From New Musical Express - 17 of January, 1976
Can Rock Survive The
Holocaust......long enuf for the Small Faces to re-form?
Doomladen CHRIS SALEWICZ
probes prophetic RONNIE LANE:
RONNIE LANE'S up in town today. Been up from the
farm in Monmouthshire for about a week now.
Played the Olympia Great British Etc. with the
new permanent issue of Slim Chance, recorded a couple of numbers for Supersonic
down at London Weekend the day before yesterday, and now he's in the offices
of EG Management on the Kings Road, doing a phone interview with a Edinburgh
Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance starts a 22-date
British tour in Edinburgh the day after tomorrow.
We leave the two kids in manager David
Enthoven's office watching the coloure telly - the Lanes don't bother with
a TV at home - and Ronnie and Kate Lane and Adi Hunter, his publicist, and me go
round the corner to "The Phoenix" and have a bit of a talk. It's a
Watneys pub so we have to drink wine.
Since leaving the Faces Ronnie Lane's existence,
within the terms of the music business, has seemed confused to say the least.
Now though, he's got "One For The Road", his second album for the
Island label released next week, and a management deal with same company that
has been the career-minders of Roxy Music and King Crimson, not to mention ELP
and Julie Felix. Lane split with Billy Gaff, the Faces' manager, "because
he had too much on his plate sorting out the Warner/Mercury thing for Rod. He
was like doing a Dr. Kissinger backwards and forwards to America all the
Then Lane was introduced to Trentdale, a
management company who were handling the Sharks and Andy Frazer.
RONNIE LANE then brought himself and Slim Chance
to EG. Life as a solo artist had so far proved to be Problem City.
"There was a helluva lot of problems. I
mean, I'm still sorting 'em out in actual fact. I mean, like the hangover from
that period is quite considerable. You know, VAT (laughs) and things like that,
"In a way I just ended up trusting a lot of
people to money but there's no point in letting get that big. Otherwise you
might as well go back in the halls again." he laughs, as "Let's Twist
Again" provides the soundtrack from the pubs jukebox.
Like fellow former Small Face Steve Marriott,
much of Lane's earnings were stuck into a studio. Marriott's studio, of course,
caused The Death Of A Horse. Lane's Mobile saved his skin.
"It did pay for the Passing Show. What money
it made went straight into that. And it still wasn't enough. I had to get subs
all the way round to keep on the road the last few weeks."
"But I'm very pleased with way the mobile'd
turned out. We just done this record on it and it's the way I wanna record. I
don't like studios very much...We even mixed it in the mobile this time. We
started it in there and we finished it in there, which really is what I'm after.
And it worked too."
"It works for me. I don't say it work for
everyone but I work in a..." he pauses. "...in a slightly different
way to a lot of people in the business."
"They're not happy to put up with a bit of
Oh, you mean you're prepared to put with the kind
of conditions that most people have to put with in their everyday lives anyway.
"Yeah, I suppose so. Instead of trying to
avoid them all the time."
I suppose that's the antithesis of the way you
used to record with the Faces. Rod Stewart's moan was that studios would get
booked and then all the time would be spent in the pub. Which must have
thoroughly his Scottish understanding of fisical affairs.
"Really expensive," Ronnie Lane smiles.
"But it was exaggerated. A lot of time wasn't spent in the pub. Only if
someone hadn't turned up because there was bugger else to do. But even then we
used to carry on without them."
"But that was basically what started to go
wrong. I mean "Nods As Good As A Wink" was started and finished in
twelve days. So there couldn't have been a lot of time spent in the pub there.
But "Oh La La" was a saga."
It started off great guns like "Nods As Good
As A Wink". But then finishing it... there just wasn't the interest
anymore," he shakes his head.
You were living in a caravan, weren't you?
"We're living in one now," says Lane.
"Up here. Except it's not a caravan. It's my old bus."
I'm quite interested in why you started getting
into all of this, oh, Getting Back To Your Roots, as it were. After all, it
comes over very strongly in your post-Faces music, even down to "One For
The Road" having the Welsh farm on the sleeve.
"Quite interested? Why?"
Because I quite possible agree with you.
