An irritated Rod Stewart frantically paced up and down in
London's Olympic Studios. He shuffled from control box to the
playback machine, a worried grin wrinkling his forehead. "I
don't like that bloody echo," he lashed out to his girlfriend
sitting nearby. "There's no bloody continuity to the track,
is there?" A bottle of Mateus wine sat patiently on the
stall outside the control booth. The half-empty glasses around
it indicated a long day's work. Rod had been in the studio for
about eight hours, trying desperately to finish laying down the
vocal track for one tune, and he'd botched it a thousand times.
His rooster-cut hair hung limp, his mouth drooped sadly, and
there were bags under his eyes. It had been too long a day for
the exhausted superstar.
Again he tried singing the lyrics to Ronnie Lane's slow-tempo
"Just Another Honky," reading them from the crumpled
scrap of paper he held in his hand. Several times his pacing
was wrong. Once he stumbled on the last line of a verse. Finally,
another take. Would it be the last? No such luck. Producer Glyn
Johns-the man who successfully produced the Stones and the Who,
among others-stopped the tape abruptly, calling, "You're
singing 'urts' for 'hurts.' " One more take, Rod listened
to the playback, and then, still unsatisfied, he broodingly stalked
off to change his clothes and go out for a drink.
As his sleek black limousine glided back towards London, Rod
slumped deeper into the plush back seat. "It's not so much
the physical exhaustion," he explained. "It's the mental
thing, spending a whole day just singing. Trying to get it just
right, going over the same piece time after time. . . I tell
you, though," the raspy vocalist confided, "the thing
that I really hate is songwriting. I hate doing lyrics really;
that is something that's been forced on me. It's something that
isn't natural for me. . . Ronnie's the real songwriter."
Faces mellow out: It had been seven long months since the August
afternoon when Ian McLagan. Kenny Jones, Ron Wood and Ronnie
Lane had first popped into the studio to fool around with ideas
for the new Faces LP Ooh La La (on Warner Bros. Records) . Determined
not to work under the same old pressures that had marked their
earlier LP efforts, they slowly tossed ideas around, discarding
those that wouldn't work and substituting those that would. In
August of '72, they sent the first batch of finished melodies
out to Rod's Windsor home, instructing him to write some lyrics
and begin laying down his vocal tracks. And in February, Rod
received his final batch of new melodies from the band. Rushed
to create new words for the forth coming LP, Rod even flew off
to Switzerland to work in isolation so he could meet his deadline.
When he returned from his sojourn, he dashed off to Olympic Studios
to lay down the last of the lyrics.
But long before the sleek black limousine deposited Rod outside
Olympic Studios and he strode inside to croon the last of the
tunes, he had noticed a subtle change in The Faces new music.
While most of the melodies earmarked for Ooh La La continued
in the rock 'n rolling good time vein of previous Faces LP's
complete with chugging, leering tunes like "Silicone Grown"
and "Ooh La La "-Rod was also confronted by mellow,
slow grinders like "If I'm On The Late Side" and "Just
Another Honky;" and the beat slowed even more for "Glad
and Sorry." While Ron Wood and the boys had turned out the
bouncing rockers, it became apparent that Ronnie Lane had penned
a set of instrumentals and lyrics that were laid back and romantic.
Keyboard man Ian McLagan readily admitted that the band had two
types of numbers-"the rockers that steam along and are good
for the stage and then the low down, quiet sort of things."
Ian went on to explain that Rod had always exerted a strong folk/soul
influence over the band, and that the lanky lad's folky softness
had finally mellowed the Faces hard driving sound. "I don't
think Rod's satisfied just singing rock 'n roll," Ian admitted
"I like to hear him rock 'n roll, but his voice has got
so 'much subtlety, as well . . ."
Lane takes a bow: Rod had always had one foot in the
folk/blues-based world. As a high school boy, he had played harmonica
and guitar, singing and strumming a few simple chords in the
tradition of the early American folk artists. At peace marches
in London he often chanted folk tunes through the streets. And
even his very first tour, back in the early Sixties, found him
travelling through Spain and France with folk singer Wiz Jones.
With that musical heritage, it seemed natural that Rod would
widen the dimensions of the band's music by including the touches
of folk and soul (for months, he drove his girlfriend crazy by
pretending to sound black). But he has had a partner in writing
the songs that have carried The Faces in the soft direction-bassist
Last summer, Ronnie decided to plunge into songwriting with a
passion. He was worried about his talent as a bassist-until he
took his family and friends on a camping trip throughout Ireland
in his mobile home. Playing acoustic guitar by night in tiny
Irish pubs with sawdust on the floors and a beery throng applauding
(he was usually paid in drinks) convinced the fragile musician
that as a bassist he was limited. . . but as a songwriter he
could aim for the moon. He decided he could reach more people
by writing his own music and taking it to the townspeople who
might never hear The Faces. "It's not what you do it's how
you do it," he told close friends. "It's easy preaching
our music to the converted, but it should entertain everybody."
