I was 18
years old when I met Ronnie Lane. It was the year after the great summer of '76 that
England still talks about today. They'd remember the summer of '77 for more than
just the weather. I'd met a girl and out of whatever reason moved in with her across
the other side of the country. It was virtually in a different country. Right
on the borders of Shropshire, Herefordshire, and what was then Montgomeryshire, Wales.
playing guitar since I was about 11yrs. old; seeing Jimi Hendrix on T.V. when they
re-released "Voodoo Child" the week he died saw to that. So I was hot shit
by this time, even other people said so. What the hell was I doing moving to
butt**** nowhere? It didn't take long, however, when I got there to find the old
(& young) hippies still trying to work out the Steely Dan & Little Feat riffs.
So singer, guitar, bass & drums, me trying to teach them how to play R&B,
blues & rock 'n roll, the singer thinking he was Peter Gabriel or some other hippie.
Then one day
Ronnie walked into the pub. I'd got a job from my next door neighbour, labouring for
him as he had the contract to refurb the brewery out back & build a beer garden.
We'd nearly finished and they'd kept me on to help out behind the jump. I
sussed Ronnie straight off: The Faces, man! Our drummer was so old he could
remember before the Small Faces. After a while we got to talking, met him at a
couple of parties and finally blagged a support spot for him at a local boozer up in the
hills - the Drum & Monkey (or as Laney would have it, The Horse & Trouser).
We were called some half-arsed name like The Rhythm So & So's so after
the 1st gig Ronnie sold me for a fiver the name he'd been calling his mob - Harry
Earthquake & the Tremors. So we copped his gig & the name - nice one, mate.
At one lunchtime session in the pub as I was closing up (in those days 2.30pm last
orders) he asked me up to the farm he'd got on the hill by Rowton. "Let's get a
few beers and have a strum". O.K. mate, you're the boss.
After that I
think he took a shine to me. Lent me a Twin Reverb when the bass player took back
the amp he'd lent me, another guitar to use live 'cause I used to hit it too hard &
kept breaking strings. But mostly, "why do you keep playing with those guys? Go
play with other people". By this time the romance was pretty much over and
definitely taking second place so I'd taken at weekends to hitching to London with the
guitar and crashing on peoples' couches. One week back in the west Ronnie introduced
me to Nico Korner, eldest son of Alexis Korner, who lived most of the week in a converted
chapel in Knighton, just across the border. Nico, like his dad, was a guitar player
so we stared hanging out & playing, and through him and his dad I ended up moving
permanently to London, spending a month on Alexis's couch in Queensway. All due to
honest bloke. If you were straight with him, no problem (God knows enough people had tried
to have him over over the years...). The other guys I'd played with up in Wales couldn't
understand it. They'd brown-nosed him, told him all the bullshit, got nowhere.
He'd just help someone out if there was no big deal about it. Me?
I was too grateful to say much. I just got me 'round in. That was
enough. He did this for loads of guys, nothing special about me. I thought he
was sick of the attention from people just looking for what a name could do for them,
regardless of who it was.
always remember about him was him insisting that the thing he was most proud about his
whole career was his songwriting. Never mind the strong, swooping basslines, or that
great earthy voice: 'Ronnie Lane - Songwriter'.
I only saw
him once after I left Wales for good. It was a pub gig in town. He just walked
up, shook me hand, said "hello, mate what're having?" Nice one, Ron.
© Phil "what made Milwaukee famous"