Ronnie Lane (from Kuschty Rye CD cover)
Today is the anniversary of the death of Ronnie Lane, a founding member of the Small Faces, the Faces, and a moderately successful solo artist in the 1970’s. Ronnie Lane was born on April 1, 1946 in the East End of London. After quitting school at the age of 16, he met Kenney Jones at a local pub and they formed a group called The Outcasts. Initially playing lead guitar, it was soon decided that Lane would switch to bass. When visiting the J60 Music Bar in Manor Park, London with his father in early 1965, Lane met Steve Marriott, who was working there. Lane bought the bass and went back to Marriott’s house after work to listen to records, where Marriott introduced Lane to his Motown and Stax collection. Lane and Marriott set out to put together a band with Lane on bass and Marriott on lead guitar and lead vocals. Kenney Jones was recruited as drummer, and Jimmy Winston, a guitarist, was added to the lineup, switching to keyboards. The band soon became known as the Small Faces, and began finding work in London and beyond.
The band signed a contract with management impresario Don Arden, who had the band signed to Decca Records. Their debut single, “Whatcha Gonna Do About It”, was released in August 1965, and peaked at #14 in the U.K. Their second single, “I’ve Got Mine”, released in November 1965, did not chart. Shortly afterwards, Jimmy Winston was dismissed and was replaced by Ian McLagan. By August 1966, the Small Faces’ fifth single, “All or Nothing”, reached the top of the U.K. singles chart. In spite of this massive success, the band was making relatively little money. The Small Faces were not convinced that Arden had paid them everything he owed them, and soon a rift developed between Arden and the band. In 1967, Arden sold his contract to Andrew Loog Oldham for 25,000 pounds, and Oldham signed the band to his brand-new label, Immediate Records. There the band continued its successful run, releasing “Itchycoo Park” (#3 U.K., #16 U.S.) in mid-1967, and “Tin Soldier” (#9 U.K., #73 U.S.) later that year. Given the relatively poor performance of “Tin Soldier” in the United States, Immediate ended its efforts to establish the Small Faces in America. But their success in the U.K. continued: their next hit was “Lazy Sunday” (#2 U.K.) in April 1968, which was followed by the release of the LP “Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake” the following month, a psychedelic masterpiece which topped the U.K. album chart for six consecutive weeks. Their next single, the non-album track “The Universal”, reached #16 in the U.K.
In March 1969, the Small Faces released their last single, “Afterglow (of Your Love)”, and the band announced their break-up, with Steve Marriott leaving to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton. The remaining three members (Lane, McLagan and Jones) joined forces with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood and became the Faces, dropping the “Small” from their name. The Faces would release four solid studio albums (and one live album) between 1970 and 1974.
Ronnie Lane left the Faces soon after the release of their fourth studio album, “Ooh La La”, in 1973. He recorded the hit singles “How Come” (#11 U.K.) and “The Poacher” (#36 U.K.) with a backing band he dubbed Slim Chance. The earliest incarnation of Slim Chance featured, among others, the Scottish singer-songwriters Graham Lyle and Benny Gallagher. These singles were more folk-oriented than the bluesy hard rock that had been the Faces’ stock in trade. In July 1974, he released his debut album, “Anymore for Anymore”, on GM Records. After these initial successes, Lane commenced a tour called “The Passing Show”, touring the U.K. as a carnival, complete with tents, barkers, and Viv Stanshall (formerly of the Bonzo Dog Doh Dah Band) as a short-lived ringmaster. The Passing Show was an interesting concept but was largely a financial failure.
Lane had the distinction of releasing four solo albums on four different record labels. He moved to A&M Records of his next album, “Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance” (1974), another album of easy-going folk rock, which was also produced by Lane. “One For The Road” (1976) was released on Island Records and was recorded at Ronnie Lane’s Mobile Studio, a studio housed within an Airstream trailer that was rented out to several bands during the mid and late 1970’s, including Led Zeppelin and the Who. “Mahoney’s Last Stand”, a collaboration with Ron Wood, was released the same year, and was the soundtrack to a Canadian movie released in 1972. Lane’s fourth studio album, “See Me” (1979), was released on Gem Records, and featured several guest musicians, including Eric Clapton, Mel Collins, and Ian Stewart.
In between the release of Lane’s third and fourth studio albums, Lane joined a short-lived reformation of the Small Faces. They filmed two music videos, miming to “Itchycoo Park” and “Lazy Sunday”, which had both re-entered the U.K. singles chart. The band decided to record new material, but Lane left after two rehearsals and was replaced by Rick Wills. He had already signed a contract with Atlantic Records, however, and Atlantic informed him that Lane owed them an album. In order to fulfill his obligation, he collaborated with Pete Townsend on the album “Rough Mix” (1977), which was a modest hit (#45 U.S.) although it was not promoted much by Atlantic, and was lauded as a contender for album of the year by many critics.
During the recording of “Rough Mix”, Lane was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease which had already claimed the life of his mother. He seemed to derive some benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy, an expensive form of treatment that not everyone suffering from multiple sclerosis can afford. Lane began working with Action for Research into Multiple Sclerosis (ARMS), a London-based organization devoted to funding treatment for multiple sclerosis. In 1983, his girlfriend, Boo Oldfield, contacted record producer Glyn Johns in the hopes of getting a concert together to fund ARMS. Johns was already arranging Clapton’s Command Performance for Prince Charles, so they decided to book the Royal Albert Hall for two more nights to hold a benefit concert. The resulting ARMS concert featured Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, among others. With the addition of Joe Cocker and Paul Rodgers, they toured the U.S. It was during this time that Rodgers and Page formed The Firm.
Lane moved to Texas in 1984, where the climate was more beneficial to his health. He formed an American incarnation of Slim Chance, which was, as always, a loose-knit conglomeration of available musicians. This version usually included Alejandro Escovedo. For the next decade or so, Lane enjoyed his rock royalty status in the Austin area, and even toured Japan in 1990. Still, his health continued to decline. His last public performance was at a Ron Wood gig in 1992. In 1994, Lane and his last wife, Susan, moved to the small town of Trinidad, Colorado. At this point the Small Faces were not receiving royalty payments, and Jimmy Page and Rod Stewart generously contributed money for his medical care. Through the efforts of Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan, the Small Faces were eventually able to secure ongoing royalty payments. By this time, however, Steve Marriott had died in a house fire, and on June 4, 1997, Lane had succumbed to pneumonia.
On tomorrow’s show, we will be paying tribute to Ronnie Lane. The show will be streamed live here starting at 11:00 PM Eastern time on Friday (3:00 AM Saturday UTC). You will also by able to download the show at http://sixappeal.podbean.com/.