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How We Met: Ian "Mac" McLagan & Ronnie Wood

Independent on Sunday 12 March 2000

by Gina Rozner

Ian "Mac" McLagan was born in Hounslow in 1945. In 1965 he joined the Small Faces, which became the Faces in 1969. They split in 1975. His Bump Band CD, "The Best of British", has just been released. He lives in Texas with his wife Kim.

Ronnie Wood was born in Middlesex in 1947. He studied art before joining the Jeff Beck Group in 1967. Two years later he was playing guitar with the Faces. In 1976 Ronnie joined the Rolling Stones. He and his wife Jo live in London and Ireland

Ian "Mac" McLagan: It was early 1968 and Steve Marriott (lead singer with the Small Faces) was living in Chiswick in the house he wrote "Lazy Sunday" in. He'd rented this place and completely murdered it - all his dogs and cats were shitting all over the carpet. I would go over there quite often. The trouble with that house was that a geezer who lived there spiked the water system with methadrine, so if he offered you a drink, the second time you'd go there you'd say, "No, no thank you, no water, no coffee. I'll have a bottled drink and I'll open it myself," because otherwise you'd go out of there wired. That's just the way it was back then.

Steve was a great guitarist and he always hung out with the best guitarists, and one day I went there and there was this big-nosed bastard with jet-black hair sitting on the beanbag. Steve introduced me and it was Ronnie Wood. And from that very first time we met he was easy to get along with, very nice. The thing about Ronnie was that he was not only good company, he was also very talented. He was with the Jeff Beck band and I'd seen them at the Lyceum. Rod was singing and Woody was playing lead bass and he was brilliant.

I didn't see him again for months. Then, on New Year's Eve 1968, Steve said he was going to leave the band. We did a few more gigs in 1969 and that was that. Ronnie Lane had met Ronnie Wood around that time too, again through Steve, and Ronnie Wood was the first person Ronnie Lane called to play guitar with the band that became the Faces. So Steve opened that door. Steve was like that. He was always generous. Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones and I had always planned to stay together, so when Ronnie and Woody started writing songs I roped myself in as quick as possible because I didn't want them to get a band together without me being a part of it. It worked well from the start. Things snowballed and Rod Stewart joined soon after.

Ronnie's just somebody you want to be around. I find him very charming. He can be in a crowded room and be having a conversation with more than one person and no one's going to feel they're being ignored - it's a talent he has. He's very convivial, and if I had a bar, God I wish he'd come into my bar a few times a week. When you're in a band you go through a lot more than some marriages and it makes for a very close bond. If I haven't spoken to him in six months or a year we just continue from there. There's never a feeling of being neglected. He's a Gemini, so he's at least two people. Ronnie would be as nice as he can to everybody to the point of probably hurting himself. I can name five or six people who will tell you that Ronnie Wood is their best friend and he is, and I find him to be mine. I love him 'cos he's so lovely. I've only fallen out with him once, and that was for five minutes in 1981.

Now that's not bad for a friendship that started in 1968, is it?

Ronnie Wood: The Small Faces were my favourite band and to meet them all together was like "aargh", this blaze of lovely midgets coming in. I used to hang with Steve and I'd often be at his place in Chiswick. The Small Faces would be off doing Top of the Pops and I'd be there in the corner when they got home. They'd be yak, yak, yakking, and all kinds of things would be blasting out of the sound system. There was dog shit everywhere because Steve used to love dogs but he was never home to take care of them, and the Small Faces would go, "There's no business like cat's business, like cat's business."

They had this road manager who spiked the water tank with acid or something, and anyone who had a drink was going to get high. It was very watered down but I had a good time on it.

The first time I really met Mac was when Steve went off to form Humble Pie, which really hurt me and Rod Stewart. We didn't like the fact that he'd left this institution. I was with the Jeff Beck Group at the time and they folded. I got my secretary to track down Ronnie Lane's number and I rang him up. I've always had more front than Harrods. I said, "Do you fancy getting together?" It was a Friday night and I just went round. Mac had his Wurlitzer, Kenney was tapping on phone books or something, Ronnie was on bass and me on guitar and we were too nervous to even face each other. But it worked out really good, we had a good laugh and a good drink and that was the first time I really remember getting on with Mac.

Ian Stewart of the Stones gave us their rehearsal space free. After rehearsing we'd go down to the pub where we used to roll joints. The landlady used to say, "All that money and they roll their own." We hadn't got a vocalist. Rod Stewart used to hide upstairs and listen to us rehearse. One day Kenney Jones went up and asked him if he would come and join in. So that was that.

Mac and I used to write songs together. In 1974, when I made my first solo album, which is probably the best album I've ever made, Mac was right there, my right-hand man. We had a fantastic time and we had the most amazing selection of people queuing down the stairs to play - McCartney and Linda, Greg Allman, Chris Wood out of Traffic, George Harrison, Keith Moon, Alvin Lee, and we'd sort of wheel them in.

Mac's involved with everything that I do musically. He's always in my thoughts. If he hadn't moved to America we'd be hanging out all the time, but whatever he and Kim have got going over there they must really love it. When Mac met Kim it was like he found where he wanted to be forever. My mum, who I lost last year, she used to love her little Mac. He was her favourite person. She was a good judge of character, she knew that Mac was a lovely bloke, and he is.

Mac McLagan's autobiography, "All the Rage", was recently published by Pan, price 9.99

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