Ronnie Lane 1946-1997
The Times, 6 June 1997
Small Faces Star Dies After Long Illness
RONNIE LANE, guitarist and songwriter with the 1960s supergroups the Small Faces and the Faces, has died aged 51 after a long battle against multiple sclerosis. Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones, who shot to fame in the Faces with Rod Stewart said: "He's in a better place with old mates like Steve Marriott and Ian Stewart and no doubt they are busy organising themselves into a fantastic band." Marriott was Lane's song-writing partner in the Small Faces. He died in a fire at his Essex home six years ago. Long time Rolling Stones piano player Stewart, who also collaborated with Lane, died in 1985.
Other tributes came from friends including Sir Jimmy Savile and Francis Rossi, lead singer with Status Quo, who both paid tribute to Lane's bravery.
The great affection in which band was held by his colleagues in rock music was illustrated when a host of stars appeared in a concert he helped to organise at the Royal Albert Hall in 1983 in aid of Action Research for Multiple Sclerosis. Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts and Jimmy Page all appeared, and to a great cheer Lane played a few chords
Ronnie Lane, pop singer, songwriter and bassist died yesterday in Trinidad, Colorado, from multiple sclerosis aged 51. He was born on April 1 1946.
Until multiple sclerosis put an end to his career in the late 1970s, Ronnie Lane was never far from the heart of British pop. Even when too ill to perform, he remained a popular figure and, the roster of stars who played benefit concerts for him after the onset of this disease- Erie Clapton, Jeff Beck, Bill Wyman, Stevie Winwood, Jimmy Page - was proof of the esteem and affection in which he was held.
As a founder member of the Small Faces, Lane helped to create one or the great British groups of the l960s. Formed as the quintessential Mod band in 1965 - all rhythm 'n' blues and mohair suits - they made a typical progress towards the sonic adventures and flowery shirts of late l960s psychedelia. Through it all - thanks in no small part to Lane's skinny, good-humoured, cockney presence - they retained a quirky charm, a tongue-in-cheek English wit that allowed them to blend their musical sources into a sound uniquely their own. They produced some of the most enduring songs of the period, many of them co-written by Lane.
That easygoing appeal was taken further when the Small Faces turned into the Faces and went big. Fronted by the singer Rod Stewart, their cheerful combination of sloppily laddish behaviour and taut musical precision made them one of the most successful acts of the 1970s. Lane's later career never reached the same heights, though as a solo artiste and with his own group, Slim Chance, he continued to produce well-crafted and engaging songs performed with integrity and style.
Ronnie Lane was born in Plaistow, east London. At 19 he was playing the local pubs in a trio with the drummer Kenney Jones and the organist Jimmy Winston; they were joined in mid-1965 by the singer and guitarist Steve Marriott who had been performing in musicals such as Oliver! from the age of 12, and the Small Faces were born,
British pop was booming. The style conscious Mod scene offered a thriving, market for tightly structured, dance music, and with record labels anxious not to miss the next sharp-suited sensation, the group had no difficulty in securing a recording contract.
Within weeks they had their first Top 20 hit, with What'cha Gonna Do About It, a finely honed homage to American R & B, in which Lane and the band created a perfect punchy showcase for the impassioned whine of Marriott's voice.
Winston was soon replaced by Ian McLagan and the group began to build a solid following with an energetic round of live performances, The following year brought further chart success, with Sha-La-La-La-Lee, Hey Girl and All or Nothing, the group's only No 1.
A change of label in 1967 heralded a productive new phase of experiment and creativity. In songs such as Itchycoo Park and Lazy Sunday Afternoon, and on the chart-topping album Ogden's Nut Gone Flake with its circular sleeve modelled on a tobacco tin, they created their own endearingly eccentric brand of psychedelia, catching to perfection the lazy, slightly muddled charm of the era.
Marriott's departure, to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton in 1969, signalled the end of the Small Faces. Lane and his colleagues soon got back together, however, joined by Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart of the Jeff Beck Group. Their early recordings -albums such as First Step, Long Player and A Nod's as Good as a Wink and memorable singles such as Stay with Me - were an accurate reflection of their live act, raucous, rugged and not nearly as ramshackle as it seemed.
The raw, distinctive rasp of Stewart's voice soon became the group's main selling point, so much so that the others began to feel overshadowed. As Stewart's parallel solo career blossomed, the tensions within the Faces became more acute. The down to earth Lane, in particular, was quite out of sympathy with Stewart's only half ironic flirtation with the trappings of glam rock, and he left the group in 1973
Lane's new group. Slim Chance, which included, Benny Gallacher and Graham Lyle, who were later to be a successful act in their own right, had a top 26 hit in 1974 with How Come, It was followed by another, equally lively but slightly less successful single, The Poacher, and by a well-received album, Anyone for Anymore, on which Lane combined homespun cover-versions with some unpretentious original songs.
Lane's determination to create an ambitious travelling rock circus, complete with jugglers, fire-eaters and side-shows, ran into financial difficulties, and the original Slim Chance broke up. Lane replaced it with a new line-up and recorded two outstanding albums, Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance and One For the Road, before disbanding the group altogether in 1977.
That year, which saw Lane recording a critically acclaimed collaboration with Pete Townshend of The Who, also saw the onset of the disease that was to bring his career to a close. He recorded another solo album in 1979, See Me. before his condition deteriorated and he was confined to a wheelchair, He continued to perform as and when he could.
Lane, whose considerable earnings had been consumed by years of high living, found himself in severely straitened circumstances and struggling to meet medical bills. Famous friends from the Sixties came to his rescue with a series of concerts to benefit both him and the charities researching his condition.
Lane was three times married. He is survived by his third wife, Sue, whom he married in 1989, and by the children of a previous marriage.
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