You rarely saw Ronnie Lane without a smile on his face. That’s only one of the reasons the former Small Faces, Faces, and Slim Chance bass player and songwriter is so warmly remembered by one and all. Ronnie, born on April 1, 1946, was one of the UK’s great treasures, happy both in a group setting, as a collaborator or bandleader.
“Plonk,” as he was fondly known, was also a hugely talented musician whose legacy lives on in countless great albums and performances, with all three bands and beyond. Lane’s work with the Small Faces has been re-explored in the musical All Or Nothing, which has enjoyed several London runs and UK tours to great acclaim. Read our review of the show’s 2016 London press night. It has had three highly successful UK tours and had generated £1 million in ticket sales by the summer of 2017.
A real life Eastender
An inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 for his work with both the Small Faces and the Faces, Lane was a real life Eastender. London through and through like his Small Faces bandmates. He and frontman Steve Marriott were the key songwriting protagonists on many of the timeless songs, such as “Itchycoo Park” and “All Or Nothing” itself, that have helped establish their reputation as one of the coolest and most cutting-edge of all the R&B-influenced British beat-rock bands of the 1960s.
Lane was no less important to the success of the Faces, who combined bar-room braggadocio and infectious humour with spontaneous brilliance on a series of early 1970s albums and tours. “I like showing off, doing a song and shaking a leg on stage, but I don’t want to play all those silly games that go on, any more,” he said in 1975.
Lane’s Faces song “Ooh La La” hinted at the growing rootsiness of his writing, He explored that further in the band Slim Chance, notably on their signature hit “How Come” and the magnificent “The Poacher.” His 1977 album with Pete Townshend, Rough Mix, is another hugely recommended and often underrated collaboration. We’ve chosen one of Ronnie’s songs from it, “April Fool,” in recognition of his birth date.
Sadly, it was during the recording of Rough Mix that Lane was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He fought the condition tenaciously, releasing a fourth solo album entitled See Me in 1979. Friends such as Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page gathered for a historic benefit night for Ronnie, the ARMS (Action into Research for Multiple Sclerosis) concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1983. Prince Charles and Princess Diana were in the audience, and Lane appeared for the encore to lead a stirring rendition of “Goodnight Irene.”
Listen to uDiscover Music’s Small Faces Best Of playlist.
Further ARMS shows followed, after which Lane moved to the US to live and work. He fronted later configurations of Slim Chance, who continue to play live and perform the music they made together. He passed away in 1997, but “Plonk” Lane is never to be forgotten. 2019 saw the release of a new, lovingly-compiled six-CD set in his memory.
Buy or stream the extensive Ronnie Lane retrospective Just For A Moment 1973-1997.