Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ronnie Lane & Slim Chance: How Come

Yesterday's expedition to Long Buckby and the grave of Stanley Unwin has naturally put me in mind of the Small Faces. Unwin narrated the second side of the group's LP Ogden's Nut Gone Flake and was surely a better choice than their original thought Spike Milligan.

But the Small Faces and the solo career of Steve Marriott have featured in Sunday videos before, so it is time to catch up with the band's bass player and other songwriter Ronnie Lane.

After Marriott left to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton, the remaining members of the Small Faces joined Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart to form the Faces, enjoying enormous success.

Ronnie Lane gave all that up, moved to the remotest part of Shropshire and former the wonderfully loose Slim Chance. How Come was there only hit - their second single The Poacher suffered from the cancellation of Top of the Pops at the vital time. This was the seventies.

There are many tales to tell of Ronnie Lane in Shropshire - I have already blogged about those days and shall return to the subject soon. A Shropshire friend of a Shropshire friend there assures me that Lane and his rock star companions were "very naughty boys", but it remains wonderful to me that there was a time when you could wander into a remote pub under the Stiperstones and hear them playing unannounced.

Ronnie Lane's most remarkable project was Passing Show, a sort of travelling musical circus. Writing in Uncut, David Cavanagh described it as:
A picaresque odyssey along the highways and byways, it framed Ronnie's love of good-time music within the wider context of a Romany way of life. Viewed through the eyes of conventional rock tour promotion, 'The Passing Show' was crazy. It required the country's least flexible officials – the town councillors, police constables and fire chiefs – to look at life not as a protocol but as an adventure.
Soon afterwards Lane fell ill with multiple sclerosis and in 1983 his friends put on a celebrated charity concert to raise funds for him - you can see a clip from it here. Ronnie Lane died in 1997.

Note, by the way, that the video above comes from The Basil Brush Show. You don't get children's television like that any more.

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