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Kenney Jones Interview
Conducted November 2000
Hurtwood Park Polo Club

Part One

 

Dave:          When did you first become interested in music?  Were you from a musical family? 

Kenney:         No, I was just a typical East-End kid, growing up in the East End of London, the first generation of war babies after the second world war.  Our playing fields were bomb ruins, the places where bombs had dropped in the war.    

There was a music teacher in our school, and it was quite rough, the school we went to.   She was given a hard time because the school I went to was so rough that nobody concentrated on music.  They weren’t interested in sissy things like that. 

Dave:          Especially the way they did the classes- it wasn’t exactly pop music that they were teaching. 

Kenney:        That’s right.  When I did discover drums, I’d just turned thirteen.  This guy came around to the school and demonstrated wind instruments.  The whole school threw things at him.  One thing always stuck in my mind:  He got fed up and said, “That’s it!  I’m going.   I’ve had enough of you louts.  But I’ll leave you with one thought:  If you play an instrument, you’ll never be lonely.”   That’s stuck with me ever since.

              I was washing cars for pocket money, at five shillings a car.  My mate said we should form a skiffle group.  I said, “Yeah!”.  About ten minutes later I asked, “What’s a skiffle group?”

Dave:          So, Lonnie Donnegan had already hit.

Kenney:         I didn’t know.  When I asked my mate what a skiffle group was, he said, “Well, there’s one on tv tonight.”   Funnily enough, it was Lonnie Donnegan.   I was the early days, 1959 or ’58.    I fell in love with the banjo, because Lonnie was playing one.  I thought, “Phew!  That’s it!” 

             Not long after that, we saw a banjo in a pawnshop in Bethnal Green.  It was right by the Blind Beggar's pub.  The Blind Beggar's pub is a quite notorious gangster’s pub, where the Kray Twins used to hang out.  We were so enthusiastic we went there with no money to buy this banjo.

Dave:          It didn’t matter; you were going to have it!

Kenney:         I was going to have it no matter what.  We get there, and this bloody banjo was gone.  I was so upset.   Then, my friend said, “A mate of mine’s got a couple of drums.  We’ll give him a call and have him bring them around to the house.”  We brought them around to my place, and it was a hot summer’s day so all the windows were open.  My mother was working, and it was our school holiday, so I was the only one in.  I just bashed these drums…

Dave:         I can see what’s coming here…

Kenney:         (Laughter) That’s it!  We annoyed all the neighbors.  My mum comes back, she heard all this noise, couldn’t fucking believe it was coming from her house.  

Dave:         Somebody called her and said, “you’d better get home fast!”

Kenney:         That’s it.  But, that’s how I got the drums.

Dave:         So, I guess the idea of the skiffle band was out?  Nobody played the drums in skiffle groups…

Kenney:         No, it was still in.  When I got my own set of drums, we only had two records in the house.  They were old 78 records.  One was the theme music to “Rawhide”, and the other one was “Twelfth Street Rag.”   So, I learned to play drums to both of those.   I taught myself to those, and various other things.  I really got into it, so then I started to take a keen interest in music.  

I discovered the Shadows, and that was it.  Then I discovered Jimmy McGriff, Booker T and the MGs, Otis Redding, you name it and I discovered it.  And Al Jackson of Booker T and the MGs!  I didn’t know that Booker T and the MGs was actually the backing band for Otis Redding. 

Dave:        For everybody!   They were the house band on that label.

Kenney:         Yeah!   Anyway, he was my favorite drummer.  My favorite drummer, to this day, is Al Jackson.  To be a real drummer, you’ve got to know your place in music.  You can’t try to show off, do rudiments and flash shit.  To be a real drummer, you’ve got to play back and hold the band back, compliment and embellish, and just be simple and just do it right, knowing that you can actually do the flash stuff. 

             Especially in the early days, people used to say to me, “Well, it’s all right, you just play fours and you can’t do anything else.”  I would say, “Oh, yeah?”  Then, I’d let them have it, do all different time changes and shit.  I taught myself really well.  I did a lot of session work and I picked up a lot of things.  I learned to read music in my own sort of way, almost in a day because I had to do one of my first sessions.  [The session] was set up by a guy that was later to be my father-in-law, Tony Osborne.   He was one of England’s top bandleaders, and I was going out with his daughter.  He said, “I’ll get you a session.”  I said, “I don’t want one of those!  That’s too scary!  And, I don’t read music.” 

