Rock/PopThe Punk meets the modfather Pt. 2
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The Small Faces were my first love. It was Christmastime when I discovered them. I was 16, shopping at Car City Records in St. Clair Shores — buying discs for my older sisters. On one of their wish lists was the Small Faces' Decca Anthology. I'd heard of this band in Paul Weller interviews. I followed Weller and my sisters' good judgment and bought the disc for myself, giving my sister some other record that isn't important now.
Holy shit. The music punctured my virgin ears — it had heart, swagger, songs. The sound was like nothing I had experienced. Their sound ruined me.
I couldn't connect to kids my age music-wise, yet I'd felt like I had known Steve, Kenney, Mac and Ronnie for years. I started dressing like them. I got a haircut like them by taking in photos of them to the local Bo Rics. Being 5-foot-4, I was short like them too. Surely, a future in rock 'n' roll beckoned! The set list for my band the Sights became peppered with Small Faces tunes, and, to this day — although I love Rod & Woody's contributions to the second half of the Faces' saga — my heart belongs to the original combo, those four scruffy soul disciples.
So let me preface my second exclusive interview with keyboardist Ian McLagan by saying I've run into Mac a few times since I first interviewed him back in '05, in Detroit and a few times at South by Southwest in Texas. To this drooling fanboy, Mac is, and was, nothing but a gentleman. In fact, he's a no-bullshit, funny, funny soul. Here he talks about Small Faces and "Itchycoo Park," Pete Townshend's nose, "Maggie May," Duffy and the much-ballyhooed, if not mythological, Faces reunion. ...
METRO TIMES: You've got a new record out, Never Say Never.
IAN MCLAGAN: Yeah, very pleased with that.
MT: I listened to a couple of tracks. Good stuff. Also, I like your Ronnie Lane "tribute" album from '96, Spiritual Boy ... that version of "Itchycoo Park."
MCLAGAN You know, my way of paying [Ronnie Lane] back was I suddenly had an idea of how to sing that song. It was basically his song, you know. I figured how he would've played it to [singer-guitarist] Steve [Marriott] in the first place — more gentle, not [sings loud like Marriott] It's all too beautiful!
MT: Yeah, you brought a new, cool interpretation to the song.
MCLAGAN Well, I'm glad, thank you. The lyrics surprised me. I realized it was quite a different song to the one I knew.
[Suddenly Mac apologizes for an incoming call and hits the call-waiting button. Line goes dead. Baranek calls Mac back.]
MCLAGAN Eddie, I'm sorry, I got cut off. I'm not sure what the hell that young lady was talking about. ...
MT: [laughs] Anyway, when I hung out with you at the Tom Wright photo exhibit in Austin, I had you sign my driver's license. I got pulled over since then and the cop was like, "Who the fuck is Mac?"
MT: I saw you play with Pete [Townshend] a couple years back at South by Southwest. I was right up front, right behind all the photographers. A lot of people in the audience kept yelling at me to sit down and shut up 'cause I was disrupting this polite, sit-down thing, and it really annoyed the fuck outta me.
MCLAGAN That's fucked. Well, that's the same thing that happened to us when the Faces went to see Elvis in Vegas. 'Sit down or out you go!' I mean, Jesus Christ!
MT: You guys burst into "What'cha Gonna Do About It" and I can't fucking sit down. I've got to pay my respects!
MCLAGAN There you go. I said to Pete, "Pete, take the fucker back!" And Pete knew exactly what I meant! 'Cause I said when I heard that [guitar] solo on [the first Small Faces single] "What'cha Gonna Do About It?" there's only one place Steve [Marriott] could've got that idea and it was from Pete Townshend.
MT: Yeah, I remember when you introduced Townshend that night; you talked about his big nose. It was great.
MCLAGAN [laughs] Many years ago in Mojo, Townshend said: "When people talk about my nose they did so with great affection. Ian McLagan used to call me 'big-nosed cunt'."
MT: Do you hear any resemblance with Amy Winehouse and Duffy to P.P. Arnold and the stuff that was going on at [Small Faces record label] Immediate Records in the '60s?
MCLAGAN Yeah, I like Amy. I love Duffy a lot; I just saw her on Austin City Limits. When I heard "Warwick Avenue," I thought, "That's a beautiful melody."
MT: Say you're sitting in a diner and Rod's "Maggie May" — which you had a hand in — comes on oldies radio. Does it evoke memories? Emotions?
MCLAGAN No. It's just like listening to anybody else's record at this point. I've played it so many times. I think it's a fucking good record, but I just don't tune into it.
MT: I heard the Faces' reissues are on hold here, but land in Japan in March. True?
MCLAGAN I think at the moment there's a block on all things Faces, until we've sort of hashed out an agreement between ourselves.
MT: I see on your website the whole no-bullshit clause ...
MCLAGAN Yeah, you'll only get the truth about the Faces from me and the truth is: I know naah thing.
MCLAGAN That's the fucking fact. It's sad to say. I just had lunch with Kenney [Jones, Faces drummer] and Ronnie [Wood, Faces guitarist] in London, and we're waiting to see what we're supposed to do. Maybe he [singer Rod Stewart] wants to do it.
MT: It's the usual problem, isn't it? It's always the singer. ...
MCLAGAN I don't know what the thing is. He's gone a little quiet, shall we say.
MT: Is Flea still the possible bass player?
MCLAGAN No, he's not. See, we've got to have someone who's gonna play Ronnie's parts 'cause they were integral, y'know? And Flea wouldn't know Ronnie Lane's parts from a fucking ... you know what I mean? He's a great bass player with the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers. I love the Chili Peppers. My original idea was Glen Matlock [of the Sex Pistols]. Glen was well into it and when I toured with him in his band, the Rich Kids, back in the late '70s, or whatever, he started playing Ronnie Lane lines in the songs. He'd be my choice. He loves Ronnie. Ronnie Lane's why Glen started playing the bass, for chrissake. He got the Sex Pistols to play [the Small Faces'] "What'cha Gonna Do About It."
MT: I've got this Small Faces bootleg: Austria '69. You guys only do about four or five songs with a lot of workouts. You do "Long Black Veil" like the Band, not Johnny Cash or Lefty Frizzell. You inserted the Band's "Chest Fever" in one of your song workouts, "You Need Loving."
MT: Yeah. It sounds fucking incredible.
MCLAGAN Ah. I love "Chest Fever."
MT: Well you played it. It's on the bootleg!
MCLAGAN [Mac immediately plays the intro to "Chest Fever" on his Hammond organ — which is, obviously, in arm's reach — over the phone] Is that it?
MT: So your Bump Band is coming to Detroit. You still got Scrappy on guitar and Mark Andes from Spirit on bass?
MCLAGAN Absolutely, that's the Bump Band. Just got back [from tour] last Friday and this Friday I set off again.
MT: Yeah, the Magic Bag's a fine place with a good sound system. The shitters are clean too.
MCLAGAN [laughs] Well, that's good!
MT: On that note, I guess I'll see you at the gig!
MCLAGAN I look forward to it. All the best, Eddie.
Ian McLagan and the Bump Band are scheduled to perform at the Magic Bag (22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-544-3030) on Sunday, March 8. The Muggs support.
To read part one of "The punk meets the modfather," see the link on the online version of this story, or see tinyurl.com/cjhbx.
Eddie Baranek fronts the Sights. Send comments to email@example.com.