Last week I rediscovered Momus. This week it was Ronnie Lane, who popped into my mind for I don’t know what reason on Saturday.
Since then, my head has been flooded with his songs from the three albums I bought in the 70s. He had just left the Faces, where he had written or co-written many of their hits and those of the Small Faces before, and set up the band Slim Chance, a good-time folk-country band. He had chart hits with How Come and the Poacher and, although this was not the kind of music I was keen on, there was something poignant and vulnerable mixed in his vocal with a sheer determination to keep smiling and have a knees-up. He decided to fulfil a long-time ambition and set out across the country with a circus – complete with clowns and trapeze artists – and rock show combined. The tour was a disaster for Ronnie himself and a financial black hole, but it gave me one of the most magical nights I’ve ever had at a gig. It fetched up in Falkirk, on a green in the town centre, one evening in 1974(?). I had seen one of the few adverts and was among the small audience who turned up under the big top for a range of acoustic support acts, ringmaster, dancing girls and clowns, followed by Ronnie’s band. I’ve been to many gigs where the love generated from audience to performer was almost tangible, but this was one where audience and performer were joined in joy at the sheer delight and craziness of being together under canvas, smelling of grass (not the usual kind at a rock gig), and knowing just about no-one else will believe this.
Ronnie’s tiny frame, with a huge acoustic strapped round him, glittered
in the lights and his unstoppable grin filled the tent. I had to leave
for the last train to Glasgow and as I dragged myself to the tent
door, I looked back and knew that I was a Ronnie Lane fan forever.
Those three albums, and Rough Mix with Pete Townshend were gems and
when I want to shrug off trying to be a Serious Artist (and it needs
shrugging off all the time!) it’s Ronnie Lane I’ll turn to.
The rest is sad history – muliple sclerosis, bankruptcy and a slow death over the 20 years to 1997. If you want to get into his music get any of the Slim Chance albums – Anymore for Anymore, Slim Chance and One For the Road – if they’re available, or a good compilation (I got one today called Aint No-one Like Ronnie Lane). I hope there’s a Heaven, because Ronnie should be in it.