            He taught me how to read all this complicated stuff, and it was so complicated, but I did learn enough from him.  At this session, they had a string section, a horn section, and a rhythm section.  They had all these sections, and none of them were talking to each other, they stuck to their own cliques.  But, Big Jim Sullivan was in my section… 

Dave:        And this was your first session? 

Kenney:         Yeah!   What was I, fifteen or sixteen years old?   I’d just turned fifteen when we had a hit record in the charts with “Whatcha Gonna Do About It.”  It was just shortly after that, I can’t remember now. 

              Anyway, I’m at the session, the song counts in, and I’m not looking at anybody.  I’m rocking to the music, I’m just concentrating.  Suddenly, we got to a bit where all these accents from the different sections came together, and it frightened the life out of me because they did it at the same time as I read it.  I did it not thinking that anybody would do it with me.  It was so fucking funny!  I sort of stopped, and it wasn’t a mistake… I was just amazed…

Dave:          “It works!” 

Kenney:         People can [make music] without looking at each other, and get it off a bit of paper.  That’s how I first started getting into it.  I felt really proud of myself after the session, and I really got into session work.  I wanted to work with different people, it’s how I ended up working on lots of different people’s records.  There’s a lot [of sessions] that I’ve forgotten about.  I found out recently that I was on the soundtrack to “Wild Geese” or something like that...  One of those war films with a lot of “rat-a-tat-tat” drumming. 

            What made you want to set the Faces website up?  Because it was available, or because you were just keen to do it?

Dave:          No, not even that.  I was doing an interview with Mac to put on an existing site for the Small Faces, Room for Ravers.  Mac said, “there’s not a decent site out there for the Faces, and that’s a shame.”

Kenney:         Yeah.

Dave:          I was about to get a different computer, and that’s exactly what I was going to go in to with it:  building websites.   I said, “shit, well, I’ll do it!”

Kenney:         That’s great!  I’m not computer prolific at the moment.  A friend of mine bought me a laptop, and I’m learning how to type.  I refuse to get into how a computer works until I learn how to type, because I don’t want to sit there [hunting for the keys].  I’m getting better, which is great. 

Dave:          Back to when you were fourteen or so, and you were going through the semi-pro stage… how did you end up in the Outcasts?

Kenney:         After I got this drum kit… I’ll cut a long story short, because it’s all in the history books, otherwise we’ll be talking here for two days.  The long and short of it is that I’d taught myself how to play well enough to these records, the Shadows and stuff like this.  It took about three months [to learn].  Then, suddenly, I heard about this jazz band that was playing in the British Prince pub in Stepney.  It was near the end of the year then, approaching September, so I was still thirteen, about to turn fourteen.   I went along there, trying to pretend that I was seventeen and old enough to drink.  I probably looked like a real schoolboy.  I sat there in front of the band, and I kept looking at the drummer, this guy called Roy.  He played drums, but he sang as well.  It was very much a jazz band.  He had this old Reslo mic, and most drummers in the early days didn’t have any of this boom shit.   It [didn't exist yet], so the only way to get the mic to your mouth was to bring it through the gap between your drums.

            Roy had this terrible habit of blinking [to the beat of his drumming].   And I’m sitting right in front of him, following along, and I start blinking, too!  So he thought I was taking the piss out of him.  At the interval, he came over and said, “Why do you keep looking at me and blinking?!”  I said, “Well, number one, I’ve got a drum kit and I’ve taught meself how to play, and I’ve just never seen a real drummer play.  Number two, you blink.”  “What do you mean I blink?!”  “Well, you blink.  Every time you do a drum fill, you blink the fill-in.”  He said, “I didn’t know I did that…” So, I made him self-conscious.  

The next time I went in there a week later and did the same thing.  I got to know him, which was great.  On one of these occasions, the band stopped and he said, “Right!  We’ve got a special guest, and he’s going to come up and play drums on a song with us.”  I thought, “Oh, this good… I wonder who that is, then.”  I looked round.  Then Roy said, “His name is Kenney Jones.”  You know that shock feeling where it’s like the whole room fills up with water?  PHOOMP!  Anyhow, I got up there and counted in… it was the first time I’d ever played with anybody human.  I felt like I was flying.  I felt like a bird.   I was gone, it just felt so good. 

