Ian McLagan Interview Part Three
DAVE: Steve stormed off the stage at the Alexandria. What happened afterwards?
IAN: At the Palace? Well, we were very depressed. We were in shock for some time. I imagine Ronnie Lane was in even more of a shock, since his writing partner had blown him out. Ronnie, Kenney and I decided we would stick together if we could.
Donovan came round my flat, and wanted to have us as his backing group!
DAVE: Donovan Leitch?
IAN: "Thank you, Donovan!" [Laughter]
DAVE: He ended up getting Rabbit in there, eventually, so...
IAN: Did he?
DAVE: Cosmic Wheels, 1973.
IAN: Oh, boy! you've got a memory!
Then, Ronnie started working on songs with Ronnie Wood, whom I presume he'd met through Steve, because that's where I met Woody. I'd wheedle my way in, going round to Ronnie's flat where they would be working, sitting in a little bit on the Wurlitzer in the background. Then we started rehearsing with Kenney and with Mickey Waller and other guitarists as well, and eventually we weeded out all the other guys. We were going to keep it to the four of us and handle the vocals ourselves, but it really wasn't working out. Rod would come down, and Kenney got him in to sing. Rod was actually hiding. Eventually he started singing along, and as soon as he did, "...okay!"
It was no time at all before we started developing songs. Next thing, Kenney found a manager, Billy Gaff, who was hanging out at the Speakeasy in London. Billy said, "I can get you out of Immediate contracts. I can get you a record deal." He'd been working for [Robert] Stigwood. He was previously untried, but he was keen and did the job.
DAVE: Did you end up on good terms with Billy Gaff in the end?
DAVE: Okay, just checking!
IAN: Actually, we went with a few different managers. We went with the Kinks' manager, Robert Waice, for a little bit...
DAVE: Oh, no! Poor you!
IAN: Well, he was a wanker. We went with a few people. It all got a bit blurry.
DAVE: Was Leigh Stephens one of the guitarists around then?
IAN: Yeah, he was! Yeah!! How'd you know that?!
DAVE: When I interviewed Ronnie, he said the guy had a bit of a name, was a little bit known, and he was from the States. A while back, I did a search for Ronnie [Lane] on the web, and came up with Leigh Stephens. There was this phenomenal website that had every fart and bubble that ever came out of Ronnie Wood, day-by-day. It popped up there.
IAN: That's not Nico Zentgraf's site, is it? There's a guy from Berlin who bought my book and CD? He's a fantastic character. His website has proven to be very, very, useful.
DAVE: I think you've got a link to him on your site.
IAN: He's been very helpful. He's told me I've played on one of Marsha Hunt's albums, and Juicy Lucy.
DAVE: Sure! You were on the fourth Juicy Lucy album, in 1972. Pieces is the name of the album. The sessions were in December of 71, and the album came out around May of '72.
DAVE: No. It's a name. He played with Ronnie [Lane]. I'll let you know. [It was Bruce Rowlands-- DM]
IAN: If you do, maybe I'll remember. Then I can put it in the book.
DAVE: 1969 was a very busy year, it looks like. How much dead time was there at the end of touring with Steve in the Small Faces, just getting those contractual obligations taken care of?
IAN: Well, there was a lot of dead time. I was living in a tiny little flat and my first wife was pregnant, so for nine months of that year I was decorating. It actually kept me busy. I'd work on songs, nip down to Ronnie's place and do some stuff with him and Woody. I just kept busy. That's what I always do between gigs. I don't sit around. Next thing I know, I'm building something. I've got a project coming up next week, after this MacMillan stuff's finished and the book's done. I've got a couple of songs I want to track, and I've got a couple of short fences I want to build. I enjoy all that.
DAVE: So, other than the pregnancy, no real off time?
IAN: No, I just used that time to decorate.
DAVE: What about the story that when you had just formed and were rehearsing, and the Stones called and Lane answered? [The story is that Ian Stewart called the Stones' rehearsal hall, where the Faces were rehearsing, looking for Woody, whom the Stones wanted to replace the outcast Brian Jones. Lane answered, and Stu asked if Woody was keen to join up with the Stones. Lane responded, "No, thanks. I think he's quite happy where he is." Woody's first chance to join the Stones had been squelched.--DM]
IAN: I heard about that, but I never heard about it at the time. [Lane] never mentioned it to me. Woody would tell you, it was the band he always wanted to be in.
