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Ronnie Lane 1946-1997

Daily Telegraph, 6 June 1997

Ronnie Lane, the Mod Maestro, Dies Aged 51

RONNIE Lane; the songwriter and bass player in the Small Faces, has died after a 20-year struggle with multiple sclerosis.

Lane, 51, was one of the stars of the Sixties British mod scene and went on to earn international success with Rod Stewart in the Faces. But he was forced to abandon his musical career after the onset of the disease in the mid-Seventies made it too painful for him to continue playing.

He died on Wednesday at his home in Colorado, where he lived with his wife, Sue, who is the granddaughter of an Apache chief.

Lane spent his last years struggling with poverty and was confined almost continually to a wheelchair.

His medical hills were paid by Stewart and Ronnie Wood, the Rolling Stone and former member of the Faces, and from the proceeds of a tribute record by 12 bands released last year.

In 1986 Lane gave an emotional farewell concert to 60,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, appearing on stage in a wheelchair with Stewart, Wood and fellow Rolling Stone Bill Wyman.

Five years later, Lane was sued for 5 million in a dispute over a fund he helped set up for fellow multiple sclerosis sufferers.

Born in Plaistow, east London, Lane and three other East Enders in 1964 formed the Small Faces - so named because they were all under 5ft 4ins tall.

Between 1965 and 1969, Lane co-wrote with Steve Marriott, the band's singer, a string of hits including Lazy Sunday, Itchycoo Park and All or Nothinq.

After Marriott left the band, the others joined Stewart in the Faces where Lane continued to indulge his rock and roll excesses of drink and drugs until he quit the group in 1973.

When he was diagnosed two years later as having multiple sclerosis, Lane said he was convinced for a long time that it was "divine retribution for all those years of self-indulgence".

The Small Faces have enjoyed a recent renaissance in popularity. The group is regularly cited as an important musical influence by the current generation of British bands.

Tom Leonard


RONNIE LANE who has died aged 51, was the bass player of the quintessential 1960s mod band the Small Faces.

Taking their name from their diminutive stature - all of them were under 5ft 4in tall - and their status as Faces (top Mods), the Small Faces were the genuine article: cocky East End soul boys who worshipped Otis Redding and Booker T and prided themselves on being dressed-to-kill ace Mods.

Lane - also known as "Plonk" or "The Gnome" - was a rock solid bassist, as well as being, with singer guitarist Steve Marriott, co-writer of most of the band's hits.

Skinny and snaggle-toothed, tic was the perfect foil to Marriott, who was more of a pretty boy and had a voice which ranged from belting soul through -simper to raucous cockney. The classic Small Faces line-up included Ian McLagan on keyboards and Kenny Jones on drums.

Between 1965 and 1969 they produced a string of hit singles - Lazy Sunday, Itchycoo Park, All or Nothing, Tin Soldier - which combined mod R & B, psychedelia and a music hall spirit.

Along the way they also produced a classic album of the time, Ogden's Nut Gone Flake. This was an impeccable blend of edgy psychedelic pop and rock and roll, the songs stitched together with the narrative gobbledegook of Prof Stanley Unwin and the whole packaged in a circular sleeve. It was No 1 for six weeks in 1968.

The Small Faces never achieved success in America and remain a peculiarly English obsession; their influence has never been more apparent than in the last few years, with the wave of Britpop.

In 1969, after Marriott left the band to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton, Lane replaced him with Ron Wood and Rod Stewart. Wood had just been from the Jeff Beck group; Stewart, Jeff Beck's singer, was persuaded to follow.

As the Faces, this group became one or the foremost live acts of the 1970s, known as much for off-stage antics as for their considerable musical abilities, Ron Wood (who later joined the Rolling Stones) recalled being barred from so many hotels -including the entire Holiday Inn chain - that they had to check in as the band Fleetwood Mac.

The Faces with their laddish brand of booze 'n' blues were the masters of inspired sloppiness. Singles such as Stay With Me and Too Bad (1971) demonstrate the band's good-time appeal - augmented, on stage, by Rod Stewart booting footballs into the crowd.

