One for the Road
Ronnie Lane Memorial 8 April 2004
Following the immense success of the Steve Marriott Memorial in 2001, April 2004 saw the staging of One for the Road, the Ronnie Lane Memorial Concert at London's Royal Albert Hall. This intended as a charity concert in aid of Ronnie's family in the UK who lost their home in a fire recently.
This event took enormous planning, not least in dealing with the Lane family politics, and everyone's gratitude is owed to to John Hellier of Darlings of Wapping Wharf and Brent Yeomans of 17 Black who organised the concert. The Albert Hall was an excellent choice of venue. The Marriott event at London's Astoria had sold out quickly and actually broke the venue record for bar takings! Steve would have been proud of that! Even with the greater capacity of the Royal Albert Hall, the evening was a sell-out and the bars were doing brisk business.
Ronnie Lane fans converged on South Kensington from all over the world while the list of performers included those who had made their name in the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties, so highly is Ronnie regarded amongst musicians and fans. There were a few notable absentees from the original planned line-up for various reasons. Fellow Small Face and Face Ian McLagan was unable to attend as was PP Arnold. Tributes to Lane were read out from Sir Paul McCartney, with whom Lane had played with Kenney Jones in the Rockestra. Eric Clapton also sent his apologies. A long-term friend and collaborator of Lane, Clapton was playing Frankfurt the same evening. However, these absentees did not detract from the very high quality of the event. Both Clapton and McCartney sent written tributes to Ronnie which compere John Hellier read out at the start of the evening.
There were three principal phases to Ronnie Lane's musical career (the Small Faces, the Faces and the "solo" years with Slim Chance). These phases were all well-represented, ensuring that there was something for everybody.
The first half of the evening focused on the Small Faces, probably the best-known and most-popular stage of his career. Kicking off proceedings was Small World from Essex. The band has played at the two most recent Small Faces Conventions and have proved to be very popular. A short set of Small Faces classics was much appreciated, even if the sound quality left something to be desired. The Deborah Bonham Band was eagerly anticipated. Deborah was one of the stars of the Steve Marriott concert. Her band included former Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley. She has a powerful voice and deserves to be heard further to show she is more than just Bonzo's sister. Her two songs were both cover versions, well covers when Ronnie originally did them. Every Little Bit Hurts is the Brenda Holloway song that became a feature of the Small Faces set, appearing in live form on In Memorium and as a BBC version on the fairly recent BBC Sessions. The Faces covered Maybe I'm Amazed with Plonk taking lead vocal on the first verse. If Sir Paul could not be be there in person, at least one of his best songs post-Beatles was.
17 Black continue to go from strength to strength. Another regular at the annual Small Faces Convention, Molly Marriott appears to be almost a member of the band now. Molly's appearance highlights the support that the Marriott family has for these events. As well as Steve's daughter Molly, his sister and mother, the two Kays, were there along with nephew Little Stevie and niece Lucy. After a pair of tracks from Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, 17 Black were joined by Buzzcocks guitarist Steve Diggle who repeated his performance of Here Come The Nice from 1996's Long Agos and World Apart. Nine Below Zero's Dennis Greaves joined for Hey Girl and What'Cha Gonna Do About It. Midge Ure was fortunately allowed two tracks having played just In My Mind's Eye at the Steve Marriott concert. Mad John was excellent and was a good choice. Both of his contributions came across very well with just acoustic guitar and distinctive vocals.