I was actually very angry with Rod at the end of the Faces, but I realized when I was writing the book that I should have been angry with Woody, except that you can't really be angry with him because he's not really devious. He's just always three people trying to please everybody. What he would have done is stayed in the Faces and be in the Stones, if he could have.
DAVE: In '69, the Rod Stewart Album came out, which was called Raincoat in the UK.
IAN: It was actually originally called Thin. If you look on that yellow cover, in the bottom left corner in white on yellow there's the word "Thin". He wanted it called Thin, and the record company said [patronizingly], "...oh, Okay! Fuck you." But they put it on there anyway, just to humor him. Thats the same album basically, I've heard, as An Old Raincoat..., but there's different versions of It's All Over Now, I've recently learned. That's Nico Zentgraff for you.
DAVE: Did you do the Rod Stewart Album sessions before you did any sessions as the Faces?
IAN: Yes, because he already had the deal.
DAVE: So you figured you were tight enough as a band, but didn't have a deal yet. Warners hadnt yet signed you.
IAN: Right. We were getting ready to sign, but Rod was ready to go. He already had the deal when he came back on that last Jeff Beck tour. In fact, the deal was they promised him a sports car, a yellow Marcos, a real cheap piece of crap. It was a kit car, fiberglass. They had it waiting at the airport. That was the deal.
Actually, Rod wasn't signed to Warner Brothers. The Faces is Woody, Ronnie, Kenney and I.
DAVE: A contractual problem because he was signed to Mercury?
IAN: He couldn't sign, yeah. Actually, I've often wondered if he's entitled to anything from our records! It would be lovely to sue him for the money!
DAVE: Hey, maybe you'd get your $500 back for the shipping on that piano! [Recently, Mac got back the piano he'd used during the heyday of the Faces. Stewart had it in storage since the last tour in '75. However, when Rod sent it, he made Mac pay the $500 shipping fee-- DM]
You guys were kind of upset about having to keep the name Small Faces, which Warners imposed on you. You wanted to get away from that. It was enough of a stretch to keep the name "Faces", wasn't it?
IAN: We wanted to change it altogether, but once the first album came out we were Faces in England and Small Faces in America.
DAVE: Had you had anything in mind, as far as a band name is concerned?
IAN: No. We were Quiet Melon for a few minutes, but that was just a joke. I don't think we'd thought about it.
DAVE: What were the sessions for the Rod Stewart Album like?
IAN: They were fast, like all of Rod's sessions. No messing around. We'd get a song, kind of work it out in the studio, and then cut it. Very simple. Lou Reisner was supposed to be the producer, but he wasn't doing much but poncing about. In fact, on the second record, Lou didn't even turn up, but he's down as a co-producer. I think the best thing that he did was to stay at home. Nice bloke, though.
DAVE: What kind of transition was there? Were the Faces immediately back on the road, pounding the pavement?
IAN: Around the time we were doing the Quiet Melon things, we were just fucking around. The first few gigs as the Faces were as Quiet Melon. We were all there, but with Ronnie Wood's brother, Art, and Kim Gardner on bass on some songs. We'd just ramshackle through and fuck around.
DAVE: Where was Ronnie [Lane], if Kim Gardner was there for the bass parts?
IAN: Oh, he was there, too! He was just set over at the side of the stage, having a drink! Then I'd go off for a couple, Art would come and sing, and then Ronnie would come back on. Just backwards and forwards. We had a few gigs like that. It was a way of starting without announcing anything, so you can fuck up.
DAVE: What about Engine 4444 and the others? Was that literally an Art Wood session?
IAN: No, we just threw 'em together.
DAVE: When did the Warner contract finally get signed?
IAN: We signed in '69.
DAVE: Did they put you in the studio first, or did they put you out on the road?
IAN: They didn't do anything. We went into the studio and got the record together. Billy was booking gigs. It was all kind of at the same time, so its kind of vague, because there was so much going on.
