why we should care.
3. I Don’t Need No Doctor
Cover versions are always tricky, with few ever quite managing to best the original. But occasionally, it happens, and in 1971, it happened for Humble Pie when they delivered a scorching reinterpretation of Ray Charles’ “I Don’t Need No Doctor.” Ranked by Return of Rock as one of the best Humble Pie songs of all time, “I Don’t Need No Doctor” is a powerhouse of a song, with a take no prisoners attitude and a funky rhythm that pushes what was already a great song into new heights of glory.
2. Stone Cold Fever
“Rock On” might not have been the greatest Humble Pie album ever made, but it did at least give us one of their greatest songs. “Stone Cold Fever” is a tour de force. Killer rock riffs rub shoulders with jazzy solos and refined intermissions, showing a level of diversity the band rarely indulged in, but that provided a welcome reprieve from the straightforward rock and roll they’re best known for.
1. 30 Days in the Hole
“30 Days in the Hole” is a gritty piece of rock and roll that may have failed to chart, but which stands as one of Humble Pie’s most popular songs, and their best. A vengeful, rollicking romp inspired by Marriott’s arrest for drug possession, its simmering aggression does nothing to detract from its funky delivery. Covered by everyone from Gov’t Mule to The Black Crowes, this is the sound of Humble Pie at their finest.