At the end of that, I sat down and had a beer, totally numb.  The barman came over, sat next to me, and said, “That was really good.  Are you in a band?”  I said, “No.  That was the first time I’ve ever played with anybody.  I want to start a band, though.  That’s what I’m looking to do now.”  “My brother, he’s looking to start a band, as well.” 

D:        Stan was the bartender?

K:        Yeah!  Stan Lane.   So, Stan said, "Should I bring him down next weekend?"  I said, "Yeah, great!"

        Next Friday night, I'm waitin' there.  The doors open, and in walks Ronnie Lane, lookin' like the Beatles but before the Beatles, if you see what I mean.  I'll never forget the first time I met Ronnie.  He had a grey suit on, he looked really cool.  It was mod times, early Italian mod, but he had a starched collar and tie on, and the collar was out here like this, you see.  A big collar and a tie around it, standing out, and every time he turned his head, his collar [and tie would remain in place].  It was so funny!

        At that time he already had a job, cuz he was a bit older than me.  He'd left school, and his job was a plumber's plumber's mate, a plumber's assistant.  In other words, he was a laborer, learning how to plumb. 

D:        An apprentice.

K:        Ronnie and I hit it off great, no problem.  He said, "I've got these guys I'm just playing with in Ilford.  We're looking for a drummer as well.  Why don't you come down [and try out]?

        I went down there and they had this other drummer there as well.  He'd had drum lessons with all the best people, he was born with a spoon up his ass, a little rich kid from the West End.   He played a bit and I thought, "I can't follow that!"  He actually had no rhythm whatsoever, he just did press rolls and other things, really badly- but it impressed the band.  I sat in with Ronnie, but I played straight, like Booker T and the MGs.  My fills were very simple...

D:        Ronnie hadn't bought his bass yet, so he was still on guitar?

K:        He was on guitar.  They asked if I could sing, and I said "Yeah!  Where's the Reslo?!"  I hadn't sung before, and it was so bad!  It was awful.  I made a real cock-up impression of myself, basically.  And Ronnie was laughing all the time, you see.   I thought, "What a bunch of wankers!" 

        I'd come straight out of a real violent area.  Before I was playing drums, I was literally breaking into things, smashing things.  Early mod extravaganza.  It's drums that actually saved my life, because otherwise I'd have been in a lot of trouble.  I still had the Herbert inside me, if you see what I mean. 

        The band were saying to Ronnie, "We prefer the other guy.  The other guy's really got it" and all that, and Ronnie said, "But he's just a flash fucking git"  I said, "Excuse me, guys.  I'm not here to audition for you.  I don't give a fuck what you think of me.  Goodbye", and I walked out.  And Ronnie said, "Well, fuck you lot, too!"  and he came with me, and we started playing together.  The keyboard player tagged along with us, and his name was Ben Chimes.  We played together for a bit.  We got a guitarist to audition for us, and I'm trying to remember his name... a short, chubby guy who was really good.  And that was the very early Outcasts. 

        We got a residency at the British Prince every weekend, and it was there that Ronnie decided he didn't want to play guitar, he wanted to play bass.  So, I said, "Let's go to this shop where I bought my drum kit", which is actually a hundred yards from where Ronnie lived, and he knew the shop as well.  It's a shop called the J-60, in Green Lane I think it was then, in the East End.  So we got on a bus, went out there, walked into the shop Saturday morning.  This little Herbert came straight up to us, really loud, sort of cocky, "Yeah, whatcha want?!"  Ronnie said, "I want to buy a bass."  "Yeah?  Try this one!"  Boom. 

        And while they was fumbling around with it, I thought I'd have a play around on the drum kits that were there.  I start bashing away, then Ronnie starts playing the bass, and this other Herbert joins in with us.  We were just causing havoc, and eventually the shop told us off and threw us all out.  We said to this guy who'd just lost his Saturday job, "We've got this gig in another pub.  It's over Tower Bridge, first pub as you get over there:  Traffic lights, turn left, just there."  He said, "Well, I can't get there."  We said, "We'll pick you up in the van, then."  They picked him up enroute before they got me.  The van doors open, I put the drum kit in, and as I got in I saw him.  Even though I'd already been with him, the penny didn't drop until just then:   I saw him, and I thought, "I know that face!"  I said, "I know you!  I just seen you in a Peter Sellers film."  He just shrugged. 