I'm just going to go into the book here, so I can tell you the first time we hit America. We were doing gigs in '69. The first Faces tour of America was March of 1970, I think. Yeah, December '69 was the first gig, and January the 31st Saul University; February 2nd Top Rank, Southampton; 3rd, Leeds University; Sallow on the 14th; Gothenburg the 15th, Stockholm the 18th; The Viborg, Denmark, 21st; Copenhagen 22nd; 23rd Bristol University; and March the 1st, Lyceum, London. Our hometown gig. Cook's Ferry in London the 16th; 21st, Mother's, Birmingham; 25th of March, Toronto; 26th of March, Boston for 3 nights. And we never stopped from then.
DAVE: Did the States pick up on you immediately?
IAN: Oh, yeah!
DAVE: Do you think that would have happened with the Small Faces if you'd ever gotten over?
IAN: Dunno. Don't know. Good question. They took us to heart, though, America. America was just right. It was a great fucking time. England really didn't care, "oh, yeah? Ho hum." We had to go back after doing a couple of American tours as 'the heroes'.
DAVE: England seemed to be in the doldrums then.
IAN: There were a lot of bands playing while people were looking at their shoes.
DAVE: I'm trying to get a mood of what the Faces must have been like. It was nonstop touring and partying and fitting in some sessions between.
IAN: Basically, you've hit it on the head. We were on the road as much as we could because we were just starting. We were playing America as soon as we could. England didn't seem to want us, and it took a while for the UK to catch up. But America caught on quite fast, so we did two, maybe three tours that first year. We kept going, and eventually got down south and the west coast, and it went well there. We opened for Three Dog Night on a few gigs, which turned us on to a lot of fans.
DAVE: I guess it was Detroit that really turned things for you?
IAN: We were 'made in Detroit'. Yep. Detroit did it for us. That was our third or fourth gig in the States: Boston; New York; Wheaten, Maryland; and then Detroit.
DAVE: How would you remember Wheaten, Maryland, off the top of your head?
IAN: Actually, a lot of reasons. I have itineraries. Having written the book, one of our roadies said, "oh, I've got itineraries if you want." Theyre not quite complete and, in fact, he didn't have the last tour. But I remember Boston being the first gig, and I remember then going to New York, and I remember very clearly Wheaton, MD, because the local Warner Brothers guy took us to his house for lunch, and it was really nice. Then we went to Detroit, which is night and day from Wheaton! Maryland was all suburban lawns!
DAVE: And this was your first hit of America.
IAN: Ab-so-lute-ly. Well, it was our first gigs. We stayed in a San Francisco airport hotel in 1968 for one night, illegally I might add. We were coming back from Australia, and this plane's engine broke down. I had no visa and was not allowed to play in America. But they landed, and I was thinking, "oh, shit! Theyre gonna send me to jail!" And they said, "Right! We're going to put you up for the night in a hotel." How can they do that? They didn't ask for visas, we had none. But they had to work on the engine. They couldn't take off immediately like they'd thought. So we stayed the night, and Keith Moon and I spent the night switching TV channels and radio stations. I was freaking out, I couldn't believe it. Gospel stations! A station just for gospel! Fuuuck! And blues stations! It was unbelievable, incredible. It was a hell of a mindblast. That was my first experience, and I wanted to get back as soon as I could.
DAVE: Was the visa trouble from the drug bust?
IAN: Yeah, 1967.
DAVE: What kind of tour was this first American tour? Buses?
IAN: Planes. We were in the Detroit airport or Chicago airport every few days. I remember the Detroit airport, particularly. I had to submit my passport to Washington to try and get more entry and exit visas. They gave me one entry and one exit, and if we wanted to play Canada, I had to get more, which took weeks! There's this one bar in the Detroit airport we used to go in to have drinks, and they wouldn't serve me because I didn't have my passport. The others would be drinking, and they'd pass me drinks, and the waitress would come over. "No! He, obviously, is under age! He hasn't got a passport!" I said, "Aw, for fuck's sake, girlfriend! I'm a professional drinker, not an amateur!"
DAVE: So there was no big transition, really, from bus tours to the big time? No slogging around?
IAN: Not until Bonnie Raitt and David Lindley.
DAVE: What was it in Detroit that made you know things were hitting right?
IAN: Well, the people came out and made a difference. We were opening for Savoy Brown. We did a couple of nights in East Town, and we kicked their asses. We came back to East Town at the end of that tour, as far as I remember. I know we played in or around Detroit so many times. We played the Palladium, Birmingham; Ann Arbor; a lot of places. The next tour, we played East Town and Savoy Brown opened for us!
