Life at 33 1/3: Ooh la la

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Ronnie Lane & the Band “Slim Chance” – Anymore For Anymore (GM)

Ronnie Lane is the only artist in the world that I love unconditionally.  I had the privilege of meeting him twice – in 1976 and 1983.  To me he was already a legend having won my heart back in the 60’s as a member of Small Faces.  Definitely the coolest of the four, and on the rare occasions when Marriott stepped aside offering him the spotlight, Lane delivered the lyrics with a voice so friendly you wanted to invite it home: hoarse, nasal, smokey, warm – like a long lost friend, it snuck up your spine and curled itself around your heart.

To me he was the undisputed boss of The Faces.  Rod Stewart pulled the girls and the headlines, he sure could strut his stuff and he had a voice to match.  But Ronnie, Ronnie was the soul of the band.  He was involved in writing a good part of their songs, Rod didn’t even sing the two best of them, Ronnie did (“Debris”) and Ron Wood (“Ooh La La”).  When Ronnie Lane left The Faces their time was up.

No need for despair, Ronnie Lane had the best part of his career left: Slim Chance.

A lovely rowdy band with no fixed lineup, people came and went as they wanted, they played in the band because they loved the music and adored Ronnie, but they couldn’t make a living off it.  The total absence of hit-ambitions was indeed unusual.  Slim Chance, as this band of gypsies called themselves, were in it for the camaraderie, smitten by Lane’s burning obsession with an organic, rootsy and highly unique version of rock’n’roll; half unplugged and orientated towards an era irrevocably gone.

The affinity to McGuinness Flint was quite evident as Gallagher & Lyle played in the first incarnation of Slim Chance.  Among the ingredients in Lane’s magical cauldron you would find folk rock, country, bluegrass, music hall and vaudeville, performed with mandolins, accordions, honky tonk piano, banjo, fiddle, bass, drums, a crooked saxophone and Ronnie’s guitars.  He was very fond of his Zemaitis guitars and other varieties of the dobro.

“Heavy as hell,” he said with a sigh when he invited me to hold one of them when I visited him in his home in London in 1983.  “I cannot play it anymore.”  He was skinny, pale and clearly marked by his illness (multiple sclerosis).

But in 1974, the world was at Ronnie Lane’s feet.  He was free from the chains of the music business.  He sought a lifestyle that fit in with the music he would devote himself to, he was a traveller, a gypsy.  With caravans, tents and Viv Stanshall as master of ceremonies they took the album “Anymore For Anymore “ out on the road.  And lost money big time, of course.

The record is a marvel: It crosses the time lines for a breath of pre-war atmosphere mirrored both in the mood of the music and in the choice of the four cover songs (“Amelia Earhart ‘s Last Flight”, “Careless Love “, “Roll On Baby” and “Just A Bird In A Gilded Cage “), the mood certainly bleeds into his own originals.  It’s like Lane breathes new life into aspects of life and human kind that’s been crippled and broken by modern times, he picks it up and shows us what’s been lost.  There is a smile on his face.

Look, the music says, this is what life is all about.  The songs and performances are bittersweet and melancholic, they make you both happy and sad and stir up something deep in your soul that you thought was long lost, something you thought you had forgotten.

To see them perform the songs is in itself an experience.  Do a search on YouTube.  You will be amazed by the quality of the video snippets out there.  Look at the expression on Lane’s face when he throws his head back and radiates.  Look at his smile.  You cannot help but love this man who was taken away from us all too soon.

Ronnie Lane left some wonderful albums behind before the illness stopped him (Ronnie died in June 1997).  “Anymore For Anymore “, “Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance”, “One For The Road”, “See Me” and “Rough Mix” (a collaboration with Pete Townshend ) are required.  I would also recommend some of the posthumous collections: “You Never Can Tell” (BBC-recordings ) and “Tin And Tambourine “.  The Faces’ “Ooh La La” and Small Faces’ “Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake” you already have of course!

 

You’ll have to learn, just like me

And that’s the hardest way

Ooh la la

Ooh la la, la la, yeah

I wish that I knew what I know now

When I was younger

I wish that I knew what I know now

When I was stronger

(Ronnie Lane & Ron Wood)

 

Released: July 1974

Side 1:

“Careless Love” (Traditional) – 4:09

“Don’t You Cry for Me” (Ronnie Lane) – 4:26

“(Bye and Bye) Gonna See The King” (Ronnie Lane) – 5:06

“Silk Stockings” (Ronnie Lane/Kevin Westlake) – 1:48

“The Poacher” (Ronnie Lane) – 3:45

Side 2:

“Roll On Babe” (Derroll Adams) – 3:20

“Tell Everyone” (Ronnie Lane) – 3:00

“Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight” (Dave McEnery) – 5:49

“Anymore for Anymore” (Ronnie Lane/Kate Lambert) – 3:43

“Just a Bird in a Gilded Cage” (Harry Von Tilzer) – 1:06

“Chicken Wired” (Ronnie Lane) – 4:25

 

Personnel:

Ronnie Lane – guitar, bass, vocals

Graham Lyle – banjo, mandolin, guitar

Benny Gallagher – bass, guitar, accordion

Kevin Westlake – guitar

Ken Slaven – violin

Steve Bingham – bass

Jimmy Jewell – saxophone

Bruce Rowland – drums

Tanners – vocals

 

Production:

Producer: Becky Stewart

Recording Engineer: Hugh Jones/Andy Knight

Artwork/Sleeve Art: Paul Bevoir