        Anyway, we get to the gig and we called him up on stage.  He didn't have any equipment with him, but there was this old upright piano there.  He started to play the piano, banging it, and the keys were falling off, he was banging it so hard.  We were causing havoc again.  Then he sang, and he brought the house down.  Fucking voice was unbelievable.  The eency-beency singer we had was really pissed off, and the rest of the band was pissed off because Ronnie and I were really enjoying this.  We were with him, the new guy.

D:        They felt threatened as hell.

K:       In the end, the pub owner just threw us all out.  The pub was raving, we'd brought the house down, but the pub owner threw us out because we broke the piano.  We ended up sitting on the curb, the three of us.  The rest of the band drove off, ignored me and Ronnie.  "That's it, we quit!", you know?  In disgust.  We sat on the curb, my drums in their cases and Ronnie's amp and bass just sitting there, and this other guy.  We looked at each other and burst out laughing.  That was it, the birth of the Small Faces.  That was Steve Marriott.

        It was meant to be.  I had this vision, this dream that we were going to be on Ready Steady Go, and it was as vivid as anything.  I could see everybody and everything.  I saw our images.  I saw everything but Steve Marriott's face.  And I'm a realist;  I don't suffer from visions.  But, sure enough, the first TV show was RSG. 

D:        When did you get Jimmy Langwith in?

K:        Well, we needed a keyboard player.

D:        Was the idea then, "we're going to be an English Booker T and the MGs"?

K:        No, we just wanted to play.   We had no idea... there was no fame or fortune attached to any plans...

D:        Just a love for the music.

K:        Lust a love for the music.   We just wanted to be with each other and play.  We thought, 'We'll just get together'.  These things happened really quickly in those days... you know, kids.   Steve said, "I know this guy, he wants to learn to play piano.  He can't play, but his dad's got a pub and we can rehearse in it probably, and his brother's got a van, and we can nick that.  If we get him in the band, we can use all the facilities."  "All right."  But the thing that was bugging us, me and Ronnie, was that he couldn't play.  We didn't realize that we really couldn't play still ourselves!  I mean. we could... at least we knew something.  

        That was Jimmy Langwith, who changed his name to Jimmy Winston.  He didn't fit, because he was taller.    We rehearsed in the pub, and that was great because at least we had a place to play. 

D:        Yeah, the Ruskin Arms.

K:        So we got him in the band, but Steve had to teach him some chords on the keyboard.  He learned really quickly.   I liked Jimmy, we all liked him very much, but his brother wanted 5% of the band and 10% of this; they were all businessmen, cuz it was a family operation.  You could tell, because the mum and dad owned the pub, and the other brother was a car salesmen.   It went on like that. 

    Anyway, we went on, and before you knew it we got a residency in... I think it was named Iralian Hall, which was later named the London Cavern, which is off Leicester Square.  We built up this six week following, which was bringing the house down.  Don Arden heard about it and sent one of his guys down.   Pat Meehan came down.  "I think it's really great, boys!  I think we ought to sign you up!"  We said, "We don't want to be signed up.  We just play for fun.  Bollocks!" 

        We all had a chat later, and the next day we were up at the office!  They put us into a studio.  We were relying on Steve, really, for his knowledge, because at least he was the Artful Dodger at the drama school.  They said they were going to give us a wage, and the money was actually really good for that time.  I think we were on, initially, 20 a week.  20 a week was the average working man's wages in those days, 1964.  Was it 64 or 63?  We said, "No, we're not stupid.  We want a percentage, as well."  So we got a percentage and a wage.  "And I'll look after all your money", he said.  The first mistake.  And that was it.

        We got into the studio, and we didn't have a song.  Arden said, "I've got this songwriter, Ian Samwell, [I've] done some stuff with him.  He'd be good for you."  He was a producer/songwriter, so we did "Whatcha Gonna Do About It" with him.   Ian was great.  We did that, and we had a hit record with it. 