DAVE: Did you play with many of the Detroit bands, like the MC5?
IAN: Actually, they opened for us, or we played with them in Toronto, and kicked their asses, too. We were opening for Grand Funk Railroad and every other band, and kicking everybody's ass, because they were all so boring. Long guitar solos.
DAVE: When did the competition between the Faces and the Stones begin?
DAVE: Ragging each other...
IAN: Oh, Rod used to get into that, but none of us did. Rod had a bee in his bonnet about Mick, you know. He'd sort of take the piss out of him. I don't think Mick ever bothered or made any mention of him, it was just Rod. He was always jealous of Mick and eventually, of course, Woody left and joined Mick, and it really must have pissed him off! We'd hang out with Keith every now and again in London, but we'd never see them on the road.
DAVE: Do you remember anything about the sessions on the first Faces album?
IAN: Yeah, bits and pieces. We did them very fast at DeLane Lea Studios in Soho. Very fast, Martin Birch engineering. It was very quick, too quick, and it sounds it. Two instrumentals on an album with two singers! Pineapple and the Monkey, and Looking Out the Window.
DAVE: And that was about the only time you saw Kenney Jones get a writing credit where it wasn't a band signature.
IAN: Well, Rod was being generous, a rare occurrence.
IAN: Basically, a rip-off.
IAN: Ah, well, we won't go into that! [Laughter]
DAVE: Why start trouble.
IAN: Could be. It's an old song.
DAVE: In the space of about a year and eighteen months, between the Faces and Rod Stewart, you put out about four albums of material. What kind of hellish nightmare was that?
IAN: Well, it wasn't. I didn't see the pressure. Rod put two albums out within a year, didn't he? And we had our first and second one. When you consider that there's two instrumentals on the first one, and Rod didn't sing all the other songs anyway, it wasn't too much of a strain for him, or a strain for anyone, really. And there were only eight tracks on there, right? I saw one of his albums the other day, and there's only eight tracks on it. I think Every Picture... or Never A Dull Moment.
DAVE: They were short albums, but they were allowed to be back then.
IAN: And the shows were short, too! I mean, no two-and-a-half hour things like I do with my band now.
DAVE: It seems like the second album, Long Player, was a bit of a hodgepodge of material. You did Rod's second album, then you needed to get some material together for the Faces second album. It ended up a mix of live and studio stuff.
IAN: I never liked the live stuff. Maybe I'm Amazed was okay. We went into the studio in LA and cut it at one point, but it's embarrassing, I think. I hope that never surfaces on an album, but there's always some wiseguy at the record company who thinks they know better than you do. "Oh, we were going to get in touch with you, but we couldn't find your address." You know, Warners Publishing, for about ten years, never paid me. I wasn't paying attention, because Faces stuff wasn't out anyway. I did a search and found 50,000 fucking dollars owed me! I was listed as "address unknown." I said, "that's funny. I work for your fucking company with all these different artists today, and your recording royalties come through to me! [Why not these royalties, too?!]" It's unbelievable! They don't think they have to pay you.
DAVE: It's called "creative bookkeeping".
IAN: Yeah! And, after a certain period of time, they can't go back. They don't keep records. They've spent that money, and you can't have it. I've just got a lot of venom. I was thinking of having a newspaper column, called "My Spleen".
It's difficult to draw questions for that period, because it was more a nonstop party than anything.
IAN: Well, it was. We toured and toured, and eventually got back to London, and then we'd spend some time in the studio or we'd record in LA or in several other places. We'd scrabble together bits of albums. That second album, with some live stuff recorded at the Fillmore in New York, and some stuff recorded in LA, it was a bit of a mess, really. But, eventually, it all fell apart. Ronnie Lane left. That was beginning of the long, slow end. Although we did get some tracks with Tetsu, I'm happy to say.
DAVE: When you got Glyn, was he a carryover from the Small Faces days? Was that the conscious decision?
IAN: Ronnie got Glyn for Nod's As Good As A Wink. And it was a fucking good move.
DAVE: Nod's seemed like a much more cohesive effort.
IAN: Oh, yeah. That was down to Glyn. We'd been producing ourselves and fucking up, really. Glyn brought us all together and got the best out of us. God bless him, he was very well aware of Rod's solo albums and he wanted to get the Faces on a similar footing.