Ocean Colour Scene were also on the Long Agos and Worlds Apart CD and reprised their Song of a Baker. A slightly different line-up for this concert featured Andy in place of Damon Minchella on bass and Simon Fowler's cousin on guitar. By now the sound had been sorted out and the opening chords of Wham Bam Thank You Mam threatened to lid the dome off the Albert Hall. A surprise in their set and a real joy was Done This One Before. Guitarist Steve Craddock took lead vocals for the b-side of How Come and did such as a good job that the band is said to be considering adding the track to their live set. The band had been considering playing Traveler's Tune from their third album. This was written as a tribute to Ronnie
The reformation of Slim Chance after 25 years was eagerly anticipated by many. Unfortunately, this part of Ronnie's career is less well-known that the Faces or Small Faces material and unfamiliar to some of the audience. However, interest was maintained by an array of guest artists that joined the nucleus of Slim Chance that had been reassembled by Charlie Hart. To his credit he was able to bring in members from different Slim Chance incarnations including Chrissie Stewart on bass and Henry McCulloch on guitar. The line up also included Geriant Watkins on keyboards, Alun Davies on acoustic guitar and Geoff Dugmore on drums. Cat's Melody and Kuschty Rye were familiar to many and showed that Charlie Hart had done a superb job in getting Slim Chance up-and-running. Another Convention regular Keith Smart joined for Anniversary before Chris Jagger, fresh from his article for The Independent, led the audience through the hit How Come and Anymore for Anymore. Sam Brown made several appearances throughout the evening and her opener Flags & Banners showed the promise of what was to come. She was certainly one of the stars of the evening both on backing and lead vocals.
Steve Diggle had already made his appearance but more stalwarts of the punk revolution showed that Ronnie's appeal transcended the generations and maybe he was not viewed in the same way as many others of the previous generation. Fresh from an appearance at the 2003 Small Faces Convention and appearances with Ian McLagan, Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols joined Slim Chance along with Mick Jones of the Clash. They played two Ronnie Lane songs from the Faces days, Debris and You're So Rude.
A huge cheer and a standing ovation met the first appearance of Pete Townshend of the evening. He recorded an album with Ronnie called Rough Mix but his first choice was a Faces track called Stone. He was followed by another of the class of '77. Paul Weller was joined by Sam Brown for one of the most popular songs from Ronnie's solo days The Poacher and Spiritual Babe, a little known Ronnie Lane that had appeared on Live in Austen. With an ironic twist, Sam Brown took the lead vocals for The Lad's Got Money with Henry McCulloch leading through One for the Road. Paul Weller and Sam Brown returned along with former Face and a surprise appearance from Ronnie Wood. This ensemble played one of Ronnie's most popular Faces songs and Ooh La La also brought an appearance from two can-can dancers.
During a short break the audience was introduced to John Unwin, son of the late Stanley Unwin. "Professor" Unwin had illuminated the Small Faces' superb Ogden's Nut Gone Flake with his Unwinese links. His son told us of the view from the Unwin household of the whole episode. He was a Small Faces fan himself and his father had never heard of them. However, Ogden's Nut Gone Flake has gone down in music history and Unwin junior switched into Unwinese to introduce the final band of the evening. A relatively new band but heaps of experience, the Jones Gang features Small Faces, Faces and Who drummer Kenney Jones with Rick Wills and Gary Grainger. They launched into the title track of Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, an instrumental version of the second single I've Got Mine. The band's vocalist Robert Hart and Dave "Bucket" Colwell joined for the Faces' Maggie May. A new song from the band called Gypsy Lane was written by Robert and Kenney and was another Ronnie tribute. This was followed by Itchycoo Park before the band was joined by Love Affair vocalist Steve Ellis for Afterglow and Tin Soldier. Sam Brown returned to sing the Marriott/Lane song If You Think You're Groovy. This was recorded by PP Arnold with the Small Faces providing the backing. A couple more Faces tracks were Had Me a Real Good Time and Stay With Me, the later of these featuring the return of Ronnie Wood. Pete Townshend made a second appearance of the evening to sing Heart to Hang Onto, a track from the Rough Mix album. This also featured Sam Brown's vocals.
The evening ended with the Small Faces' number one single All or Nothing. Chris Farlowe made a surprise appearance as did former Humble Pie guitarist Clem Clempson.
Overall this was a superb evening of entertainment and an excellent tribute to Plonk. The Small faces are probably more popular than ever and with interest in the Faces sure to be revived with the forthcoming boxed set, Ronnie's music is reaching out to people again. Following this event, there is also talk of Slim Chance recording again but that will be another story.
Thank you to Karen Stephens for the photographs
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