30 Days in the Hole 45 RPM single (promotional copy)
In late 1968, Steve Marriott, then a member of the Small Faces, formed Humble Pie with Greg Ridley (bass guitar, formerly of Spooky Tooth), Peter Frampton (guitar, formerly of The Herd), and Jerry Shirley (drums, formerly of Apostolic Intervention). Because all members had formerly been in high-profile groups, many considered Humble Pie a “supergroup”, and they were signed to Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate label. Their debut single, “Natural Born Bugie”, was released in July 1969 and eventually reached #4 on the U.K. singles chart. This was followed by the album “As Safe As Yesterday Is”, released in August 1969, which reached #32 in the U.K. The band was on tour in the U.S. when their second album, “Town And Country” (1969) was released later that year, and was a more acoustic-oriented album than its predecessor. Immediate Records was facing financial difficulties when the album was released, and without any promotional money to back it, the album was a commercial failure. In 1970, the band switched to A&M Records and Dee Anthony became their manager. Focusing on the U.S. market, the band abandoned its acoustic material, and recorded a louder, tighter and heavier-sounding follow-up to “Town And Country” – “Humble Pie” (1970), which, like its predecessor, failed to chart, as did a single from the album, “Big Black Dog”. The band started to gain a reputation as a solid live band, however, and the next album, “Rock On” (1971), was their most successful album up to that point, reaching #118 in the U.S. It was also Frampton’s last with Humble Pie, as he quit following the supporting tour. A May 1971 concert at the Fillmore East was recorded and became the basis for their subsequent live album, “Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore” (1971), a double album which reached #21 in the U.S. and became their first RIAA-certified gold record. Its popularity also helped “Rock On” reach gold record status as well. An edited version of “I Don’t Need No Doctor” reached #73 on the Billboard singles chart. Dave “Clem” Clempson replaced Peter Frampton, and the band recorded their fifth studio album, “Smokin'” (1972). This song featured two singles: “Hot ‘n’ Nasty” b/w “You’re So Good To Me” (U.S. #52), and “30 Days in the Hole” b/w “Sweet Peace and Time”. The latter is today’s featured single.
“30 Days in the Hole” was one of Humble Pie’s signature tunes, and in many ways defines their straightforward approach to heavy blues rock. It starts off with the backing singers singing “30 days in the hole” repeatedly, before the song starts in earnest about 30 seconds into the track. The chord progression is relatively simple: D-E-D-E-A-E-A-E during the intro; then A-E repeatedly throughout most of the verses (except D-E for the last line), and A-E during the chorus. The lyrics reference many types of illegal drugs: “Chicago green, talkin’ ’bout Black Lebanese/A dirty room and a silver coke spoon/Give me my release, come on/Black napalese, it’s got you weak in your knees/Just seeds and dust that you got bust on [borstal?]/You know it’s hard to believe”. The song title itself was supposedly inspired by a line in the 1938 Humphrey Bogart film “Angels With Dirty Faces”, and was also one of the first songs to which Clempson contributed. Ridley’s bass isn’t heard until almost a minute into the song, but when it does chime in, it fills out the sound quite nicely, adding to the track’s funky ambience, and the rhythm section does a good job on this track. Humble Pie isn’t afraid to stay close to their blues roots, and about 2 minutes and 19 seconds into the track, Marriott’s harmonica can be heard during the song’s only instrumental break. This break is followed by another Other countries, including the U.K., put “C’mon Everybody” and “Road Runner” on the flipside (both songs were tracks from “Smokin'”); the single did not chart in the U.S. Nevertheless, it became one of the band’s better-known songs, and has been covered by bands such as Mr. Big and Gov’t Mule.
The B-side of this single, “Sweet Peace and Time”, is a great rocker, and one of the reasons why this single gets the nod as today’s featured single over “Hot ‘n’ Nasty”, which admittedly is also a great song. The song is anchored by a simple riff, and simple-yet-contemporary lyrics: “Don’t want war, no/Don’t give me preachin’/Don’t want love/No fancy teachin’/All I want’s/Sweet peace and time/Wake up my mind”. An even heavier song than “30 Days in the Hole”, without that songs funky undertones, this song is pure, high-octane hard rock for which Led Zeppelin would have killed. The song boasts three instrumental breaks, the first occurring about 2 minutes into the song; the second, 3 minutes and 30 seconds in, and the third, occurring 4 minutes and 30 seconds into the song, takes up the remainder of the song, so there’s plenty of time for Clempson and Ridley (especially Clempson) to shine. On an album that contained several cover versions, “Sweet Peace and Time”, written by Marriott, Ridley and Shirley, stands out as one of the stronger of the band’s original compositions.
The single (catalog #: 1366) was released by A&M Records in September 1972. As far as I know, there was no picture sleeve. The label was typical of A&M single releases in this era, with the song title on the top, artist and production info on the bottom, and the A&M logo on the left side. The single shown in the picture accompanying this article is a promotional single which had “30 Days In The Hole” on both sides of the record (stereo on one side and mono on the other). The band followed up “Smokin'” with a double album, “Eat It” (1973), which featured 3 sides of studio tracks and 1 side of live material; it reached #13 in the U.S. Their next album, “Thunderbox”, featured a back-to-basics approach, and sold well, reaching #52 in the U.S. By now, both Marriot and Ridley had lost interest in Humble Pie, but they owed A&M another album, and thus one final studio album, “Street Rats”, was released in February 1975. The group disbanded afterwards, although Marriott would form a new lineup in 1979, bringing back Jerry Shirley on drums and adding Bobby Tench (guitar, vocals) and Anthony “Sooty” Jones”. The resulting album, “On To Victory”, reached #60 in the U.S., and a single from the album, “Fool for a Pretty Face”, reached #52. They released one more album, “Go for the Throat”, before disbanding again in 1982. Jerry Shirley formed a new Humble Pie lineup in 1989 in which he was the only original member; this band was briefly put on hold when it appeared that Peter Frampton and Steve Marriott were re-forming Humble Pie. Marriott died in a house fire in April 1991, however, and Shirley revived his band, which disbanded in 1999. He re-formed the band again in 2001 with original bassist Greg Ridley, bringing back Bobby Tench and adding new rhythm guitarist Dave Colwell. This lineup released an album, “Back on Track” (2002), and the response to live shows was encouraging, but Greg Ridley fell ill in late 2002 and the band split up. Ridley died of pneumonia and resulting complications in November 2003.