Written by Ellis Ian Fields
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Saturday, 19 November 2011

image for History Review: Had Me A Real Good Time: The Faces - Before, During and After, by Andy Neill Oh for... you rarely, if ever. see Ron playing a Les Paul. That's not to say he doesn't, of course...

The end of the 1960's saw seismic upheavals in the pop and rock landscape in Britain - not the least of which was the demise of the fabulously successful Small Faces. Apparently lost at sea after being cast adrift by Steve Marriott, the remaining three members teamed up with two other lads, disgruntled themselves by Jeff Beck, in whose group they had felt minor players to the guitar hero.

The Faces were born and 70's good-time and party rock had a template. Historian Ken Lucid is a fan...

Queen's Hall, Leeds. A huge great tram shed of an exhibition hall - I used to go to Anthony Porter's Flea Market there when it was in town. It's not there any more. Flattened in 1989, it's now a piece of scrap land serving as a car park, a short step from the city centre.

But on December 8, 1973 I was in there with my mate, Gaz, and several cans of McEwan's Export (yes, we were underage, but hey...). I'd queued all day and he brought the beer from his Saturday job. We weren't alone. Several thousand other citizens of Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield and all points West Riding, were there to see the biggest rock attraction on the road at the time: Kenny Jones (he had no 'e' before the 'y' in those days), Ian McLagan, Tetsu Yamauchi, Ron Wood and Rod Stewart - The Faces.

It was a kind of second best. Gaz and I had missed out on tickets for their previous visit to Leeds - they sold out as we waited in the queue, having bunked off school, freezing in the snow, outside Barker's on the Headrow. In the interim, Ronnie Lane had quit and Japanese fruitcake, Tetsu, formerly of Free - in their case, too, a replacement (for Andy Fraser) - had been recruited on bass.

(As I was relatively slow in getting in to going to gigs this should have been my first... We had tickets for this months in advance, but in the week prior to the Faces gig Jack The Lad, a band formed from the embers of temporarily disbanded Lindisfarne, came to Leeds Polytechnic - now the ludicrously-monikered Leeds Metropolitan University - and another mate, a big Lindisfarne fan, got us tickets.)

Was there ever another front man like Rod Stewart? He was terrible at communicating with the audience - "We're gonna be here for hours yet," he said before what turned out to be the penultimate number - but he could juggle that microphone stand like no-one else. And what a rock voice!

And he could be pretty rubbish at remembering the words to even the biggest hits, like Stay With Me and his own breakthrough solo smash, Maggie May. But it never mattered - it was a party, after all.

(I fell out with him, of course, when he quit the Faces and went all girly. Still, his first four solo albums are a terrific legacy, many tracks forming a part of the Faces' repertoire, since they played on them).

The band could also be very loose live - they were notorious for it and fans could never be sure what they were in for. Except for one thing...

... they always knew they were in for a party. A rocking, boozy, good time. Even when loose, The Faces put on a terrific show. And they did on that December night - I was in seventh heaven for days.

I contend that any generation could be turned on to the Faces just by hearing their piece de resistance, the album A Nod Is As Good As A Wink... To A Blind Horse.
(It is 'A Nod Is...' - replacing the 'is' with an apostrophed 's' was a a UK printing mistake.)

Once, in the early 80's, I learned that a younger friend was completely ignorant of their opus, so I loaned him the record for a week. He was hooked. Hilariously, at the first playing, he told me, when he heard Ronnie Wood's rasping opening chords of the first track, Miss Judy's Farm, he thought his speakers were damaged!

Rather unfortunately - and erroneously - The Faces were written off as something of a musical cul-de-sac by some rock purists, but I think it's safe to say that that label has been removed. Since the nineties, many younger bands have been citing them as an influence - and if you ever heard The Quireboys... well the sincerest form of flattery, or what?

Recent attempts at a reunion tend to founder on Stewart's 'unavailability' and the most recent effort featured Mick Hucknall, of Simply Red, as singer.

Nooooooooo!!!!! (Although they say he did a pretty good job at the O2.)

This is a thoroughly researched and minutely detailed tome - just about everyone who ever came into contact with the band gets at least the potted biography treatment.

Hopefully it will help cement the Faces' place in rock history.

They were great and I still love 'em to bits.

Thanks guys.

(One thing... Ronnie Lane is often referred to on album sleeves and in books as 'Laneole.' I've never heard it pronounced, so if anyone knows how to say it, please let me know.)

Ken Lucid is Herodotus Chair of History at the University of Hounslow.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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