        Then we thought, "No... the second record that goes out should be one of ours."  We all bonded with Ian and, to this day, I have great admiration for him... he wrote "Move It" for Cliff Richard, which is brilliant, so he was like a fifth Shadow.   I mean, once you'd mentioned the Shadows, that was it:  "Anything you'd like, mate!"

        After that, we wanted a hit record with something we'd written.  We wrote our own song.  We went into the studio and we did this fantastic song called "I've Got Mine", which is still one of my favorites.  We put it out and it was a flop, because it really wasn't that commercial.  Everything in those days was rinky-dink, teeny-bopper, Beatley commercial.

D:    It got a second airing when you beefed it up as an instrumental.

K:    Oh, yeah!

        Don Arden was having none of that.  He said, "You've got to have a hit record!"   So he commisioned Kenny Lynch and Mort Shuman to write "Sha La La La Lee."  It was real... (grimaces).  Anyway, we did it.  And I'll never forget Kenny Lynch saying to me when we were recording it, "Don't play anything you can't mime to!"  I said, "Bollocks!" 

        After that, we said, "This is commercial.  Okay, we'll write commercial!"   And that's how we came up with the next hit.  I can't remember what the next hit was after that, but it was a real big hit, and then we wrote all our own stuff [from there on].

D:     Mac came in after the first single?

K:    What happened was Jimmy Winston got above his station and tried to compete with Steve Marriott.  Steve was a great voice and a great frontman, and in the background you've got Jimmy Winston trying to move a bit too much, doing all this shit to get attention.  Everybody noticed it, not only the audience but management, roadies...  It became an unbearable sight, if you see what I mean.

D:    Cartoon-like.

K:    Unnecessary.  Don Arden said, "This can't go on.  The band's got great potential, you're really good, and he's not Steve Marriott."  At the end of the day, he still couldn't... I've got to watch what I say now, because I realize he could see this. 

    We heard about this guy that was playing with Boz and the Boz People.  It's ironic that Boz was there the other night [at Mac's Dingwalls gig].  Boz was the lead singer, and Mac was on keyboards.   We said, "let's get him over and give him a try."  We hadn't heard him play, but his reputation was good.  He walked through the door into Don Arden's office, and we were all there.  We knew straight away he was a Small Face... because he was the right size [laughter].  He had 'Small Faces' tattoed all over him.   We got on like a house on fire. 

    The first rehearsal we had, I'll never forget it.  It was fucking great.  It was like that feeling when I played for the first time.  He filled that great gap that I'd always noticed in our stuff.   He made the band sound warm and... phewww!  It was like a fire.   You know when you're freezing, and you get into the warm and the fire's there and you feel comfortable?  Mac put that electic blanket around us, and that was his Hammond organ.  Straight away, I thought, "That's it!  We've arrived.  That was the missing ingredient."

        That's how we met Mac, and I ended up sharing a room with him.  We shared rooms in those days.

D:    Weren't you still living at home?

K:    I was living at home still, but when we went on the road...

D:    Oh, yeah... duh!

K:    Don Arden got a flat for everybody, which I think was 27 Westmoreland Terrace.  To be honest...  I had my own room in there and all that, but I couldn't stand it.  I never stayed there because I've always been a day person- still am.  It doesn't matter what time I go to bed.

D:     Getting sleep was not going to happen there.

K:    It was like fucking three, four o'clock in the morning.  That was it, I'd had enough.  You couldn't get any sleep or rest.  They used to sleep all day, and I used to go home and wake up the next [morning], because I enjoyed the day.  I'd get in my car, it would take me five minutes to drive there in those days.  I used to go into the kitchen, make myself a cup of tea and God knows what else.  On one occasion, I caught Ronnie Lane in there [begins laughing]...  with his head in the oven.  I said, "What you doin', Ron?"  He said, "I'm tryin' to kill myself."  He was trying to gas himself!  I said, "Well, you'd better turn the gas on, then!"

        He had an American girlfirend.  She was gorgeous.  We were doing a tour with somebody named Christie... he was a geezer, sang with a real high voice.  He sang "Lightning".

D:    Lou Christie.   "Lightning Strikes". 

K:    Lou Christie!  It was (Christie's) girlfriend that Ronnie got.  But this girlfriend, after they were sort of going off into the flower power, love all over the place, she ended up ditching him, I think.  Something went wrong, and he was really besotted.  I said, "Don't be silly, Ron.  You're in the band!  You can't kill yourself!"   It was so funny!