DAVE: It seemed that Nod's was the first attempt at a real Faces record. The Stewart albums is where all the attention was put, and the Faces were like a contractual obligation up until that point.
IAN: It was on Rod's part, right.
DAVE: It seemed like there was time set aside for the first time, where you went into the studio with the sole premise of making an album.
IAN: That's right. I listen to that, and I could even like Memphis! That's my least favorite track on there, but I can listen to it all!
DAVE: Lane told me you were all waiting around the studio for Rod, and Ronnie was trying to remember the bassline, then you threw it together as a slop track. Then Rod sang over it.
IAN: Pretty much accurate, yeah. I don't know why we let it on the fucking album!
DAVE: Was there better material left off?
DAVE: Okay then! Well, there you go!
IAN: Well, you get to nine or ten, then you stop, don't you? Well, you did then. Now you've got to go to fucking twelve! Jesus!
DAVE: Seventeen songs on one CD! That was never thought of!
IAN: And a cover you can't read! It drives me nuts. I thought I'd never do something like that! Of course, when I put out Best of British, I printed all the lyrics as small as I could so they'd fit in it. I thought, "yeah! That'll work!" You can't read those with a magnifying glass! I can't read 'em!
DAVE: It was probably between '72 and '73 that the two Ronnies began working in earnest on Mahoney's Last Stand.
IAN: Yeah! In fact, I remember us doing some stuff in '75 and '76. I wish I had diaries from those years. I have skimpy diaries from '75 and '76, and I had other diaries, more like dates and places, but they help to remind you of different things. I don't have them for that period, though. They disappeared when we moved to America.
I worked on some of those things, and I noticed in '76 they were still working on it. Strangely, in the space of a month after Woody left the Faces, I did a gig with Ronnie Lane, wrote songs with Steve Marriott, worked at Woody's studio on my stuff, worked on Woody's songs with him at his studio, and also on Mahoney's Last Stand.
IAN: Have you ever seen it?
IAN: You'd know why If you'd seen it...
DAVE: Was it that bad?
IAN: It was dull. Dull-fucking-dull.
DAVE: So you saw a rough cut of it, then?
IAN: I saw an unedited print. Dull. You know Sam Waterston? There's one scene where he's on a front porch, and he's got a hoe-- I don't mean a girl, I mean a long-handled trowel / garden instrument thing...
DAVE: H...O...E, hoe, a gardening tool.
IAN: A gardening implement. And he's rattling, revolving it to the left and to the right, clunkclunkclunk, on this wooden deck. He does that at least for ten minutes! It was awful!
DAVE: Glyn Johns produced that soundtrack, and he worked on Ooh La La, too. One of the few things you had on your side during those sessions.
IAN: I think that was a great record. I mean...
DAVE: Oh, it was. It's just the lack of support you were getting from Mr. Stewart.
IAN: Oh, yeah! Absolutely! He turned up, eventually. That's about all he did on that one.
DAVE: It was another two years between Nods and Ooh La La. By then, it seems the strain had gotten to you all. Did Lane go in feeling like that was going to be the Last Hurrah?
IAN: I have no idea how he was feeling. I remember we couldn't get Rod to come to the studio for the first two weeks. We'd cut tracks with Glyn's help and determination. He told us to carry on, and he'd phone Rod, and Rod would say, "Oh yeah, I'm coming down. I'm working on lyrics". He'd just never turn up. Two weeks later, he comes in and hears the tracks and says, "I don't like that." "That's no good." He'd make comments like that. We played him Ooh La La with Ronnie Lane singing, he said, "...naaa". That was his comment: "Naa!" We said, "What are you talking about?! It's great!" "It's the wrong key for me." So we worked it out in the right key, and cut it again. He still wouldn't sing it! He told Woody to sing it, so Woody did.
DAVE: So was he just contributing lyrics on that album?
IAN: We cut tracks several times. We cut Ooh La La three times altogether.
Rod called me last year. He said, "Got any songs? I'm looking for a song for Ronnie." I said, "I've got a couple." He said, "I've just cut Ooh La La." I said, "Oh, really??! You're 25 years too fucking late! Ronnie's getting nothing for it now!" I did! I fucking freaked out at him. I said, "Why bother doing it now? You wouldn't bother doing it then! You wouldn't do it when we asked you to!"
