I first really became aware of Ronnie when the Faces appeared
on the BBC TV show Top of The Pops in the UK. The show was experimenting
with a band doing 2 or 3 album tracks and the Faces were on supporting
their 'Long Player' album. They did 'Had Me a Real Good Time'
and 'Richmond', Ronnie did not sing the lyrics during the latter,
he just kept saying 'I am good, me' and 'This is good, this'
whilst playing very good acoustic slide guitar along with Ronnie
Wood. I suppose this impressed a small town 15 year old enough
to check out the album. I tended to like Ronnie's stuff more
than the other tracks and when he left I continued to follow
Some years later I was promoting concerts on a small local
scale, when the chance to promote Ronnie and Slim Chance on the
tour in support of the 2nd album, which I jumped at. Before the
show I went to the dressing room, like a young teenager, and
asked Ronnie to autograph the 'Anymore for Anymore' sleeve. Ronnie
said, he took the photograph on the sleeve and in felt tipped
pen (which has sadly faded somewhat) he wrote 'Photographed by
Ronnie Lane'. The show was absolutely brilliant with a wonderful
version of 'The Poacher' featuring 2 violins, but best of all
was 'Debris' a song so sublime and so much better than the Faces
version. The show ended with 'Oh La La' and the Can Can, as the
all did in those days.
A couple of years later I attended another show with a different
line up of Slim Chance, which included, the late Ian Stewart,
with whom I had a long conversation before the show. He told
me he was doing it for free as Ronnie was 'a mate and a bit hard
up'. This time the show was based around the 'One For The Road'
album, Ronnie refused to play 'The Poacher' as he only had 1
violin player. The show was brilliant, if only lightly attended,
when he played 'Oh La La', someone asked where the Can Can dancer
was, Ronnie said, 'Oh she,s run off with the man from the time
and motion department'. The show again included 'Debris' and
my reaction to this made another member of the audience ask whether
I was being paid to encourage everyone to join in, I said, 'I
do not need playing to enjoy myself.
The last time I saw Ronnie was supporting the 'See Me' album
early in 1980, this time it was at 'The Venue' in London, then
a new place owned by Richard Branson. This was 200 miles from
where I was living at the time, but word of his illness was beginning
to spread and I thought it may get harder to see him. The paying
audience was quite small, as their were many invited celebrity
guests. The band included Bruce Rowlands and Henry McCulloch,
the show had a harder edge than previous shows, but it still
had the warmth and included my beloved 'Debris'. It was well
worth the trip and even getting home at 7 am, due to British
Rail, did not dampen my enjoyment.
I still miss being able to see Ronnie in concert every few
years, but I really started to miss that 20 years ago. I hope
any reader enjoys my memories of fun filled nights watching Plonk
enjoy himself for us.
I was 18 years old when I met Ronnie Lane. It was the year
after the great summer of '76 that England still talks about
today. They'd remember the summer of '77 for more than just the
weather. I'd met a girl and out of whatever reason moved in with
her across the other side of the country. It was virtually in
a different country. Right on the borders of Shropshire, Herefordshire,
and what was then Montgomeryshire, Wales.
I'd been playing guitar since I was about 11yrs. old; seeing
Jimi Hendrix on T.V. when they re-released "Voodoo Child"
the week he died saw to that. So I was hot shit by this time,
even other people said so. What the hell was I doing moving to
butt**** nowhere? It didn't take long, however, when I got there
to find the old (& young) hippies still trying to work out
the Steely Dan & Little Feat riffs. So singer, guitar, bass
& drums, me trying to teach them how to play R&B, blues
& rock 'n roll, the singer thinking he was Peter Gabriel
or some other hippie.
Then one day Ronnie walked into the pub. I'd got a job from
my next door neighbour, labouring for him as he had the contract
to refurb the brewery out back & build a beer garden. We'd
nearly finished and they'd kept me on to help out behind the
jump. I sussed Ronnie straight off: The Faces, man! Our drummer
was so old he could remember before the Small Faces. After a
while we got to talking, met him at a couple of parties and finally
blagged a support spot for him at a local boozer up in the hills
- the Drum & Monkey (or as Laney would have it, The Horse
& Trouser). We were called some half-arsed name like The
Rhythm So & So's so after the 1st gig Ronnie sold me for
a fiver the name he'd been calling his mob - Harry Earthquake
& the Tremors. So we copped his gig & the name - nice
one, mate. At one lunchtime session in the pub as I was closing
up (in those days 2.30pm last orders) he asked me up to the farm
he'd got on the hill by Rowton. "Let's get a few beers and
have a strum". O.K. mate, you're the boss.
