Ronnie Lane Biographical Essay
April 1, 1946, in Plaistow, England, a suburb of London; died June 5, 1997,
in Trinidad, Colorado, from multiple sclerosis. Lane was a songwriter and
bass guitarist, and co-founder of the rock band the Small Faces. Although
the Small Faces dissolved after several years, re-emerging as the Faces,
Lane's recordings with that group were to be highly influential, summing up
the "mod" subculture and serving as a model for British pop
performers decades later. Lane continued his career as a soloist and as the
frontman for the band Slim Chance, until the onset of multiple sclerosis
restricted his performing. Nevertheless, Lane's spirit was not fully
dampered, and he remained involved in music through benefits and occasional
concerts, even when bound to a wheelchair. "Despite incredible pain,
they just couldn't stop him playing the bass guitar he loved,"
remembered publicist Charlie Comer.
by Gale Research
Like many British rock stars, Lane emerged
from a working class background, leaving school at age 16 to begin
apprentice plumbing before dabbling in guitar playing. By the age of 17,
Lane had teamed up with drummer Kenny Jones and child stage actor Steve
Marriott to form the group The Outcasts. By 1965, the band was rounded out
by organist Jimmy Winston and renamed The Small Faces by Marriott's
girlfriend, referring to the abbreviated height of its members. Before long,
the band had established a reputation as a live act in London and were on
their way to mass acclaim.
In October 1965, The Small Faces issued their
first single, "What'cha Gonna Do About It," on the Decca Records
label. The song introduced Lane's boisterous, hooky rhythms and Marriott's
soulful wailing to an appreciative public. The single sprang into the Top 20
charts in England, and was followed up by "Sha-La-La-La-Lee,"
"Hey Girl," and the band's sole number one hit, "All Or
Nothing." In addition to chart success, the band--now including Ian
McLagan, who had replaced Winston on organ--turned their live presentations
into drunken, boisterous celebrations, as loved by fans as they were dreaded
by club owners.
As Lane and Marriott became the principal
songwriters of The Small Faces, the band moved from the jangly catchiness of
the "mod" sound to a more psychedelic direction. Again the results
were impressive. Their 1967 single "Itchycoo Park" became an
instant classic of psychedelia, with its distorted vocals and infectious
chorus, and their album Ogden's Nut Gone Flake is regarded by many as the
first concept album. While never equalling the mammoth commercial success of
such contemporaries as The Who, The Small Faces managed to concoct a unique
style of songwriting that later songwriters such as Paul Weller (of The Jam
and The Style Council) used as a source of inspiration.
Marriott left the band in 1969 to launch his
own outfit, Humble Pie, leaving Lane without his key writing partner.
Although this signified the end of The Small Faces, Lane quickly built a new
band, The Faces, from the remnants of the old one, along with newly acquired
guitarist Ron Wood and gravel-voiced singer Rod Stewart. The Faces pushed
the unruliness of the Small Faces to new extremes, and produced some of the
liveliest rock music of the early 1970s, including the Lane-penned cuts
"You're So Rude" and "Last Orders." However, the band
quickly developed into little more than a vehicle for Stewart, and Lane
consequently departed in 1973.
After a period of meandering, which included
a brief try at farming, Lane embarked on a new leg of his career as a lead
performer and soloist. As the front for the band Slim Chance, Lane was able
to fulfill the carnival-like aspects of rock music he had essayed from the
onset, playing in circus tents and touring with n entourage of side show
performers. Although financial setbacks proved a stumbling block for Lane,
Slim Chance produced memorable records, including the album Anyone for
Anymore and the singles "How Come" and "The Poacher." In
addition, Lane collaborated with The Who's Pete Townshend on the album Rough
Mix, perhaps the most critically acclaimed of Lane's later efforts.
In the late 1970s, Lane was diagnosed with
multiple sclerosis and was soon unable to perform. In 1979, he moved to
Austin, Texas in hopes of recovery, utilizing traditional American medicine
as well as an experimental technique involving snake venom. Although Lane
did his best not to surrender to the disease by remaining involved in music
and performing when possible, gradual deterioration soon limited even his
wheelchair-ridden concerts to short guest appearances. Consequently, a
number of the British rock elite, including guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff
Beck, and Jimmy Page, staged benefit concerts to pay for Lane's overwhelming
medical bills, as well as for research in finding a cure for multiple
Lane moved to Colorado in the late 1980s,
where he received care from his third wife, Sue, a nurse by profession. Lane
finally succumbed to the disease in 1997, leaving behind two sons from his
second marriage, in addition to his wife. Near the time of his death, an
album entitled Long Agos And Worlds Apart was planned as a tribute to Lane,
featuring acts such as Primal Scream and Kula Shaker.