D:    "We're the rhythm section!"

K:    Right!  "We're the rhythm section!"

        There was a lot of bizarre stuff.  I'd go in there and there would be bodies all over the place.   There'd be the Beatles one night and half the Rolling Stones.  The Yardbirds.   God, you name it.  It was like Celebrity Layabout.  In those days, we used to go and watch each other's gigs in and around London.  It was like being in one big band, because we appreciated each other.  We were all good friends, we'd get drunk together, stoned together, go on tour together, support each other, do all that.   And we'd play and learn.  It was a learning time.  It was brilliant, great.  Great fucking days.

D:    And it hasn't happened since.

K:    No.  No.  Exactly.  

        The nearest we got to it was... you can't even say the Seventies, because that was another dimension or extension of the Sixties.  The nearest we got is probably the new Britpop movement, which has got bands like Blur, Oasis, Dodgy, Ride, all those bands.   And they're all great bands.  When I first listened to those bands, I said, "Oh, God, thank You!  Bands that can actually fucking play!  And they enjoy it."

D:    And it's not just a rhythm track.

K:    And it's for real, no drum machines and whatever.  That's what's happening now.  That's the nearest we've gotten to it, but it's still not nearly the same, which they acknowledge, and also that we influenced a lot of their stuff.   That's quite a compliment.  

D:    When did the band leave Westmoreland Terrace?

K:    When we fell out with Arden.   We'd figured there was some kind of monetary problem there, which was inevitable.

D:    You were off on tour and all the parents got hold of him...

K:    The minute we thought we were being screwed, the parents knew about it.  They went up to Don Arden.  Before they said, "Where's our sons' money?", he said, "Now that you're here, I want you to all know that your children are taking drugs."  That completely diffused the whole issue of money, and that was that.

        I wasn't even taking drugs... well, actually I was, but not to the degree the others were! [laughter]  When I went home, my parents said, "You were taking drugs!"  "No," I said, "I tried it but I didn't like it."  I didn't tell them about the pills I was taking and stuff like that. 

D:    Well, they probably thought you were on heroin.

K:    Right.   But I was trying to keep my eyeballs open.  Speed.  You had to if you were on the road doing two and three gigs a night.  You needed something.  If you look at the early photographs, there's a few where I've got spots everywhere, and that was [from the speed]

D:    So you ditched Arden.  Was there any contractual backlash?  Was it easy just to fire the guy and go off...?

K:    No.  Well, it was, because he sold us to Tito Burns.  Tito was a member of the Al Davies organization, which was a big management company.  They owned tv things and whatever.  Lew Grade organization I think, something like that.  We didn't know if we were coming or going.  We just kept going and we played, did gigs and all that.  It seemed like they were okay.   Then we actually went with the Kinks manager for a while, then we ended up with the last agent we had, whose name I can't remember now. 

        Then Immediate came along.   We got to know Andrew Oldham.  He said, "I want you guys on Immediate, and that's it!"  So, he ended up buying us out of the arrangement we were in with all those funny people.  That was fantastic, because... Eric Cromfeld, he was an American lawyer and he came over and helped us.  Eric Cromfeld became the head of Polygram Records.  He became the head, but at that time he was young, sort of like us.  He was fresh out of law school, didn't know what he was doing.   He went into there and said, "You can't do that!"  He helped us get out [of the other contracts] and in to Immediate.  Once we got there, it was like another dimension. 

D:    Night and day.

K:    We could get into the studio, unlimited time.   Do what we wanted, we were allowed to create.  We had people who listened to us.  That's not the way Andrew Oldham says it.  Andrew Oldham says, "I bought the band.  'Go and make a record for me'."  It's like, "Bollocks, you!"  We didn't do that.  It was really the other way round.  We had the studio time, so we did it.  We didn't go in there like a fucking factory, delivering stuff for him.  He was delivering stuff to us first.

        I don't remember the first session we did [at Immediate], but by that time we could really play.  I was discovering the real me.  [On] the early stuff, [I] was a bit all over the place.   Then I tightened things up because at the same time I was doing sessions.  I got to play with loads of different people, and my drumming style was becoming... it was finding itself.