But with rock success came the usual spiral of drink and drugs, and by 1973 Lane was no longer able to work with Stewart, whose solo career was blossoming. Lane formed a new band, Slim Chance, pursuing his own musical interests. It was not until 1979 that he was diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis; by 1986 he was unable to play at a Faces reunion at Wembley.

Lane's resilience was shown by his efforts to raise money for the charity Action Research for Multiple Sclerosis. These included a series of concerts in 1983, performed by his friends as a tribute to him, and featuring such luminaries as Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck. Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Joe Cocker and Kenny Jones. Lane was confined to a wheelchair; undeterred, he managed to strum a chord.

Ronnie Lane was born at Plaistow, London, on April 1946.

His father was a lorry driver; his mother also suffered from multiple sclerosis.

Ronnie left school at 16. He went to a factory to see about getting a job, and on being confronted by his potential place of work, burst into tears. Luckily his father had bought him a guitar, and by the next year, when not working as a plumber's mate, lie was playing in a band called the Outcasts with drummer Kenny Jones. Joined by keyboard player Jimmy Winston, they lacked only a vocalist.

Buying a guitar in a shop in East Ham, Lane invited the shop assistant, Steve Marriott, to one of their gigs. (Marriott had been a child actor, appearing in the London production of Oliver.) He turned op at the pub where the band were playing. wrecked the establishment's piano, and got the band barred. He became guitarist and front man.

Armed with a new name (suggested by a girlfriend of Marriott's), the Small Faces were offered a gig at the Cavern in Leicester Square- it was extended to a five week residency. They played soul and R & B covers loud and hard, with a lot of feedback and no great skill.

Soon they were drawing large crowds of young Mods, and began to be serious rivals to the Who, then selling out the Marquee. The Who's manager, Kit Lambert, tried to sign then, but instead they chose Don Arden and the Decca label,

Their first single, What'cha Gonna Do About It (1965), came out within weeks, emphasised Marriott's gruff vocals and featured some of the first guitar feedback on record. It reached No 14 in the charts. They recruited a new keyboard player, Ian McLagan, but their second single, I've Got Mine, was a commercial flop. The next single, Sha La La La Lee, written by Mort Shuman and Kenny Lynch, reached No 5 in January 1966.

The Small Faces were now stars, appearing on magazine covers and television pop programmes. In May Hey Girl went to No 10, followed by their eponymous debut album. Recorded in three hours, it was essentially the band's live set; it received rave reviews. The next single, All or Nothing, was their only No 1.

In 1967 the band left Decca for Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate label. The single Here Comes the Nice, written by Lane and Marriott, was about amphetamine (the Mods' preferred drug), and was one of the few drug songs not to be banned by radio stations. It featured phasing on the cymbals, the first time this effect had been heard.

Their second album, Small Faces (1967), featured the excellent Tin Soldier. Ogden's Nut Gone Flake took an entire year to record, but on release went straight to No 1.

Steve Marriott left the following year. The Faces too had a short life span, but in that time they managed to put out three studio albums, including Long Player (1971), A Nod's As Good As A Wink (1971) and the forgettable Ooh La La (1973).

In 1973 Lane went to live on a farm in Wales. His band Slim Chance had a rural feel, as well as influences as diverse as British and American folk, Tin Pan Alley hits from the 1930s and 1940s, and rock and roll of the 1950s. Slim Chance had hits with How Come in 1973 and The Poacher in 1974. That year Lane toured England with Ronnie Lane's Travelling Show, which included a caravan of trucks, musicians, dancers, jugglers and circus performers.

From 1984 Lane lived in Texas, mostly in Austin. In 1990 he went to Japan with a group including McLagan, as well as touring in America,

Like many bands, the Small Faces had been victims of ruthless 1960smusic contracts. Later, Lane was helped financially by his friends Ron Wood and Rod Stewart.

Ronnie Lane was married three times. He had two sons by his second wife.

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