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Published: 2007/02/26
by Randy Ray

The Passing Show The Life and Music of Ronnie Lane

Eagle Vision

Ronnie Lane was a very simple man who made very simple musicor so one would think. Lane helped co-found the mod rockers, Small Faces in the mid-1960s with drummer Kenney Jones, keyboardist, Ian McLagen and vocalist Steve Marriott. Later, the band would simply become the Faces when a much taller Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart would join the band, replacing Marriott who gravely underestimated the unique chemistry of Led Zeppelin and set out to create his own supergroup of heavy music. Pity, that. Lane’s songs within the Face mix always stood out because they helped define that indelible Band sound that Robbie Robertson and company would build later in the 60sa sweet melancholic tone that combined American blues with English folk rock.

Lane was not a simple man; plagued by poor financial investments, health issues and a sound that couldn’t find a proper home in the 80s and 90s; he died in Texas in 1997 after a long bout with Multiple Sclerosis. However, history has a wonderful way of redefining one’s accomplishments, even if one is no longer present in a corporeal state on this rock. Case in point: Lane quit the high (in every sense of the word) flying Faces in the mid-70s to craft his own more humble acoustic-based sound with a live presentation that was literally, a traveling circus show. The band and crew would drive their motley caravan from English village to town to village, setup their tent, generators and equipment and play to a limited advertised crowd of a hundred or so. Extrapolate that notion all the way out to Phish’s Clifford Ball in 1996 and you see a band that aligned that idea with a large group of fans who were willing to create their own traveling circus to see them. Lane was ahead of his time and may have been a brilliant songwriter“Ooh La La,” “Annie,” and “The Poacher,” among many others can attest to thatbut he was a creative force without direction or guidance. Quite frankly, the man needed a well-funded art patron but when you’re living in a trailer in Pete Townshend’s back garden, one isn’t apt to take aboard that challenge.

The film, produced and directed by Rupert Williams and James Mackie, assisted by Darinagh O’Hagan, does a fine job of documenting Lane’s sad plight from mod rock star to 20th century traveling minstrel man onto quiet family man living in a rural area of Texas as the century ended. Townshend, Eric Clapton, Kenney Jones, Ian McLagen, members of Small Chancehis ill-fated circus band of the 70s and many friends and family members speak about Lane’s life in honest, poignant detail. Townshend, Clapton and McLagenespeciallyshow the fatigue of friends that attempted to help another friend over a period of time but met with a stubborn resistance, a resistance that produced many fine songs that have truly stood up against the howling winds of time although, they were bent forward quite a bit. The only drawback to the film is the absence of Wood and Stewart who appear as footnotes in Lane’s life due to their glaring omission. I find it hard to believe that Townshend and Clapton could find time in their schedules to be interviewed while the lesser talents of Wood and Stewart seemed too busy to speak about a man that helped forge their careers.

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