D:    It was becoming more terse.

K:    Right.  I loved dynamic drumming.  I'm very much a Bonhamite.  So, I played very orchestral, because I'd been playing with orchestras and big bands.  A lot of it rubbed off.

        It was Andrew Oldham who... I saw an interview with him or something... maybe I just heard him telling someone else... he said, "Just play it like you mean it."  That sort of sunk in.  I thought, "Yeah.  Fuck it!  Boom!  I mean it now!"   I started playing like I really fucking meant it.  "All right, then!"  And I became heavier.  Just a little twist of fate.

        That's when we started making "Green Circles" and tracks like that.  If you listen to "Green Circles", for instance... in my head, it was a very classical piece.  I'd imagined lots of things on that one.  Well, there was lots of things there, which we overdubbed, but you had to imagine all of that before you [put the overdubs down].

        The band had this magical power between us.  We all knew [what our parts were].  We didn't even fucking need to rehearse.  We just knew what was coming. It's the only band...   It's why I've got this reputation:  "Shut Up, Ken".  It's because I was always playing.  But the band would let me just play and play and play, because they knew what I was after.  I was looking for things that could fit into the songs, and I was playing out everything.  I played everything that didn't fit before I chose the fillings that I felt fit. They knew that it was my process of elimination.

    We had this telepathy that was... I haven't been with a band to this day that's got that.  We started to write really great songs.  I started to be really be proud of the band and proud that we had Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane.  Most of the band wrote, anyway... I even ended up dabbling a bit into [writing], which was great.  It was a huge breakthrough and a huge boost in confidence.

    Then we ended up making Ogden's, and we felt like, "Well, phew!  How do you follow that?!"  That was our turning point.  We made a fatal error of judgement, unlike bands like the Who and the Stones and various others who stayed together throughout their problems.  We were approaching a problem that we didn't know how to deal with, and we'd gone through this management crisis as well, so we were all [stressed].  And we never got to America because Mac got busted.  In those days, they wouldn't let you in [after a drug bust].   It was a very frustrating feeling.  There were all these combined issues wrapped up into one, and you could see why Marriott was...

    And by this time we were, [to] the teeny boppers, fuckin' bigger than the Beatles, and you couldn't play and hear yourself.  It was nuts.  Even the fucking smell was getting to you, these girls...

D:    Wetting themselves.

K:    Yeah!  So frustration started to creep in.   We didn't want to be a rinky-dink pop band.  We never, ever set out to be that.  The albums we did weren't pop- they were great stuff.  But, still...

D:    There's only one album where you guys had artistic control over content of the album, and what a knockout that is.  Even the albums before, which were primarily collections of singles and assorted other tracks, are great stuff.

K:    Yeah, well, we never had a producer, to be honest with you.  Glyn Johns was our engineer, mostly. 

D:    A step in the right direction.

K:    Right.  We ended up making Ogden's and, "Well, we can't follow that."  We ended up doing gigs for the sake of it.  The band really didn't have a real hit [single] from Ogden's.   It was a big hit album

We did "Itchycoo Park" as a laugh, basicially.

D:    You mean "Lazy Sunday".

K:    Right.  We were on tour in Germany and all of a sudden we get one of the music papers and we learned we've got a hit record.  We didn't know that Andrew Oldham and Tony Calder had put it out.  So we hit the fuckin' roof on the phone with them.  "Well, it's a great song, a great commercial track.  It'll do you good," they said.  But what happens is it brings you back down to rinky-dink, teeny-bopper level again.  All right, people buy the album, but you still get known for "Lazy Sunday". 

D:    It was a throwaway track done as an inside joke, but it ended up undermining your reputation.

K:    Exactly! 

So, with the combined issues of not being able to get into America, Marriott wanting to play in a heavier band-- he didn't particularly want to get into the rinky-dink stuff.  But, none of us wanted to.  We were in shock when he walked off the stage that one time, at Crystal Palace, I think. 

D:  New Years, Alexandria Palace.  Who was on stage with you, Alexis Korner?

K:    Yeah.  And [Steve] just put his guitar down and walked off the stage, left us there.  In the end we just petered out and walked off.   He was backstage:  "I don't want to do it anymore.  That's it."  