DAVE: Is Ronnie's version still floating around, ready to be released on some box-set?
IAN: Oh, well, you know Warner's will allow someone to put it out! There's some company in England, New Millennium, that have just put out Ronnie Lane's CD, and there's four tracks on there with unfinished vocals.
DAVE: Guide tracks, I know.
IAN: You'd finish a track and Rod would put a guide vocal on, or maybe just leave the live vocal, because we needed to take tapes home. And then Ronnie dies and somebody finds a tape and says, "oh, look! An unheard of Faces track!" Bull-shit! I'm trying to stop it now. It's already been out for a year before I found out.
DAVE: The stuff Stan [Lane, Ronnie's brother] put together? I guess Stan uncovered boxes of stuff.
IAN: Yeah. Stan's a lovely bloke, but... Unfortunately, that's our legacy. It's like the Small Faces all over again.
DAVE: From the start, Ronnie's always been screwed though. At this point, it's just nice to have something out. It took me years to track down a copy of See Me on vinyl. It was about seven years after I interviewed him that I was able to find a copy.
IAN: See Me? I don't know it.
DAVE: Ronnie's last album? The one he did with Gem?
IAN: Oh! It's called See Me? I'm not familiar with it.
IAN: Was it called something different in England?
DAVE: I don't believe so. [It had tentatively been titled True Stories-- D.M.]
IAN: Oh, I wasn't aware of that. The title slipped by me. "Ronnie who...?"
This Rhino CD that's going to come out in August, the Best of the Faces, I've been very involved with that. Actually, I decided the running order, I mixed one of the tracks, and was happy to be constructively involved. [Rhino's] been brilliant. It should be like that at Castle.
DAVE: Was the title of that Rhino collection taken from Ronnie [Lane]? I'd hear him say that quite a bit.
IAN: Good Boys... When They're Asleep. Yeah! Actually, his line was "nice boys when they're asleep", but Woody told me I remembered it wrong. But it's still good, I think. It's actually based on the photograph we're going to use, which I picked. It's a Tom Wright shot that we wanted to use for an album cover, from 1970 or '71, but Warners turned it down because we all had our eyes shut. It's a lovely shot, and it's really strange.
DAVE: Are you standing up in the photo? In a field or something, real close together? It's on a Warners new-product compilation album from 1970, a record for deejays and radio stations. Tell Everyone was the track it featured.
IAN: Really? Actually, I'm looking at it now, on the wall. Ronnie's in the front, then Woody and Rod. Rod's sort of got his nose on Ronnie's shoulder. Then Kenney and me. It's a lovely shot, and it goes with the title: Good Boys, dot dot dot, When They're Asleep. And it will be in Holiday Inn lettering, like A Nod's as Good as a Wink.
DAVE: Finally, a decent Faces compilation on the American market.
IAN: It'll be one CD. We should have done more, but [Rhino] just wanted one CD. In fact, it's jam-packed, almost eighty minutes long.
DAVE: Does it have any of the b-sides on it? Because, from the Small Faces on, you guys were just incredible instrumentalists.
IAN: No! I'd like to do a box-set one of these days, but [Rhino] didn't want everything. I wanted to make sure this one represented Ronnie Lane better than any other Faces collection. I'll tell you what's on it, if you like. There's Flying, Three Button Hand Me Down, Wicked Messenger, Sweet Lady Mary, Bad'n'Ruin, Had Me A Real Good Time, Debris, Miss Judy's Farm, You're So Rude, Too Bad, Love Lives Here, Stay With Me, Cindy Incidentally, Glad and Sorry, Borstal Boys, Ooh La La, Pool Hall Richard, You Can Make Me Dance, and this new song, Open to Ideas. We cut it in '75 but never finished it.
DAVE: So it's Tetsu.
IAN: Yeah, the last tour with Tetsu. It's a beautiful song.
DAVE: How did you all get on with Tetsu? Where did you get him from, anyway? All he was known for was as a replacement for Andy Fraser in Free...
IAN: We were actually going to try Andy Fraser, but Simon Kirke warned us off him. He said, "no! Try Tetsu! Tetsu's great!"
DAVE: If you got Tetsu in, and everything seemed hunky-dory, why...
