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One For The Road
Sleeve notes by John Tobler, 1995

for the Edsel re-release of "One For The Road"

In 1995, the world seems to have finally rediscovered The Small Faces, one of the most significant and respected groups of the British beat boom od the 1960s, when they enjoyed a string of hits which remain popular a full 30 years after the group's chart debut in 1965 with "Whatcha Gonna Do About It?". As this written, a very trendy 1995 act, M People, are high in the chart with a cover version of "Itchycoo Park", a Small Faces hit from 1967, and various anthologies of the group's glory years (1965 to 1969) are emerging on CD and attracting considerable interest among the grown-up children of the group's original fans. Ronnie Lane (bass, vocals) was a founder of the Small Faces, widely regarded as the ultimate "Mod" group. After classic hits like "Sha La La La Lee", "All Or Nothing","Itchycoo Park", "Tin Soldier", "Hey Girl", "Lazy Sunday" and others, singer/guitarist Steve Marriott, with whom Lane had written most of the quartet's hits, left to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton, also singer/guitarist, who had achieved considerable teenubop popularity, with The Herd, a group which like The Small Faces , broke up when its focal point moved on. The Small Faces later complained that despite their impressive chart consistency, they had been left with very little finacial rewards in view of their success (a dozen hit singles and four hit LP's, including the celebrated "Ogdens Nut Gone Flake", on which they utilised the sureal talents of cult comedian Stanley Unwin - this LP came in a circular sleeve, and topped the UK chart).

Along with drummer Kenny (later Kenney) Jones and keyboard player Ian McLagan, Ronnie Lane searched for a replacement for Marriott, eventually recruiting both vocalist Rod Stewart and guiterist Ronnie Wood for The Jeff Beck Group. After changing their name to The Faces (The Small Faces had indeed been short in stature. which was not true of Stewart and Wood), the revitaliesed group became a huge live attraction in Britain during the early 1970s, although attempts to capture their on-stage magic in the recording studio were rarely as successful as advanced publicity generally proclaimed - The Faces were best experienced on-stage, where Rod Stewart was arguably enjoying the status of a latter-day Elvis Presley. This led to another problem, which first caused the group to falter, and finally to split. Rod Stewart's solo records were far bigger and more enduring hits than those by The Faces, and matters deteriorated until it became pointless to continue, with Ron Wood joining The Rolling Stones, and Stewart re-located to the US.

In May, 1973, some months before The Faces faded into oblivion, Ronnie Lane had left the band, apperently disenchanted with its erratic recording career and surely at lest sub-consciously annoyed that the two new recruits were perceived as its stars - Stewart and Wood had, after all, been minor celebrities compared to The Small Faces when they joined, but Stewart in particular had become a huge solo star after topping the charts around the world with "Maggie May", "You Wear It Well", etc., while Wood's status as a Stone (albeit only a featured guest initally, although he was, of course, invited to join permanently before long) also made him a far bigger name than the trio of ex-Small Faces. In addition, The Faces were becoming an arena act in America, and Lane, according to a Faces biography, felt that his major objectives (to enjoy himself and make a comfortable, but not excessive, living from music) were at odds with those of his colleagues and the group's management, who seemed far more concerned with making big bucks. This is not an appropriate place to debate the issues involved - Stewart, for example became a superstar and surely a multi-millionaire - although Lane's decision to leave may seem foolish in retrospect, the reality was probably that Lane's heart ruled his head, and as such, his decision deserves applause from an aesthetic viewpoint even if it left him financially considerably exposed. His departure from The Faces heralded the group's collapse 18 months later - Rod Stewart later said that Lane's departure had left a gap which could not be filled.