"Well you see...What can I say...I don't
wanna particularly preach to anyone..."
My theory of why you're into it would go like
this: that you all got so bombed on the Faces tours that you eventually began to
get bored by it all. And after a while you began to think that maybe that wasn't
the way to do it...
"I don't particularly want to get used to
that way of doing things, because it's not real. I come from a working-class
background. Why should I try and become the aristocracy of this age, you know?
It's not an ambition of mine."
"I just want to stay the way I am. You can
surround yourself with all sorts of facades but I'd rather get on with
"It's very hard to talk about it,
really." he adds, looking pensively through me.
So success didn't change our Ron, eh?
"Uhhhh. Oh, I enjoyed it." - the
Stratford accent filters through on the emphasis - "Don't get me wrong. I
really enjoyed looning about in the limousines. It was a good game. But it never
became anymore than a game."
"We was just playing pop stars. That's all.
It's like cowboys and Indians. You had to grow up some time."
And the music that you're writing now. That seems
to come very much our of the way you're living now. Right?
Could you not have written songs like you're
writing now, then?
"Well...no, It's a different sort of band.
The Faces was a heavy sort of rock band. And also had, like, a geezer up the
front with a very powerful voice. Which I don't possess."
"I mean, what I'm doing now...The band's
basically a vehicle for the stuff I write. I mean, it is a band and the way it's
been got together it's good for the stuff I write, whereas the Faces - and even
the Small Faces - weren't particularly good for the stuff I personally conceived."
"It was great to write with one of the Faces
like Ronnie Wood or with Steve in the Small Faces. It was great to actually
write something for that band."
"But when I wrote something on my own it
didn't really fit in. It didn't really stick."
"AM I disillusioned with the rock
"No of course I'm not. I think it's a ONE-DER-FULL
"It just got boring, that's all. I lost its
point somehow. Became like Marks and Spencers."
"You know what I mean? Marks and Spencers
has branches everywhere and has a huge turnover and it just became like
that." he yawns, as if to emphasise a point.
"I don't know. It's very odd. You're talking
about a long period of time. And for me to sum it up in a few words is very
hard, you know. I mean, you could write a book about it if it weren't so
LONG MOMENTS of silence. Then: "1976. What a
violent start it's had, hasn't it? Innit shocking?"
"Yeah, I think it's gonna be a very bad
"It's gotta be a bad year."
"You see, I think things are going to get so
bad a lot of people ain't gonna know what's hit 'em."
"In a way I try to be ready for that sort of
thing rather than be caught with my pants down. I mean, we're all gonna get
caught with our pants down anyway, without totally living in cuckoo land as well
and then suddenly waking up one morning and it's all happening, you know."
"I didn't move down to the country to run
away. I moved because there I Could live a bit more like I wanted to. I don't
want to bother anyone. On the other hand I don't want anyone to bother me
"Anyway we don't want this interview turning
into a forecast of doom, do we?"
Well, You never know: it might be quite
"No. The point is... I mean, you can shout
about doom as much as you like but no-one will realize it's coming so it's best
just to keep it to yourself, I think, and try and keep the troops happy."
"You see, we've all been brought up in a
society that said that technology was going to be such a wonderful thing. I
mean, like we was kids - don't worry. Man will find out how to do it."
"And no-one can actually grasp the fact that
really we've buggered the whole system, you know."
"It was like that yesterday in the hardware
shop," Kate Lane reminds her husband.
He nods: "We were down the East End. We
found this hardware store. And for all the world it was like a hardware store
that you'd go into fifty years ago. Right? And we couldn't believe it. He's got
like tin buckets and everything. No plastic in there whatsoever."
"So we go in there and get a few buckets and
things like that. And 'e says, "They keep coming in here and asking for
plastic stuff and I thow 'em out". He said, "You must be yourself but
you mustn't be yourself and bother other people," 'e said. "But I'm
"There was like a little stronghold in that
shop. The modern world - no matter what happened - wasn't going to come in his
"I like things like that."