The next week, on the front page of the papers, "Steve Marriott Quits the Small Faces to Play with Better Musicians."  Now, that hurt.  Jerry Shirley was no way, in my opinion.  He was a little boy in short trousers watching some gigs...

D:    Well, wasn't Frampton backstage at the Alexandria Palace? 

K:    Yeah, yeah, yeah.  They obviously knew it, it was one of those things.  We used to work with Frampton.  The Small Faces and Frampton, basically, were going over to Paris to do a Johnny Holliday album.   He was a big star then, he still is.   Massive.  We did this album there and it was great!  I loved playing with Frampton.  He played really well.  Glyn Johns was the engineer there.  From what I hear, Glyn is the one that kind of instigated things:  "You two guys should work together."

D:    Pete had left the Herd already, about a year earlier, so he was just busy doing sessions...

K:    Yeah.  Whenever I wasn't already playing a session or with the Small Faces, I'd always go to Andy, who was with the Herd- the keyboard player.  He's now with Status Quo.  I can't think of his name...

D:    Andy Bown.

K:    I used to go over to his flat, and he had his Hammond organ in there.  I used to love playing to a Hammond organ all the time, so I used to play jazz.  That's what I wanted to do as well, so we played lots of Jimmy McGriff stuff all day long.  I've still got some tapes of it somewhere, actually.   It's real free-form stuff.

The Small Faces finished... we'd get together once a week, [Mac, Ronnie and I]... not to start a band, just because we had nothing else to do.     We were sort of lost.  And that's when Ronnie brought down Ronnie Wood.  Then we found a new place to rehearse.

D:    Had you known about the little thing they'd started up on the side?

K:    Who?

D:    The two Ronnies.

K:    No...

D:    They had Mickey Waller on drums and Leigh Stephens on guitar...

K:    Yeah, okay... No, I didn't know anything about that at that time.  We just got together, and Ronnie [Wood] came in.  I can't remember if he started out on bass with us or not.  He was a bass player, but he wanted to play guitar. 

D:    He'd done bass in the Jeff Beck Group.  In fact, wasn't this between tours of the Beck group?  He'd already been fired once and was going back with him for another tour?

K:    That's right.  Woody was on a wage at 60 quid a week, and Rod was on a wage at that time of 100 pounds a week.  After Woody came down two or three times, Woody brought Rod down.  So, we'd play for a bit and get a jam going, and Rod was sitting on the amps, just waiting for us to finish, because we'd all become great mates and every time we had an opportunity we'd go out the pub and drink them out of brandy and cokes.  All night.

D:    All shorts.

K:    Yeah.  We got to know each other very well.   One day, the band were just playing and we decided to do vocals.  I knew Ronnie's voice, it was great.  No problem there.  And then Woody sang and I went [grimaces].  You realized you missed that strong, powerful Marriott.  It's amazing:  From a drummer's perspective, you see it all.  For me, as nice as Ronnie Lane's voice was, there was [not enough] power.  We were missing that one ingredient. 

It didn't even really twig that much.  Rod was just a mate.

D:    Well, he wasn't sticking around for no reason.

K:    Oh, no, I know.  So, we all went up the pub and I did the real Adam Faith thing:  "Fancy a drink?"  So, I pulled Rod to one side and said, "Do you fancy joining the band?"  He said, "No, they won't let me.  Do you think they would let me?  I'd love to."

D:    Hadn't there already been outright discussions:   "This time, we're not doing the singer thing.  We're not having a front man."

K:    No, that happened after.  It happened on that night.  I went back to the band and said, "I've asked Rod to join the band."  We all went back to Alvin Lee's place.  He had a flat nearby.   We were all sitting round, listening to records and all that, and I kept going on about it.  So we all had a meeting up in his bedroom about it. 

Ronnie and Mac said, "We don't want another prima donna in the band.  We don't want someone that's going to just walk off."  I said, "I think we should."  I could be wrong, but my gut feeling was it the difference between success and failure.  And I didn't think we were in a good position to actually gamble.  Don't forget, I'm not a night owl, but I sat up with them until 7 in the morning until I heard "yes". 

D:    You stuck it out until they got too tired...

K:     I stuck it out, and that's how Rod entered the band. 

 

 

 

End of Part One... more on the way

(as fast as my fingers can find the right keys)

 


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