I'd rather make my church the open road
Yes, and I'd rather take this writing off the wall
-- "32nd Street" (One for the Road)
We used to roam so freely; it's been so long
I'll take my dreams to bed now, where they belong
-- "April Fool" (Rough Mix)
To my knowledge, when this site first went online in early 1996, it was the first Ronnie Lane site on the Internet. It now stands as an archive and tribute.
Ronnie Lane was bassist, songwriter, and occasional vocalist with one of the great bands of the 1960's, the Small Faces, and one of the coolest bands of all time, the Faces. He also recorded brilliantly with Ron Wood and with Pete Townshend, with his own band Slim Chance and as a solo artist. This page and the resource links aim to introduce Ronnie Lane's life and times, and provide some idea of why I like his music so much. (Please mail any comments, suggestions, additional information to me at email@example.com and put G.M. Baxter's Ronnie Lane Page in the subject line); thanks so much to all the Ronnie Lane fans out there.) My love for Ronnie Lane's music is something I can't explain perfectly: it isn't characteristic of the music I generally turn to. And sometimes I wonder whether two great bands, the Small Faces and the Faces, fell apart at least partly because of creative disputes which arose from his musical influences being at odds with everyone else's. Lane was to his bands something of what Pete Townshend was to the Who: brilliant, striking rather than glamorous, susceptible to mysticism, and grounded more in rural blues and troubador attitude and English folk traditions than the sharp-dressed pop ethos. Yet his contributions to both bands, especially in his melodic bass technique and his meditative songwriting, are acknowledged by his former bandmates, and listen to the early Small Faces material for the strong and undeniable influence of American R&B. Ronnie Lane's own wonderfully arranged work, performed with intensity and passion in a great English folk voice -- strong and clear and lilting yet appropriately rough round the edges -- deserves a much wider audience. All of the material here is available on CD.
- The Basics
- 1974: Anymore for Anymore (with Slim Chance; the CD includes "The Poacher" and "How Come," two popular UK single releases, and Lane's own version of "Tell Everyone," recorded with the Faces. This CD has been rereleased by Lane's estate, and includes a few bonus tracks, including a rare treat: a Faces rehearsal jam on a song which would become the title track, found on a dusty cassette in an old box.)
- 1975: Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance (includes a zydeco-ish version of "Stone," which Lane also recorded in a great rave-up complete version on the Faces' 1970 First Step, sometimes erroneously credited to the Small Faces, and as a brief version called "Evolution" for Pete Townshend's 1971 Who Came First)
- 1976: One for the Road (with Slim Chance)
- 1976: Mahoney's Last Stand (with Ron Wood)
- 1977: Rough Mix (with Pete Townshend)
- 1980: See Me (rereleased on CD with excellent liner notes by Small Faces historians Roland Schmitt and Uli Twelker; includes Lane's collaboration with Eric Clapton, "Barcelona," and the single "Kuschty Rye")
- The Compilations
- 1997: You Never Can Tell (double CD compilation of live recordings for the BBC; ignore the fatuous introductions and revel in vigorous renditions of songs like "Ooh La La": perhaps designed with archival more than aesthetic interest in mind, since this contains two or three versions of some songs, but invaluable, with great liner note comments, including some from Lane's stepdaughter)
- 1999: April Fool (two CDs, the first an overview of Lane's career and the second a collection of alternate versions of songs; some live material)
- 2001: Kuschty Rye: The Singles 1973-80 (19-song overview of Lane's solo and Slim Chance work; includes a 16-page booklet with several photographs)
- 2003: Ain't No One Like Ronnie Lane - the best of (double CD set from Track Records; an excellent introduction to Lane's collaborative and solo projects)
Evolution: Well, I've been a tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor
Known good times and disaster....
-- Ronnie Lane, "Stone"
- Born Ronald Frederick Lane, on 1 April, 1946, in East End London, to Stanley (a truck driver) and Elsie Lane; one older brother (Stanley). Enrolled in an art course at Lister Technical College after leaving school at 16.
- Jobs along the way:
- Fairground attendant: maintained the Big Dipper at the Battersea Fun Fair.
- Clerk in men's clothing shop: lost job after hitting colleague on the head with a pole.
- Courier for dental supplier: delivered false teeth.
- Pipefitter's helper.
- Product tester for public address equipment: lost job after trying to get a free amplifier for Steve Marriott.
- Courier for Ministry of Defense: lost job after diverting submarine plans to lunch with Steve Marriott and getting sauce on them.
- 1965-69: Founder/member, The Small Faces (with Steve Marriott, Ian McLagan, Kenney Jones).
- 1969-73: Founder/member, The Faces (with Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones).
- 1973-76: Left The Faces in 1973 and formed Slim Chance, a folk/blues/traditional outfit which in various lineups toured England in caravans as The Passing Show, playing small venues with accompanying jugglers and fire-eaters and so forth. Also during this time acquired a mobile studio and a sheep farm in Wales, and was allegedly kicked out of rehearsals for a proposed Small Faces reunion.
- 1976-78: Recorded Mahoney's Last Stand with Ron Wood and Rough Mix with Pete Townshend. Developed and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; Lane's mother also had MS.
- 1978-83: Returned to London after the failure of his farm. Tried such experimental MS treatments as snake venom injections, at a clinic in Florida run by former Rolling Stones associate Fred Sessler. When the FDA shut this down, Lane returned to England. Recorded some material with Steve Marriott only now becoming available. Mobile studio vandalized. Found some relief in hyperbaric oxygen treatments. In late 1983 an all-star benefit concert and tour involving Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page (among others) were held in support of Action Research into Multiple Sclerosis (ARMS); Lane sang at these, but could no longer play guitar.
- 1984-87: Moved to Houston, Texas, to work for ARMS, which quickly disintegrated in financial mismanagement, charges of embezzlement, and litigation. Lane moved to Austin and in 1985, returned to England briefly; sang at a Faces reunion following a Rod Stewart concert at Wembley. Found some relief when on the advice of an allergist his mercury dental fillings were replaced with inert plastic.
- 1987-91: Resumed a limited musical career, fronting an Austin band called the Tremors and singing his solo material, Faces and Small Faces songs, and covers, in small clubs around the States. Ian McLagan accompanied Lane on a tour of Japan.
- 1991-1997: In 1994, he left Austin for Trinidad, Colorado, with his third wife, Susan Gallegos, and their family. He continued writing and worked on a couple of songs on a recent release by Texas roots band the Keepers. His health prevented him from travelling to England for another Faces reunion at the Brit Awards in 1993, and when the Small Faces were given an Ivor Novello award in 1996 (his brother represented him; Steve Marriott, who died in a house fire in England in April 1991, was represented by his mother). Ian McLagan said that he would be flown in for any Faces reunion concerts. The endnotes in Paolo Hewitt's 1994 biography of the Small Faces indicate that he was planning a record, and Uli Twelker and Roland Schmitt also suggest in their newly updated history of the band, Happy Boys Happy, that Ronnie Lane had been working on his memoirs.
- June 4, 1997: Ronnie Lane died in Trinidad, CO, at 51, after enduring the ravages of Multiple Sclerosis for twenty years. The loss to music of what should have been decades of writing and performing is great; the legacy is out there, and should be sought like the treasure it is. His suffering is over; however, those of us who have been touched by the rich brilliance of his music can't help but be devastated at his loss.
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Copyright Gisèle M. Baxter 1996-present. All rights reserved.
Last updated 17 August, 2011.