Guide to British Music of the 1960s

June 2018

Book Review: Let the Good Times Roll by Kenney Jones


Kenney Jones has had an amazing career. Few drummers have the chance to be in a great band; Kenney has been in three! He made his name in the Small Faces, drumming on all of their tracks and contributing innovative drumming such as the phased roll on Itchycoo Park. When Steve Marriott left the band the remaining Small Faces brought in Ronnie Wood from the Jeff Beck Group and then the band's vocalist Rod Stewart and relaunched themselves as the Faces. This was a very different band to the Small Faces and they succeeded in breaking America and enjoying the rock & roll excess of the times. Once the Faces ground to a halt after Ronnie Lane left and Stewart focused more on his solo career Kenney had the prize, but possibly unenviable, role of replacing Keith Moon in the Who.

Much of Kenney's story is known through previous Small Faces biographies and this will not be new to most readers. However, these are Kenney's words and there are also lots of episodes in his life which are less well-known. Kenney's musical career in the Small Faces, the Faces and the Who accounts for most of the book, the first band taking up most pages. Kenney describes the Small Faces as his most creative group and he describes much about the process of writing songs and recording them. Manager Don Arden comes in for praise in that, without his input, the band would have gone nowhere and probably not lasted very long. His business practices are quite different though and the lack of transparency, particularly in the financial side, is very clear. Kenney's early life prior to the Small Faces is very interesting, growing up in the East End, before meeting Ronnie Lane, for a second time it seems. The early days of the Small Faces show a tightly-knit group of (Mod) friends keen to play the music they love. The tight bonding within the group increased when Ian "Mac" McLagan joined and you then had the perfect group. Unfortunately there was a clash between the commercial elements that the record companies wanted and the direction in which the band were heading. Even once the band was playing "serious" music the audience at gigs was still largely made up of young, screaming girls. This put a severe strain on the group of music-loving friends. Marriott left fed up with the teenybopper image the group could not shake off and desiring a more serious musical direction. The rest of the band wanted the same but they were left unemployed and with debt due to the "misleading" financial management of the band.

However, undaunted they looked for a new direction and brought in Ronnie Wood and his brother Art to form Quiet Melon. This band did not last long before Woody brought in his vocalist from the Jeff Beck Group and the Faces were born. The early 1970s were the height of rock & roll debauchery and the Faces were instrumental in creating this! They were even banned from a chain of hotels and so checked into hotels as Fleetwood Mac! Besides, how many bands had their own bar on stage? In-between the hedonistic parties and visits to the nearest pub the Faces managed to create some amazing music and made a major impact in America. Nevertheless, it was not too last. Stewart had a very successful solo career, Ronnie Lane had had enough of primadonna lead vocalists while Ronnie Wood had disappeared to gather no moss.

Again Kenney Jones was unemployed. Shortly after came the death of his close friend Keith Moon and he was invited to join the Who. While this was probably the most difficult drumstool to fill, the band realised that it would be a "new" group and they expected Kenney to be Kenney and not copy Keith Moon. While there is little doubt that Kenney was the right choice and made some great music with the Who, it was not without its problems such as clashes with Daltrey and a feeling that Pete Townshend was holding his better songs back for his solo career. Nevertheless, following the farewell tour (?) Kenney was invited back into the drum seat for the performance at Live Aid.

Kenney Jones has continued to play drums at the highest level. He has teamed up with friends to form the more flexible Jones Gang which gained a number 1 single in the US with Angel. Over the years Kenney has also undertaken many sessions which has given him at least one anonymous number 1 hit. He also played drums on the single version of the Rolling Stones' It's Only Rock & Roll (But I Like It).

The book features Kenney's music career heavily and there is less about his personal life and other interests. It is well-known that he loves polo and runs his own polo club in Surrey. The story of the development of Hurtwood Polo Club is very interesting and it has become an important venue for the sport. Not bad for a boy from the East End.

The book is a very entertaining read with lots of new stories and anecdotes alongside the well-known episodes. This is a highly recommended read.

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