IAN: It wasn't hunky dory. The thing was we really didn't waste much time getting a bass player. We just called Tetsu up, said "we want you to join the Faces." "Okayyy!" And so that was the end of that, basically. We didn't realize he couldn't speak English and was drinking night and day. I mean, boy, he put us to shame! He embarrassed us!
DAVE: Can you give me an idea as to how the breakdown went with Ronnie, from your point of view? How were things going within the band up to that point?
IAN: Well, we couldn't get Rod in the studio. There was a lot of upheaval. My wife left me, Ronnie left his wife, I went off with Ronnie's wife, and Ronnie Wood went off with George Harrison's wife... It was all a bit of a cock-up. It must have been in the stars or something. Ronnie's wife-to-be, Kate, pretty much got under his skin about Rod. She couldn't leave it alone, and he kind of had to do something about it. "Ronnie, Ronnie, Ronnie, nag nag nag..." You know? You know how these things can go. When you're dealing with a band, the wives are always the worst. They start more problems! All of the wives were capable of it, every one of them.
DAVE: So it wasn't just Yoko?
IAN: He would sort of mumble and moan at times, around that time. One night, before we went onstage... I can picture the dressing room very clear, but I don't know where it was... He looked at me and says, "I'm leaving the group!" I said, "Oh, fuck off!" That was our standard line of being stupid, you know? "I'm leaving the group" was something you would never say seriously, it was always a joke. So, when he said it, I said, "Oh, fuck off!" He says, "no, I mean it. I'm leaving the group." I thought, ".... ohhhh, fuuuck!" "Fucking Rod," he said, "why don't you leave with me and we'll get a new group together?" I said, "Ronnie, this is the group I'm in. This is the one I've wanted to be in. I'm in it. You'd better fucking leave." And I was really, really upset with him. I thought he would change his mind, but he'd already made up his mind.
He came over to me that night or a few nights later while we were in a song and called me a cunt. We were in the middle of a song, and I chased him off the stage and kicked him up the ass! Kicked him off the back of the stage! [Laughter] Whacked him as he said it! "Don't call me a cunt and get away with it!"
He reminded me of it, years and years later. "You fucking kicked me off the stage!" I said, "Yeah, and I'd do it again! Why'd you ever fucking leave the group?" He said, "I don't know!"
DAVE: Do you think it would have gone much longer?
IAN: Noooo! Someone had to break! I mean, Rod wasn't gonna leave! We couldn't get rid of him! I mean, he had the best deal of all: he had a very cheap backing group. Actually, it was costing him too much, because he was only getting a fifth. He wasn't happy with that.
DAVE: So how did the disintegration actually come, then?
IAN: I read about it in the paper one morning. Rod said, "the Faces have broken up." That's the first I knew, late in '75 or in early '76.
DAVE: Was Billy Gaff the manager of the Faces from day one until the very end?
IAN: No, I fired him in 1975. Personally. When he showed up to a gig and I saw it advertised as Rod Stewart and the Faces. Basically, Billy was just thinking of Rod and the future, not of us. It was bound to end unhappily, really.
DAVE: How soon after the end of the Faces did the Small Faces resurface?
IAN: Well, at some point in '74 or '75, Ronnie and Steve had got together with the idea of getting a band together again. I found out a little bit later, when we cut a deal with Atlantic, Steve owed huge amounts of money to A&M and Dee Anthony, his manager, and didn't have anywhere else to go. He couldn't pay, and couldn't get a record deal on his own, so he needed us. Pretty much, that's why the Small Faces reformed. As far as he was concerned, he was trying to pay his debts. As far as I was concerned, it was the last thing I wanted to do. I was angry with Ronnie, although I'd seen him around and eventually sat in with him.
Then, Steve invited me down to his place, and we started writing songs. I'd written with Ronnie more than Steve. I'd written with Ronnie alone, and with Ronnie and Steve. I'd never written with Steve alone before, and it worked out really good, and a lot of songs came out of it quite quickly. When we went into the studio as Small Faces, with Ronnie, Kenney, Steve and I, we went in to do a couple of tracks. Ronnie got the needle. He got a little drunk very quickly and he got angry and said, "bullocks to you lot!" Steve and me chased him out of the studio, and I kicked him up the ass again! Which he reminded me of, as well! [Laughter]
DAVE: How long did he last, then?
