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Anymore For Anymore....Plus
by John Tobler
notes for the See For Mile 1992 re-issue

In 1992, it's over a quarter of a century since Ronnie Lane first emerged into the national spotlight as a founder member of one of London's two most notable "Mod" groups. The Small Faces, who personified the "Mod" (or modernist) lifestyle; the other group was The Who, whose first hit also occurred in 1965, a few months before The Small Faces first reached the singles chart.

Lane, who was born on April Fool's Day, 1946, in Plaistow, London, had a job after leaving school at musical instrumental dealer Selmer's, where he worked in a small room with a Fender Stratocaster and a Fender bass (although at the time he was not an expert musician) testing amplifiers before they went on display in shops. Lane was teaching himself guitar on a instrument his father was buying for him on hire purchase, but it soon became clear to him that there would be much more potential for him to join a major group if he were a bass player, as few young musicians in London during 1965 were playing bass. After convincing his father that work would be much easier to find as a bass player, Ronnie and his dad went into the J60 Music Bar in East Ham to buy a Harmony bass; they were served by an ex-child actor Steve Marriott. Marriott had seen Lane playing in a band called The Outcasts, while Marriott himself was vocalist in a local band know as the Moments; other members of this band at various times during its brief history (1964/65) included John Wieder, who later joined Family after a stint with Eric Burdon's New Animals, and Kenny Rowe, who went on to work with Tony Rivers & The Castaways (arguably the most convincing UK surfing band), Harmony Grass and, in the 1970s, Capability Brown.

Marriott and Lane struck up an instant friendship, discovering that they both enjoyed R&B music, and before long, Lane invited Marriott to a pub in Ilford to jam with The Outcasts. Immediately after this evening during the summer of 1965 at "The British Prince" (which must surely be a candidate for a "rock plaque" as a place where a noteble event in rock history took place), Lane, Marriott and Outcasts drummer Kenny Jones they decided to form a group with Marriott playing guitar as well as singing. They decided they needed a keyboard player to complete the line up and Marriott suggested another customer he knew from the J60 Music Bar, Jimmy Langwith, who had an organ, and whose parents owned a pub called "The Ruskins Arms". According to the group's biographer, Terry Rawlings, Langwith's main appeal was not his keyboard expertise but the fact that he owned a van. He was asked to join the fledging trio, and was known professionally as Jimmy Winston. In "All Our Yesterdays", the book by Terry Rawlings about The Small Faces, the credit for suggesting the group's name is giving to a girl friend of Marriott's named Annie, as Marriott noted: "We were all small and faces (arch Mods), except for Jimmmy, who was rather large". After a few months, Langwith/Winston left to eventually launch his own short lived group, Winston's Fumbs, and was replaced by Ian McLagan (ex-Boz & The Boz People), who was as short as Marriott, Lane and Jones, and thus made the group name more accurate and it is documented, appropriate.

The Small Faces swiftly became big stras, releasing ten UK Top 20 hits in less than three years, including "What'cha Gonna Do About It", "Sha La La La Lee", "All Or Nothing", "Itchycoo Park", "Tin Soldier" and "Lazy Sunday" as well as chart-topping album, "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake" (1968), which also featured noted British satirist Stanley Unwin. The problem which The Small Faces never overcome was that they were in almost constant conflict with management and record labels over both artistic direction and almost inevitably, money. In early 1969, the group virtually disbanded when Steve Marriott joined forces with Peter Frampton (from The Herd) to form Humble Pie, effectively ending not only the group but also his consistent and successful songwriting partnership with Ronnie Lane-the Marriott/Lane team had been responsible for the vast majority of the hits listed above. A replacement for Marriott was found in the shape of Ron Wood, who had been the bass player in The Jeff Beck Group, but who was also a guitarist. However, Wood lacked the experience to front The Small Faces as vocalist, and before long had introduced another ex-member of the Beck band, vocalist Rod Stewart (aka Rod The Mod, which was no coincidence), who also joined Lane, Jones, McLagan and Wood. Clearly, a name change was desirable, so the group renamed itself The Faces.

Brilliant live, but less convincing on record, where their joie de vivre was less easy to appreciate, The Faces scored a number of hits during the early 1970s, although matters were confused by Rod Stewart's simultaneous solo career which was far more commercially successful than his recorded work with The Faces. In May 1973, soon after the release of "Ooh La La", the fouth album by The Faces, Ronnie Lane left the band. His departure heralded its collapse-Rod Stewart later said that Lane's departure left a gap which could not be filled, and the group gradually fell apart, finally disintegrating at the end of 1975 when Wood joined The Rolling Stones, by which time Rod Stewart's solo work had made him a superstar. Later, Jones joined The Who after Keith Moon's death, while McLagan also worked for a while as an auxiliary Rolling Stone, as well as with Bonnie Raitt in the 1980s, after he moved to California.

Ronnie Lane, meanwhile, had decided on a fresh musical approach: he invested in a mobile studio, which was used by a number of major acts in the 1970s (including The Who), and in the autumn of 1973 also formed Slim Chance, a floating combo initially conceived as an eight piece band-his idea was to play in circus tents, and the group's debut performance was at Chipperfield's Circus on Clapham Common in South London on bonfire night, 1973. Land had taken to living in a gypsy caravan, and wanted to extend this more relaxed lifestyle to his working hours. The group's first tour involved working in a circus big top, which was assembled and dismantled at various sites around Britain. At least, that was the plan-the reality was that the cost of this exercise was far more then Lane had anticipated, and the aggravation of dealing with local councils and trying to abide by safety regulations made the enterprise unworkable to the point where the Passing Show (as Lane dubbed the tour) only made a handful of appearances.

