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Lane:  I Lost a Lot of Money...

...but it's not dampened his enthusiasm for a rock circus. COLIN IRWIN talks to Ronnie Lane about the background to the shock break-up of his Passing Show last week.

From Melody Maker - 27 of July 1974

Somewhere among the orgy of greenery and wooded beauty John Wayne is filming Great Expectations. All around is the smell of affluence which dominates the outskirts of Shepperton, especially here in these vast acres of land used as film studios.

They've grown accustomed to the unusual at this place, but today even the gents who spend their working life doffing their hats to the stars, are scratching heads.

An amazing trail of caravans and covered buses has arrived and planted itself outside one of the stages. This is a rock 'n' roll circus - the only one in captivity. The Passing Show has come to rest.

As we observe this colourful, chaotic collection, who should come bouncing down from the horizon, but the gaffer himself. Ladies and gentlemen we proudly present...Ronnie Lane.

He's in a jovial mood, this Lane feller. Laughing and joking, he certainly does not look like a guy whose dream-cum-reality has just shuddered to a halt. He likes his new front garden, especially the pub in the middle of it, and even the sight of a journalist doesn't dispel his euphoria.

Somehow his show managed to limp to Shepperton to lick their wounds, sort themselves out and rehearse a new band, eventually to re-emerge for the Reading Festival.

Lane's band Slim Chance partially disintegrated along the way, but Bruce Rowland and Kenny Slaves will be carrying on with him and two members of Scottish band Beggar's Opera, Alan Park and Gordon Sellar, plus a couple of others will make up the new Slim Chance.

You've got to hand it to Ronnie. He's certainly got guts. The idea of a rock show traveling round as a complete unit in the form of a circus has occurred to other people before him, but no-one's had the courage to go through with it before.

It survived for seven weeks and twenty-two shows before they decided enough. But where you might expect him to be counting his losses and seeking comfort at his farm in Wales, he's come up smiling.

What went wrong? "Everything...It started from the first one we did but we carried on with the resolution that it couldn't get any worse, until it got so bad I decided I better pull it and start again."

"Slim Chance wasn't right for a start. Gallagher and Lyle pulled out at very short notice and left me with a bit of a gap to fill in two weeks."

"That band was a total accident in the first place and I found I was trying to recreate it all the time and that's stupid. I'm just going to try to get a totally different band together now."

There were other problems. The band were playing three consecutive nights on basically circus venues stretching from Marlow to Falkirk, and the places weren't always entirely suitable.

On top of all this there were additional things like problems with site equipment and vehicles. All in all it sounds like a disastrous venture, especially as Ronnie admits he lost a packet on it.

"It was a success really...then again it was a failure. It was a failure due to lack of experience to make it a success. What I've learnt came to be so expensive I'm not willing to divulge it to the general public."

Yet he's still in love with the idea and can't wait to try it out again, maybe this year.

"I've got absolute faith in the idea. Perseverance, you see. I couldn't do it any other way now. Totally hooked."

"I'll have to go back into halls and that this winter but I'm definitely going to do it again. This time I'll have a good tent and some good transport and a band that likes that sort of thing."

"Keeping it on the road was precipitating mistakes. I realised halfway through it I had everything set up wrong. What I was really lacking was the knowledge of the way circuses put it on which I've got now."

"I lost a lot of money, yeah, but I think it can be made to pay. I don't think it'll ever pay the dividends of running round huge halls playing to thousands of people for a load of bread but that's not what I'm after anyway."

"I'd far rather enjoy myself and enjoy my life than run after that sort of thing. It depends on what you want. I'm not saying it's the greatest thing on earth or that everyone should do it. I'm not disillusioned.

"I find with a lot of musicians they hide behind this great big banner called ´musicians` as if they're something of the elite. I'm sorry, but as far as I'm concerned, they're not."

"I know I'm not one of the greatest musicians, but I'm glad I bloody well ain't actually after seeing some of them perform."

So the Passing Show will rise again at the Reading Festival, and will then probably embark on a tour of halls before the outdoor experiment is tried again. The original idea was to get a complete, continuous show together, doing away with the idea of sets, and that's something he hopes to develop.

He wasn't happy with the way things went musically but has no specific plans for the type of band the new Slim Chance will be as it comes together during the next few weeks. He's waiting for another accident to happen.

While he's been away he's lost touch of everything that's been going on in the other world. He says he understands his single flopped while he was gone. He's referring to "The Poacher", follow-up to the successful "How Come". Not that he takes much notice, or even cares how his singles are doing.

"If I started getting booed off the stage I'd be concerned, then I realize I was doing the wrong thing. I just do what I do the best of ability. I think "The Poacher" is a pretty good single.

"If I'd got Top Of The Pops it would have gone in, but Top Of The Pops went on strike the week I was supposed to be on it. "How Come" reached the same position when I did the programme and took off."

"It's only a game. I find the singles market totally like...stupid. It's a bit of muscle to your arm that's all. I think albums matters a little more. It matters to me in that if it really flops badly and everyone considers it's an incredible bad album then I'm in the wrong job."

Albums are quite relevant Ronnie just at the moment, for his first since leaving the Faces. "Anymore For Anymore" has just been released. It was made with the original Slim Chance before the Passing Show took to the road.

"I don't really know what to say about the new album. I think it has it's moments. I wouldn't say it's the greatest album I'll ever make, I know all it's mistakes. I know all the bad points."

"Some people didn't like the Passing Show because it just wasn't heavy enough for them, but I'm not into that anyway. I've been all through that heavy stuff, it just doesn't exist. It's a total illusion that some people live under. I could strangle some people now and again. They've forgotten how to live."

"Can anyone convince me that it's valid? I have been through it. What I can do is for people. That might sound incredible pretentious and it does, but I happen to mean it. I don't want anything. All I want out of it is a life. Something well-spent. That's all I want."

The life of a wanderer has got so much into his blood now that he dreads settling in one place, even returning to his farm in Wales.

"I can't see me settling down to living in a house. I like to be a stranger all the time. It's easier. You pass through things, instead of getting cluttered. There's this cluttering up business whenever you settle."



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