IAN: He only lasted the one night. We were asked to get together to do a video for Itchykoo Park and Lazy Sunday, which NEMS were re-releasing. NEMS was run by Tony Caulder at that time, who was partners with Andrew Oldham at Immediate. We closed down Immediate. So what did he do [after] Immediate? He moved to a company called NEMS, they buy up the rights to the songs, and put them out again! He offered us £1000 each to do a video of each of these songs, "and then why don't you consider doing a gig and we'll film and record it, put a live album out and a film, blah blah blah, you'll make a ton of money, and you won't ever have to see each other again!" We did the video, then he scarpered, never paid us, the muh-tha-fuh-ka. Itchykoo Park was a hit again, and he never paid us again!
We decided it was fun to get together, "let's go into the studio and cut some stuff". Ronnie lasted one evening. In the middle of the night, early the next morning, we kicked him out. But we were all very depressed, because it had been a very good idea. Of course, we were older chaps, and we weren't quite as keen on Steve, but he was a good laugh. Then we got together with Rick Wills, and made a record we were quite pleased with at the time. We got a record deal, then realized we had to give half the money to Steve because of his stupid debts.
DAVE: Shades of what he did with the Majic Mijits, eh?
IAN: See, I didn't know how that happened.
DAVE: They got some material together, and they went to Keith Richards. He loaned them something like £80,000 or $80,000 to finish everything off and get a deal together, because they'd already had bites from Island or somebody. Steve took the money and restarted Humble Pie.
IAN: Really? From Keith?
DAVE: You might ask Keith. Double-check that. This is all straight from Lane.
IAN: I didn't know about that. I had nothing to do with that. I know I've been asked to work on the Majic Mijits, take any keyboards off and replace them with me, and put Kenney Jones on there and call it Small Faces. No fucking way.
DAVE: Good God, whose idea was this?
IAN: I'm not interested in going backwards anymore. It's bad enough mixing a Faces track, but that's one evening. I don't want to make a career out of it. Besides, they were Ronnie and Steve's songs! Let it stand as it is! It's how they wanted it! Anyway, we got Rick Wills in to replace Ronnie. Rick had worked with Dave Gilmour.
DAVE: Rick and Dave started out together in the late 60s. They had a band together in Cambridge, Joker's Wild. They toured Europe a lot. Floyd poached Gilmour out of Joker's Wild as a backup guitarist fill in for Syd (Barrett).
IAN: Oh, really? Rick's a lovely bloke. He's back in Cambridge now. I got email from him the other day. He read my book and he loved it. Rick was great, but the touring wasn't fun.
Unlike the punk bands that were spat upon, Steve decided to spit on the audience. He thought that was a very good idea. And I was horrified. Horrified, also, at having to do Itchykoo Park and Lazy Sunday again, which I never enjoyed playing live. In fact, I refused to do Itchykoo Park when I toured with Ronnie Lane in 1990. Anyway, we were doing all that shit. We toured England, we toured Germany, toured England and Germany again, and I just stopped answering phone calls from Steve. We could never keep any money. He used to wreck his room or spend it all. It was impossible to deal with.
DAVE: Playmates seemed to come together pretty simply. What about 78 in the Shade?
IAN: During those sessions, I took the weekend off and recorded Miss You [wih the Rolling Stones] and other things in Paris. I kind of wanted to break out from the Small Faces thing. I was sick of the music, sick even of the songs I'd written. Shel Talmy helped out on 78 in the Shade. We were recording at Steve's studio in his garage. Actually, it used to be Ronnie Lane's house at Morton. Shel Talmy came out there with a mobile, and Stevie would call him "Blind Boy". Shel's got very bad eyesight. It went on and on, and the joke wore... It was never very thick, but it wore thin quickly. Shel hated him. There was a lot of tension eventually.
We actually cut a couple of really good tracks in a studio in town. We did Chuck Berry's Don't You Lie To Me, and a Bobby Womack song, Looking for A Love. They were the two best things we cut for that album, but they were actually for a single. That album was a piece of crap.
DAVE: Where did Jimmy McCulloch fit in?
IAN: Oh, Steve! Steve wanted another guitarist. They brought Jimmy in. Nice boy, Jimmy.
©2000 D.C. McNarie May not be reproduced in any manner without prior written consent of author.