Kenney Jones on Good Boys... When They're Asleep

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Big Lift for Small Faces
by David Belcher
The Herald, Glasgow, 5 Mar 1999

OVER the past decade Kenney Jones has been heartened to see a real growth in the influence of the music he helped co-create more than 30 years ago in the Small Faces. You can hear the Small Faces' perky and melodic power-pop pulsing away at the heart of Manic Street Preachers and Supergrass, for instance.

The band's gutsy r&b has also long motivated Paul Weller, while their indomitable brand of Cockney music-hall vitality was plainly detectable in Blur at their Anglo-pop peak on Parklife, when Damon Albarn was at his most forward-looking and down-to-earth.

Additionally, the Small Faces' enduring modernist worth was reverentially saluted three years ago on the tribute album Long Agos And Worlds Apart, a collection of affectionate cover-versions of Small Faces' songs recorded by such historically-informed nineties bands as Primal Scream, Dodgy, and Gene.

Yet there's long been a problem hearing the Small Faces' recordings of their own songs during their creative late-sixties peak with the Immediate label. "They were always on different albums, different compilations," says Jones. What's more, they were usually shoddily-packaged and un-remastered albums which earned their creators little reward, either.

"For years we'd see no money at all, or maybe sporadic amounts, peppercorn amounts. When Immediate went bust in 1969, the music had been sold off to all and sundry." A sad story, made even sadder by the premature deaths of two of the band's founders. Steve Marriott died in a fire at his home in 1991; Ronnie Lane's long struggle against multiple sclerosis ended in 1997.

Now, though, Jones and his fellow survivor from the quartet, Ian McLagan, stand on the eve of a major upturn in the band's fortunes. The forthcoming release of a boxed-set of Small Faces singles coincides with a legal victory. "We're about to win our publishing rights back," says Jones, "and so for the first time we're going to be in control."

What this means in the long term is new life for Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, the 1968 concept album which principal songwriters Marriott and Lane envisioned as London's riposte to the Beatles' Sgt Pepper. "I'm effectively executive producer of a full-length animated film inspired by the same sentiments as the album," says Jones, emphasising the project will be more than a series of promo videos in cartoon form.

"Looking at it again, it was clear Ogden's was thin on story-line, so we've had to beef that up. There'll be additional characters, too, and Pete Townsend is writing two extra songs. We're going to re- arrange and re-work the album's seven existing songs, re-recording them with a bunch of artists whose names I can't confirm right now."

One name can be confirmed, though - that of a London boy with some acting experience. Drums and sings a bit. Chap called Phil Collins. ''He's got that proper Cockney tone to him," says Jones.

So, of course, has Kenney Jones. Over the past 30 years he's risen from a humble boyhood in London's East End, via bedrock membership of Rod Stewart's prime propellants, the Faces, and a stint as a Rolling Stone, to his current status as squire of 250 verdant acres of Surrey upon which stands his pride and joy, the Hurtwood Polo and Country Club.

"Weird, innit?" says Jones. "I blame Stevie Marriott. One summer's afternoon before the band even had a name, we were rehearsing in a room above a London pub, and Stevie said he'd got friends with horses in Essex, and we should bunk off out of the city and have a go. So we did. I was 14; I'd barely seen a horse, let alone ridden one, but I took to it like a duck to water. I've ridden ever since. The polo club came about because I bought a house with 70 acres, and then got chance to buy the adjoining 180 acres. It's a proper polo club, not a snobby one - Britain's best, I reckon."

Recognising his good fortune in overcoming social disadvantage to make the most of himself, Kenney Jones is commendably keen to assist those whose circumstances aren't quite as happy. "I'd hope to launch Ogden's as a live spectacle over two or three nights at the Albert Hall, say, for charity. As a classical piece, with an orchestra and specially-invited singers. Plus I've recently worked out how to do a proper tribute to Ronnie Lane - I'd hope to do an open-air version of Long Agos And Worlds Apart in Ronnie's memory here at the polo club.

"That would be for the same children's charity, Small Faces For Small Faces, I helped set up when I began to get the feeling we weren't doing enough with what's a great name."

Your feeling now towards the huge reputation that the Small Faces have always had?

"For a long time it was as though I wasn't allowed to forget anything that happened in the five years the band existed because they were so popular. The great thing now is being able to stand back and be objective about the Small Faces . . . to become a fan. See, when we were in the band we couldn't figure out what on earth people saw in us - we were just kids having a lot of fun.

"In some ways we were ahead of our time, too, and it's been nice to have compliments from bands like Oasis and Paul Weller, and from the Britpop movement in general, and to feel that we helped bring back good old-fashioned honest bands who could play."

Kenney Jones's own playing these days is usually restricted to occasional low-key local pub gigs with some of his neighbours, these neighbours including such stalwarts of the original Britrock era as Mike Rutherford, John Wetton, and Phil Manzanera. Another denizen of Surrey, erstwhile screen idol Oliver Tobias, has been known to provide vocals. "I call them my secret band. We only play for charity, to give something back to the kids. You can't keep taking. You've got to give stuff back."

Thanks for all you've continued to give all of us over the years, Your Small Facefulness.

 

 

 


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