Here’s a clip of British blues-rock good ol’ boys when they’re asleep, the Faces. It’s “Richmond” a track that appears on their 1971 record Long Player. This performance is from Top of The Pops that very same year.
Rod Stewart sang lead on many of the band’s tunes. But in this clip, that’s him playing rudimentary stand-up bass. This track was written and led by singer, bassist, and guitarist Ronnie Lane, AKA ‘Plonk’ who was born this day in 1946. He would have been 67 today.
Lane died in 1997 of a debilitating and drawn out fight with multiple sclerosis. But, before his death, he was a valued, and well-liked musician among everyone in the upper tiers of his generation of musicians. But, beyond being a rock ‘n’ roll mensch, what else did Ronnie Lane bring to the table?
Here’s a clip of Rod Stewart’s song “Every Picture Tells a Story”, on which he is joined by two members of the Faces (co-writer Ron Wood on guitar, and Ian ‘Mac’ McLagan on the organ…) as well as blues-rock vocalist Maggie Bell.
A few months ago, I wrote anarticle on the Faces, mentioning that while Rod Stewart fronted that band, he had a concurrent solo career on the Mercury label. It was, as most rock historians and fans agree, a creative purple patch for him and his associates in the Faces. Of those Mercury albums, 1971’s Every Picture Tells a Story is arguably the highest point, the title track being a truly epic work.
I was struck by what an enormous song this is, a travelogue of a young man hitching around the world on a quest to find himself. And Maggie Bell’s backing vocal demonstrates the work of someone who deserved a much wider audience. Bell had been lead singer of the band Stone the Crows (as they were named by future Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant, who was impressed by the group on seeing their live act…), and marketed as the British Janis Joplin.
She went solo in 1973 when the band broke up, and in the following year, she signed on to Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label, maintaining her association with Grant, and working with Jimmy Page on her 1975 album, Suicide Sal. Her career never reached the heights her talents promised, despite the company she kept. Yet on this track with Stewart, she adds an abrasively bluesy kick, answering Stewart’s intensity note for note – which wasn’t easy to do in 1971.
And do check out Rod Stewart’s ’69-’74 period, which has a consistency of quality which boggles the mind, considering the drastic drop-off from that point onward. Black Crowes fans in particular must take note of the importance of Stewart’s output during this period.
A guy I know writes for a music magazine called Clash, and he recently directed me to this Q&A with accompanying video with Ronnie Wood. A little while ago, I wrote an article about the Faces which featured Wood as guitarist and writing partner to Rod Stewart, before Wood joined the Stones in 1975.
But Wood also served time in bands before then in the 1960s – the Birds, the Creation (one of the first bands to use a violin bow on a guitar – cue Mr. Page in the next deacde), and (serving as bassist) the Jeff Beck Group. One of the questions covered in the video portion of the Q&A is whether or not the Faces will reform, which is something that has been hinted at for a while but hasn’t come to fruition.
He’s recently put out his autobiography, Ronnie,which includes some of his adventures as a journeyman guitar slinger.
This just in! At one time, Rod Stewart was cool. No, really! By the early 70s, Stewart was going strong with an outfit consisting of an amalgam of two bands – Ronnie Lane (bass), Ian McLagan (piano and organ), and Kenney Jones (drums) from the Small Faces, and Ron Wood (guitar) and Stewart himself from the Jeff Beck Group. That group was Faces, aka ‘The Faces’.
But, enough rock family trees for now. The point is that with the Faces and with his early solo career, Rod Stewart rose in stature as one of the premier rock vocalists, taking his love of soul music, Bob Dylan, and a boozy, blues-inflected type of rock music to incredible heights. His solo career, which he worked on concurrently with his work with the band, was also a tremendous four-album run (from The Rod Stewart Album toNever a Dull Moment) of folk-influenced rock music. This was just before the lure of American stadiums, and a number of other mitigating factors laid Faces to rest and set Rodders on the path up the middle of the road to cheeseville. Ron Wood joined the Rolling Stones in 1975, and Kenney Jones would replace Keith Moon in the Who three years after that. But before all that, Rod Stewart was a consistently great rock vocalist. Did I mention how cool he was at one time? Not convinced? Well…
Check out this clip of Stewart fronting the aforementioned Faces on their tale of a modern day prodigal son returning home; 1971’s ‘Bad N’ Ruin’ .
To view the clip, hover over the image below and click on the ‘play’ icon. To enlarge the viewing window click the magnifying glass icon. Alternatively, click on the image to view the clip in a new browser window. Enjoy!
To me, Faces should have been much, much bigger. But, at least their traditions have been carried forth in more recent years by bands like the Black Crowes, who owe a great debt to the booze-rock sound which Faces helped to establish twenty years before.