At Bananas at Large
San Rafael, CA October 2, 2000
Ian McLagan in San Rafael, California? San Rafael, the town in
which the norm is to see housewives driving Mercedes minivans while talking on their cell
phones, rather than a British musician strolling down the main street looking for a open
restaurant while telling stories of a life that only a few of us could imagine?
Ian was indeed in San Rafael, and it
was a night that all will remember for a long time. Before this goes any farther, I have
to say that if you own a copy of All The Rage,
pull it out so you can reference the stories that appear in this write-up. If you dont
own a copy, stop reading this, get online, and go to www.macspages.com
to order the book (also pick up the CD).
Ian Mac McLagan came to
town while on tour with Billy Bragg and The Blokes to chat up his book All The Rage, and play a few tunes off his latest CD, Best
of British. My girlfriend and I drove over the Golden Gate Bridge from our house
in San Francisco; we arrived a good hour before the reading, so we took a stroll down
Fourth Street to grab a bite and a beer. I popped into a record store down the street and
asked the clerk if he knew that Mac was in town. He didnt, but word of mouth is as
strong as ever
We made it back to Bananas at Large and found only two
people waiting. I grabbed a seat in the front row and took out the notes that I had
prepared for the night. Mac was to start at seven; it was now three minutes to, and as I
turned around, I saw the clerk from the record store with a few friends in tow.
At this point, almost every seat was
filled with the fashionably on time people of California. My girlfriend,
Kerri, was trying to get my attention, as I was very busy working out a plan on how to
pour a pint of Guinness for Mac from the stash that I had brought with me. A commotion in
the back of the store turned out to be Mac preparing for the reading: before he came on,
Mac had stopped to talk to the manager of the store and other workers, friends, fans, etc.
Ive met Mac before, and knowing how he is, I knew he was making time for all the new
friends he undoubtedly makes anywhere he shows up.
An EQUINOX PRO keyboard
stood on the stage; Best of British was jamming out of the
speakers. Mac walked on stage with a cup of tea (no milk) and a bottle of water; my plan
of many beers would have to wait. With a smile and hello to the crowd, Mac broke into
Best of British. For most in the crowd, this was likely the first time
that they had ever seen any former member of The Small Faces or The
Faces live. I made note to look around to capture the reactions of the crowd. Why
had they shown up in the first place? Perhaps they wanted to relive a moment from the
past? Did they hope that there was going to be a special guest? Im sure
Mac has dealt with this many times before. He knows how to deal with it: he gets up on
stage and plays his own songs, sings his own songs, and lets people know that its OK
to embrace your past. But Mac wont live on his past work; he has to do it better
each time out, and with Best of British, he shows you that he is moving
forward and is loving every minute of it!
Things were going great, Mac was
singing, people were dancing and moving in their seats, people were singing along
there was one small problem. Mac forgot the words to the second verse! Im
sorry, how does that go
Mac stood there for a moment and attempted to work it
out. No luck; an employee of Bananas at Large steps in and starts the CD.
Best of British starts playing, and Mac leans over and starts laughing,
No, no, Ill work it out!
Clearly not the way that he wanted to
start of the evening, but he made up for it. Without missing a beat, Mac broke into Hello
Old Friend. This version was far stronger than the CD version. I play the CD in
my car, and Kerri has heard all the songs a thousand times; she leaned over and whispered
in my ear, He really has a great voice! I laughed, but it made me think. There
are too many groups/performers on the market today that need the help of studio magic to
create a voice in the place of one that is not there. Not Mac. He has the voice, and he
easily proved it.
Old Friend, it was now time for Mac to read from
the book. I could spend the time retelling the stories from the book, but I dont
think I could capture the feel and excitement that Mac puts into his writing and reading
(trust me: you need to buy the book). After a few passages from the book, Mac talked about
his son Lee and the connection that he has with Billy Bragg; they were the inspiration for
the song Best of British.
Warm Rain, one of
the best tracks off the CD, was the next song Mac played. The song pays homage to his
adopted home state of Texas, where the rain is as warm as the people. Mac
shared one tale not included in the book, from when he was granted his American
citizenship. As he stopped to talk to his
neighbor (with Kim making a run for it!), he mentioned that he was a US citizen but needed
some advice on how to be a citizen of Texas. Mac
you see that dirt that you
standing on? Thats Texas soil
a Texan! Right then he broke into a wicked grin and told us that he had remembered
the words to Best of British and played the song all the way through
with no problems to huge applause at the end!
It was now time for everyone to ask
questions, and boy, was Mac ready! In the book, Mac explains that Glad and Sorry
is one of his favorite Ronnie Lane songs (and the song he heard soon after Ronnie died --
that storys in the book). I asked about Flags and Banners (from
Ooh La La). That (song) came from a dream that Ronnie had about
his own brother. Did he play on the song? Of course, I played on everything.
I then mentioned that I wasnt sure if Ronnie had played keyboards on demos and left
them on the tracks for the album, at which point Mac looked at me and said, I wasnt
sure if you could ever be sober! (Referencing my condition the last time I saw Mac
at the Saxon Pub in Austin.) Thats one for him, but I would get him back.
People asked some great questions.
Did he know Jimi Hendrix? Are the Faces going to tour? (There had been an offer; Woody,
Mac, and Kenny were up for it, but someone had their doubts. Gee, I wonder who that was!)
What was it like playing on Woodys first album? I dont remember much of
the sessions. How is Woody doing now that hes not drinking? Hes
still quite mad, still great, except he listens to you now. There were some
questions that made no sense: Do you think Brian Jones was murdered? I have no idea.
It was now time for another song. Mac told us that this was a new
one he hopes to put out soon. It was called Been A Long Time. If this
tune is any indication of what Mac has in store for his next CD, it just proves that he is
getting stronger with every release.
An old friend of Macs told a story about being in the studio
with him: one day Mac had come into the studio telling a story of his dogs and their habit
of humping everything in the house, and to prove the point Mac started humping around the
studio, imitating his dogs. With much laughter (and a little bit of embarrassment), it was
time to end the reading and have a pint.
People lined up and waited for Mac to
sign anything they had with them. I saw Faces albums, Small Faces albums, Macs solo
albums, the lyric poster from Ooh La La, promo pictures and, of course,
copies of All The Rage and Best
of British. Mac signed everything that they offered. I think that the best item
presented that night was a copy of Thomas the
Tank Engine by a three or four year old boy. When I asked Mac if that was his
youngest fan, he smiled and told me that his granddaughter is his youngest fan!
After everyone cleared out, Mac
invited a few of us out for a few pints at The Mayflower Pub, just across the street
(leave it to Mac to find the only English pub in San Rafael!). The owner of the Pub, Tony,
was delighted to have Mac in his bar and really wanted a picture for his wall. I had the
only camera and arranged the shoot. You have to understand that Tony stands 64,
while Mac is quite a bit shorter, so when they got together and posed, I told Mac, Stand
up while I take this picture! Mac was standing; the look on his face was priceless!
(I told you Id get him back for the sober remark.)
After a few pints we all went out to
find dinner. However, in San Rafael, everything closes early. After checking out the local
Thai restaurant (Mac likes curry) they were very nice, but remained closed
we tried the pizza place. They were shut down also. It was time to call it a night. I said
goodbye to Mac and his friends.
For anyone that doesnt have the
book or CD, buy them. For everyone who already owns the set, tell a friend. Thanks, Mac I look forward to the next big
October 3, 2000
thanks to: Dave McNarie, Tony at the Mayflower Pub, and everyone at Bananas at Large (and