"You see, that what I meant when I talked to
you about disillusionment with the rock world. I don't see that big tours
playing twenty thousand-seaters, with the rock business as some, vast remote economic
force, can continue. It's ultimately self-defeating, both economically
and artistically. In every way it must just grind to a halt,"
Ronnie Lane finishes off one glass of wine and
starts on another. He leans into my face: "I'll tell you the truth, Chris.
I think all sorts of things. But it's not the sort of stuff that I would like to
point out to the general public."
"Mainly because it's not what I wanna get
into. I don't want to be any great vocal force. I just wanna make some music
that I think is good enough. That I think is a good record or something."
"And whoever likes it then, fantastic.
Whoever doesn't like it...well they can always listen to something else."
"I don't wanna be a spokes man. And I
don't be griping all the time."
"Let's talk about happier things. Tell you
what: I gotta go and take a leak."
RONNIE LANE returns and we talk about
We talk about Slim Chance: "We need another
member at the moment to really do what we want to do. To get stretched out
again. When Steve (Simpson) who plays the guitar and the mandolin takes on the
fiddle and Charlie (Hart) plays the piano - and we bought him a saxophone for
Christmas and I don't know what's going to happen with that... when we put them
together on the fiddle there's a hole."
"I always use a guitar with just high-strung
strings - a twelve string - which has got a lovely sound. It's very high... I
only play rhythm. I only play chords. I don't play a lot of...We-e-e-ell, I
can't really play a guitar. I just get away with it."
"But anyway there's a middle that we've
started to miss since Ruan (O'Lochlainn) went. He played piano and the sax. He
just had to go. He was getting too busy, Ruan. I mean, he wanted to turn it into
a big high-powered scene. And I don't want to."
And we talk about the Small Faces'
transmogrification from second-string Who to Sixties Creative Force: "Well,
you see, we tried. The point is: do you or do you not try? And we
tried to make good records. In doing so we made some very bad ones. But we
always tried. We never threw anything away."
I don't think any of them are that bad.
"Yeah," he says, taking a pinch of
snuff, "It was a good little band. There's no doubt about it. I'd never say
it was a bad band. No way. I mean...Well, because - as I say - we tried."
"Because we did have a sort of conscience
about trying to make some good music. As I say, sometimes we did. Sometimes when
I hear it back now...Ooooh. It makes me cringe, you know?"
"But what the hell. It's like everything,
you know, if it's done in the right spirit. We never tried to rip anyone
"It's a responsibility in a way. To me it
is...and I think it is to the other boys. I mean, if you're in a position you
should try and present something decent. Not just a load of..."
"You know there is a load around today
that's just like a glossy magazine. Full of adverts with no content."
"Via discussion of the Small Faces,
conversion veers off towards the East End and music hall: I don't particularly
like the concept of keeping Old Music Hall alive by playing old music
"I hope it is 1976 in whatever I'm doing
even if it is going back to the roots."
"Anyway, I don't think people know what
Music Hall really is. I mean people act Music Hall. In the old days if must have
been completely different."
"Come on, in seventy years time if someone
tried to recreate the rock scene what do you think it would be like?"
They could never do it, could they?
"Well, I don't like circuses so much. I just
like the idea of living like that."
Oh, I must ask you the question on the lips of a
rock generation. When are the Small Faces going to re-form?
Absolutely deadpan: "Oh. Tonight."
To his wife: "He don't never believe me when
I tell him the truth."
"They're re-forming tonight." Ronnie
Oh, I don't believe you.
Prove to me why I shouldn't disbelieve you.
"Oh no. I can't. They're re-forming
Where are they re-forming?
"Ah. Now that's a secret."
What proof can you offer me that the Small Faces
are re-forming tonight?
"Why should have to offer you proof? Why
should I tell you a lie?"
Because people in the rock business do lie quite
a lot. Therefore, it's quite understandable that I should expect it.
"I ain't told you no lies. Why should I tell
you a lie? I ain't in the pop business."
Well, in that case I should believe you. How long
are the Small Faces re-forming for?
"Depends how tonight goes," says Kate.
Do you mean you're getting together and actually
"I can't tell you about that. Have another
glass of wine and don't worry about it."
"No. We're all meeting tonight. We're just
gonna meet, that's all.
by Chis Salewicz, 1976