After that I think he took a shine to me. Lent me a Twin
Reverb when the bass player took back the amp he'd lent me, another
guitar to use live 'cause I used to hit it too hard & kept
breaking strings. But mostly, "why do you keep playing with
those guys? Go play with other people". By this time the
romance was pretty much over and definitely taking second place
so I'd taken at weekends to hitching to London with the guitar
and crashing on peoples' couches. One week back in the west Ronnie
introduced me to Nico Korner, eldest son of Alexis Korner, who
lived most of the week in a converted chapel in Knighton, just
across the border. Nico, like his dad, was a guitar player so
we stared hanging out & playing, and through him and his
dad I ended up moving permanently to London, spending a month
on Alexis's couch in Queensway. All due to Ronnie...Typical.
A good, honest bloke. If you were straight with him, no problem
(God knows enough people had tried to have him over over the
years...). The other guys I'd played with up in Wales couldn't
understand it. They'd brown-nosed him, told him all the bullshit,
got nowhere. He'd just help someone out if there was no big deal
about it. Me? I was too grateful to say much. I just got me 'round
in. That was enough. He did this for loads of guys, nothing special
about me. I thought he was sick of the attention from people
just looking for what a name could do for them, regardless of
who it was.
What I'll always remember about him was him insisting that
the thing he was most proud about his whole career was his songwriting.
Never mind the strong, swooping basslines, or that great earthy
voice: 'Ronnie Lane - Songwriter' I only saw him once after I
left Wales for good. It was a pub gig in town. He just walked
up, shook me hand, said "hello, mate what're having?"
Nice one, Ron.
© Phil "what made Milwaukee famous" Dobbin,
(added August 28, 2002)
I have and will always be a huge Faces fan. Their music to
me, is as fresh as the day they recorded it. The Faces inspired
me so much, I bought a cheap chord book, my Mum (bless her) bought
me a £21 Guitar in 1974, and away I went and tought myself
I wanted to play with all the rythem of Ronnie Wood, the
melody of Ian McLagan, the vision of Ronnie Lane, the Kick of
Kenny Jones and the grit of Rod Stewart. Did I get there?..well
not for me to judge...but I tried so bloody hard.
No music has ever effected me as much as theirs. I couldn't
imagine life today with out playing my guitar, and I owe them
so much for showing me the Beauty of Soulful R & B.
I always hoped one day of being famous (didn't we all), for
no other reason but to have an opportunity, that fame would bring,
of meeting them. That dream diminishes very fast, as time moves
on. Winning the lottery would not be a contender to that dream!
I will always feel a mixture of heartfelt sadness, and hights
of happiness, when I saw The Faces at a re-union gig off the
back of Rod's consert at Wembley in 1986. When I saw a pain ridden
Ronnie Lane helped on stage by Messers Wood & Stewart. I
watched Ronnie Lane's face, turned from so much pain, to pleasure
as he started to sing backing vocals to Rod on "I'm Losing
you", as the fans including me willed that pain away for
the great man.
Bill Wyman, dutifully stood in for Ronnie on Bass, but not
a soul on earth could strip Ronnie Lane of of his rightful position
as the engine room, of this great band. He sounded so sweet on
vocals, as he in his unique way, gave Rod the highest class of
backing vocal possible.
Each member of The Faces has equal billing in my book of
hero's. When Ronnie Lane slipped away, after his tough &
long fight against MS, I along with so many thousends, felt empty.
I wanted, but didnt know how, to pay tribute to this small Giant
of a man.
I could not think of anything more heart felt, from me anyway,
than to name my Daughter after Ronnie. So in 1997, I named my
daughter Ronnie Lane Knott.
Sadly my daughter died the year of her birth, 1997. And She
joined her name sake in what I pray is a better place. I'm sure
Ronnie Lane senior will watch out for her on my behalf till it's
my time to go. And I couldn't think of a better person for her
to be with, to watch over. That was my tribute to the greatman.