Apart from Lane himself on vocals and rhythm guitar, Slim Chance also initially included Scottish singer/songwriters Benny Gallagher & Graham Lyle, previously the main songwriters in the briefly successful McGuinness Flint (remember "When I'm Dead And Gone" and "Malt And Barley Blues"?). This duo subsequently achieved international fame in the late 1970s under their own names (Gallagher & Lyle) with UK Top 10 hits like "I Wanna Stay With You" and "Heart On My Sleeve", as well as writing "Breakaway", which was coverd with great success by Art Garfunkel. The duo in fact left Slim Chance only a few day prior the tour, deciding that it wasn't likely to further their careers. They later became noted songwriters as individuals after their own partnership came to an end. Other members of the original line-up of Slim Chance who also went on to work with Gallagher & Lyle were saxophone player Jimmy Jewell, keyboard man Billy Livsey, bass player Chris Stewart and drummer Bruce Rowland, while Slim Chance was completed by lead guitarist Kevin Westlake (ex-Blossom Toes). Slim Chance charted with its first single, contagius Lane original titled "How Come", which just stopped short of the UK Top 10 at the start of 1974. Strange though it may seem, as far as anyone can recall this track has never appeared on an album before now. The single was released by GM Records (the initials are those of Gaff-Masters both-The Faces and Slim Chance were managered by Billy Gaff) and it featured two B-side tracks: "Tell Everyone", which was included on the original "Anymore For Anymore" album, and "Done This One Before", which again has never previously appeared on an album and certainly not on CD. The single was almost certainly recorded by the line-up listed above, although it is possible that the bass player on some or all of these tracks was Biddy Wright, who replaced Chris Stewart around the time they were recorded.

A follow-up single couple two tracks from the album, "The Poacher" and "Bye And Bye (Gonna See The King)", and this again charted, although in a less spectacular manner, peaking outside the UK Top 30 in June, 1974. It was quickly followed by the release of Slim Chance's debut album, "Anymore For Anymore", which reached the UK chart for a single week in August, 1974. The album featured eight songs written, co-written or arranged by Lane himself, pluis three carefully selected cover versions, including "Roll On Babe" (by legendary American troubadour Derroll Adams), and the modern folk song about the disappearence of an intrepid female aviator, "Amelia Earhart's Last Flight" (also recorded around the same time by Plainsong, the group formed by Iain Matthews and Andy Roberts, which is supposedly reforming in 1992). "Anymore For Anymore" is a minor classic of its kind-it became the most successful album of Lane's post-Faces career. Soon afterwards, he signed with Island Records, for whom he made albums in 1975 and 9176. GM records released a third single after Lane had joined Island, taking two more tracks from the "Anymore For Anymore" album, the title track and "Roll On Babe", but by this point, the record buying public seemed to have lost interest in Slim Chance, whose original line-up, apart from Ronnie Lane, had completely changed. Slim Chance finally disbanded in march 1976, following a final tour to promote the group,s last album, "One For The Road", after which Lane adopted a lower profile. He declined the opportunity to become part of a Small Faces reunion which took place between 1976 and 1978 and produced two albums which were sustantially less interesting than those by the group's late Sixties incarnation; Lane's bass role was assumed by Ricky Willis, previously (and ironically) a member of Frampton's Camel, the band which Peter Frampton launched afer leaving Humble Pie to Steve Marriott in 1971/2. Insted of of trying to relive his past, Lane along with Ronnie Wood, wrote and recorded the soundtrack to a feature film titled "Mahoney's Last Stand" in late 1976 while the following year saw the release of "Rough Mix", an album on which he and Who leader Pete Townshend collaborated. His only other major release during the 1970s was an execellent but under-rated solo album relesed by Gem Records in 1979, "See Me".

Apart from the obvious trauma of his lack of commercial success, Ronnie Lane discovered in the late 1970s/early 1980s that he was suffering from multiple sclerosis. This debilitating and often tragically progressive disese makes normal life virtually impossible for those whom it afflicts, particularly in Britain, where facilities for victims of MS are limited. In 1985, a number of Lane's contemporaries from Small Faces days, including superstar Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page (all erstwhile members of the Yardbirds), Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts (both Rolling Stones of course) and others, staged the ARMS (Action for Research into Multiple Sclerosis) concerts to raise money for the continued search for both prevention and cure of the disease which had so cruelly affected many innocent people, including their chum Ronnie. At London's Royal Albert Hall, Lane was able to drag himself on stage to sing "Goodnight Irene" with the assembled ad hoc supergroup, and his apperance was one of the most affecting moments in the history of rock music. Today Ronnie Lane lives in the United States, where the treatment he needs as a sufferer from multiple sclerosis is more accessible than in Britain. This affliction has forced him to give up music, although everyone who hears this album will surely hope that one day he can resume a career which fate so cruelly and needlessly interrupted.

John Tobler, notes for the See For Mile 1992 CD issue of Anymore For Anymore

 

 


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