Lane then formed Slim Chance, 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. Ronnie had taken to live in a gypsy caravan, and wanted to extend this more relaxed lifestyle to his working hours. After Slim Chance's debut single, "How Come?", was a Top 20 hit, the group released its first album, "Anymore For Anymore", which included their next hit single "The Poacher". "Anymore For Anymore" is a minor classic of its kind - released in 1974, when it reached the TOP 50 of the UK album chart, it featured a band of latterly well-known musicians; Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle, who had been key members of the group McGuiness Flint, but were personally hardly known by name, probably felt that history might repeat itself, and instead of going on tour with Slim Chance, opted to front their own group, revealing their decision only weeks before the band's first tour. Under the appropraite name of Gallagher & Lyle, the departing duo went on to achive two UK Top 10 hits in 1976 backed by most of the rest of Lane's original band; keyboard extrovert Billy Livsey, Jimmy Jewel on Sax and drummer Bruce Rowland.

Undeterred, Ronnie Lane recruited a new Slim Chance 1n 1974, comprising the members of a short-lived London-based group known as St. James Gate; Steve Simpson (guitar, violin, mandolin), Charlie Hart (violin, keyboards, ex-Bees Make Honey), Brian Belshaw (bass, ex-Blossom Toes), Colin Davey, the third drummer tried after Bruce Rowland, the only member of the first Slim Chance to stay with Lane, went off to join Fairport Convention in early 1975, completed the line-up which made two acclaimed LP's for Island Records, "Ronnie Lane" in 1975 and "One For The Road" in 1976, both now reissued on CD by Edsel Records.

That such an obviously talented combo should fall apart in 18 months (twice as long as the earlier line-up) seems in retrospect to have been another example of Ronnie Lane's romantic heart ruling his cheque book. The idea of "The Travelling Show" (as the touring Slim Chance were billed when they appeared live) was certainly romantic and in the best tradition of popular music, and the idea of a neo-hillbilly group who liked playing in circus tents and eschewed glamour was of minimal interest to the taste-makers of the time, who seemed to prefer The Wombles and lest anyone suspect that ABBA or The Wombles were undeserving of their fame, please note that the undersigned was press officer for both acts in 1974/5. The option Lane had chosen was not an easy ride - having left The Faces after two Top 10 singles and two Top 3 LP's, he was anxious to prove that he was still a contender, but fate decreed that Slim Chance always seemed to be running uphill backwards against the wind. After the Gallagher & Lyle fiasco, a second line-up had only lasted three months and he was forced to curtail a national tour scheduled to run through the summer of 1974 six weeks early. Lane said; "I couldn't hold it up after eight weeks because I didn't have any more money - it was as simple as that. We were flogging everything in the end, just to buy enough diesel to move the show; and local authorities over regulations they claimed I was infringing. It was like one of those Duke of Edinburgh award schemes."

"One For The Road" was recorded on location using LMS mobile studio. At the time, Ronnie Lane's mobile studio was in great demand, and was also used, it is believed, to record Eric Clapton's "Rainbow Concert" comeback album and The Who's "Quadrophenia" as well as other less legendary albums. "One For The Road" was produced by Ronnie Lane and mixed by Chris Thomas, and one of the engineers who worked on the sessions was George Chkiantz. According to producer Glyn Johns, Chkiantz invented the "phased drums" effect which was first heard on "Itchycoo Park" by The Small faces, which is an interesting coincidence...

Today Ronnie Lane lives in the United States, where the treatment he needs as a sufferer of multiple sclerosis is more accessible than in Britain. This afliction 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 interrupted. Also worth mentioning is the fact that a group of Lane's fellow musicians, including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts and many more, staged a short tour under the title of the ARMS Concerts (Action for Research into Multiple Sclerosis) in 1985, by which time Lane was so ill that his appearance on-stage at London's Royal Albert Hall to sing "Goodnight Irene" in front of a supergroup of stellar proportions was an unforgettable touching moment. Listening to Slim Chance twenty years on, it is worth considering that many of us have been a lot luckier than Ronnie Lane; however, his music lives on, and for anyone partial to The Band, for example, the appearence of these albums on CD should prove most enjoyable.

 


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