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Rod: The Autobiography

PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2013 11:29 pm
by Garth Cartwright
So I saw this in the local library and thought 'well, it is Xmas and I've lots of time to read...' Readers, I finished it! It is an easy read. The ghost who pulled Rod's memories together has done a tidy job and you do get a real sense of the man. Not that there is a lot surprise you. He is enthusiastic about blondes, expensive cars, mansions and money. And his hair. He devotes an entire chapter to his hair and the stylings he has employed since a young Mod. He does the same to cars. But he does not devote a chapter to music. Which tells us what we already knew - Rod's passion for music died a long time ago and now it's just an extremely well paid job.

That said, his stories about being part of Long John Baldry's band and Jeff Beck's band are very entertaining - Long John portrayed as a very nice guy while Beck is sullen and rather selfish. Ron Wood is his best mate and I imagine these 2 are very similar men. The chapters on The Faces are underwhelming - it starts off well with Rod going along to hang out cos Ronnie's now in The Small Faces and eventually getting asked to have a sing along and it just came about via them all getting on and enjoying it. Sadly, Rod does not detail how such great tunes as Stay With Me came together and he appears to dislike both Ronnie Lane and Ian McLagan - these two are about the only people who he takes digs at in the entire book (beyond a dodgy manager).

He is upfront about how extremely selfish he was towards the women in his life (until Rachel Hunter got the measure of him then went and broke his heart - tuff Kiwi chicks rule!) and he jokes about his meanness (true, he doesn't even like to get a round in!). Overall he paints himself as a lad who got very lucky. He doesn't even make much of his talent - all those great songs he wrote? He seems to shrug and they fell out. The voice? He always had it. The long nights spent studying Sam Cooke 45s? Almost no mention is made of such. He notes how he always recorded a Dylan tune on his initial solo albums but there's no mention as to whether he ever liked listening to Dylan.

A pity he does not feel like reflecting on his art as I think of his best work as very great indeed. He seems more concerned with reflecting on the silly outfits he used to wear. A slight autobiography then from a slight - but likeable - man who was blessed with the most incredible charm and luck. And talent. Reading this book I kept on listening to Rod and then wishing he could tell me just a little about how he came to sing In A Broken Dream or Mandolin Wind. Perhaps Adam could do some research and write a Faces essay? Now that would be something!

Re: Rod: The Autobiography

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:37 am
by Adam Blake
Garth Cartwright wrote:Perhaps Adam could do some research and write a Faces essay? Now that would be something!


Hem-hem...

viewtopic.php?f=54&t=14847&hilit=faces+we+had+three+chords

Re: Rod: The Autobiography

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:05 pm
by Garth Cartwright
Yes I know of that and just reread it and still disagree with you over R Lane being the most talented Face - but he was talented, no doubt. What i'd like now is a less personal more dispassionate breakdown of the Faces - a bit like Revolution In Yr Head - but an essay not a book, looking at how their sound developed and then, seemingly, fell apart - Rod says Ohh La La was a mess he was never happy with. A bit of reflection on how their sound came together so easily - they sounded nothing like the Small Faces! - and what their absolute peaks and troughs were. Has this been written? Considering how famous and successful they were and Rod/Ron remain I'm surprised the likes of Mojo/Uncut don't give them more coverage. Maybe Rod's megafame makes people forget his Faces work?

Re: Rod: The Autobiography

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 2:42 pm
by Adam Blake
With regard to Ronnie Lane, I was trying in my own small way to address an imbalance.

What you're asking is for something that has been on my mind for awhile. Specifically, it's an examination of a way of playing music that is almost completely extinct now; that was completely English, in fact, almost completely London in origin. It's a way of playing music by musicians who are almost entirely self taught, almost entirely musically illiterate (in that they could not read or write musical notation) and who had been inspired to learn to play almost entirely by their love and passion for black American blues, soul and r'n'b. It's an ensemble style, that is to say, it only really worked when the musicians were playing together, as opposed to creating a recording from the rhythm track up (which is how 95% of recorded pop/rock music has been made for the last 30 years or so). It flourished between the years of roughly 1965-1973 (taking as my starting point the release of the Rolling Stones 2nd album and my end point the release of The Faces "Ooh La La") and represents, for what it's worth, the real and lasting contribution of English musicians to the continuum of black American music.

(Maybe I should call the essay "Almost Entirely"...)

I can't find it on YouTube but the Faces version of "Tell Everyone" (as opposed to the Slim Chance version) is a very slow track and, as a result, it is easy to hear the specific contributions of the players. Apart from being one of Ronnie Lane's best ever songs, it features what is, to my ears, Ronnie Wood's finest recorded guitar playing. But the sway of it, the way Kenney Jones emphasizes the downbeat in direct contradiction to where, say, Al Jackson or Bernard Purdie would place it, the way that the piano serves as a rhythm guitar, the release of the hammond organ on the fade (and not before), the sighing and yawing of the bass on the fade - not playing roots or 3rds or 5ths but pulling on the blue note between the minor and major 3rd across the mixolydian Gospel cadence. It's perfect.

Anyway, as always, Garth, you are my lazy retired writer's conscience. I will try and write this piece that has been germinating for a long, long time. How to do it without sinking neck deep into musicology, however, is a bit of a conundrum!

Re: Rod: The Autobiography

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 6:51 pm
by Garth Cartwright
Adam, you write beautifully! And with such knowledge and passion. In a similar manner to how you play guitar. Got a funny story to tell you about Errol's Balkan reggae remix gig.... When you have time do write this - your premise here is fascinating.Is the recording of Tell Everyone you mention the one on a Faces album? Or a live recording you have found? If studio i will go to Spotify and listen.

Re: Rod: The Autobiography

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:33 pm
by Adam Blake
You're very kind, thank you.

No, the version of "Tell Everyone" I'm referencing is the version that appeared as side 1, track 2 of The Faces "Long Player" album. I don't know why it's not on YouTube but it'll be on Spotify.