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Circus Magazine
June 1973
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 Ronnie Lane.

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, peaceful feeling:
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
than mine
Can you stand it in the cold light
of day
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 a war.

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 prairie.
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 says.

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." .

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