Months later, while sequestered in his private farmhouse on the
Spanish isle of Ibiza, Ronnie began writing some of the tunes
that would give Ooh La La a facelift. His strong faith in guru
Meher Baba influenced such philosophical numbers as "Glad
and Sorry," and the song literally overflowed with a melting,
Thank you kindly for thinking of
If I'm not smiling I'm just
thinking. . .
Can you show me a dream
Can you show me one that's better
Can you stand it in the cold light
Neither can I. . .
Writing with Rod: Then Lane joined forces with Rod
(who had written the words to five of the ten tunes on the new
LP himself and constructed the melancholy, quiet "Flags
and Banners," a "Mandolin Wind" sounding melody
that, some friends say, revolved around Ronnie's turbulent dreams.
He had suffered from nightmares during one tour of America, envisioning
people in hotel rooms reaching out to talk to him. In "Flags
and Banners," the romantic, surreal lyrics revolve around
a nightmare that seems to be about the death of a loved one during
Ronnie's "Just Another Honky" added to the growing
collection of pensive tunes. On the surface, it seems a simple
song about freedom:
You can go if you want to
I don't own you, go be wild
Leave my hand, it's wide open
So's the door evermore. . .
But, in reality, the tune states Ronnie's
personal conflict between his urge to roam the world in a camper
with his friends and family and his desire to be a more perfect
musician. He says "I'm tired of leading a double life--travelling
and making music-that leaves me missing out on both. Here I am
trying to split things by being a jet set rock 'n roller and
living a normal life. Neither are bringing me much satisfaction,
so I might as well say, , All right, I'm in a band and I'm going
to be on the road and make that my life.' " But secretly,
Ronnie confides, he'd like to see more of the United States than
jetports and Holiday Inns, and he longs for the day when he can
join an auto caravan across the country. "I am what you
are and I'm running too," he wrote, "all for the open
Leering Faces: While the mellow tunes might be attributed to
Ron and Rod's influence, the good time rock 'n roll tunes on
Ooh La La stem strictly from the crazy minds of an the Faces.
Their original idea for the LP. reveals Ron Wood, was a Parisian
Can Can theme, and their original album title was How You Gonna
Keep 'Em Down On The Farm After They've Seen Paree? But one night,
as the band was rehearsing for a gig in Wichita, Rod suddenly
shouted at his cohorts, "Ooh La La, that's it! That'll be
the title of the LP!" "There's a continental feel about
the album," explained Ron Wood (Woody to his friends) after
he made his vocal debut singing the title tune. And the lecherous
French face on the LP's cover best portrays the nature of some
of the juicier tunes inside-"Silicone Grown," about
a girl who wanted a little extra help that Mother Nature couldn't
offer; or "Ooh La La, " the bounding saga of a man
who learns too late the dangers of love when he falls under the
spell of the beguiling Can Can girls.
Ron Wood, sitting beside his beautiful wife Chris in their new
17th century Richmond house, stops puffing at his cigarette long
enough to sum up the differences between this album and the two
previous Faces LP's. '"The new LP is different from Rod
and The Faces," he emphasizes. "We've used a lot of
slow reverb on the guitar, slowly turning over the numbers. And
the piano is nicely featured especially on numbers like "Ooh
La La." Melody is the key. . . there's a lot more of it
than on the Faces albums in the past. The majority of it is done
with a more mellow feel." Noticeably missing from the Faces'
LP is the odd live track, explains Woody, which always seemed
to jut out like a sore thumb. But the band paid a price for tying
the LP together in one studio--it took so long to finish! Says
Woody, "Rod had barely finished making his solo LP when
we went into the studios to start making this one. He was exhausted
so we started without him. And then the studios weren't always
available, so we had to wait for them." And two major tours-of
Britain and the U.S.
-interrupted again. "We were working in spasms," he
But now that the spasms have ended, the five Faces are ready
to pat themselves on the back. Rod says the new LP's "great"
and talks of slowing down his solo work to devote more time to
the band. And Ron Wood sums up the entire group's feelings. He
slowly wanders down the stairs of his house to the area where
workmen are converting old servants' quarters into a private
recording studio. He quickly glances across the hall at a room
lined with guitars-"the room where Woody and Pete Townshend
rehearsed with Eric Clapton before the reluctant superstar's
January concert. "I think it's the best album so far for
The Faces," he reflects.
"This is the year the Faces-all five of us-will be on top."