Had Me a Real Good Time - Faces: Before, During & After By Andy Neill 456 pp., $29.95, Omnibus Press
A band that was actually more popular in the U.S. than their English homeland -- based on their incendiary live shows if not album sales -- Faces (or, to most, The Faces) are far more than just "Rod Stewart's old band" or the group that did the classic rock radio staple "Stay With Me." And Neill's exhaustive (and I mean exhaustive) bio makes just that point.
After Steve Marriott left the mod group Small Faces to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton in late 1968, singer/bassist Ronnie Lane, keyboardist Ian "Mac" McLagan, and drummer Kenney Jones pondered their next move.
They found more-than-willing collaborators in vocalist Rod Stewart and guitarist Ronnie Wood, both recently ousted from the Jeff Beck Group. As Jack-the-Lads together, these Faces were all smiling, and making a bloozier, funkier-sounding music than in their previous acts.
The book's first chunk details the pre-Faces lives and careers of the five members. Thus, Neill's research and original interviews ferret out incredibly detailed bits of trivia like what place Ron Wood's pre-Beck group, The Birds, placed in a local talent competition. It also documents just how incestuous the early to mid '60s British music scene was with players going between bands, managers, and even girlfriends.
But in addition to their music (best sampled on the compilation CD Good Boys...When They're Asleep) legacy of the group is also their hard-partying, good time ways -- supposedly excessive even for a band of the '70s.
After all, this was a group that had a fully functional bar onstage, and Stewart and Wood notoriously played "doctor's surgery" with willing groupies. But as Neil explains, tensions grew in the band with Stewart's simultaneous solo career and records like Gasoline Alley, Every Picture Tells a Story, and Never a Dull Moment.
A frustrated Lane ended up quitting to follow his own muse, replaced by the Japanese bassist Tetsu Yamauchi, whose lack of English language skills stood in comparison to his heavy appreciation of Teachers brand whiskey. Stewart, thinking he brought a bottle to his first rehearsal to impress the band and share, was shocked to see the bassist drink the whole thing himself.
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But "Rod the Mod's" half-hearted assertion that his solo efforts would not interfere or supercede his work with Faces became untenable in the wake of his red-hot success. Ultimately, his going solo for good and Wood's golden-ticket invite to join the Rolling Stones spelled the end of the band.
Houston figures into the book a couple of times, most notably as the site of the concert shot that adorns the cover of the album A Nod is as Good as a Wink...to a Blind Horse (July 28, 1971, Sam Houston Coliseum). It was also here that at a 1974 show Stewart had a very expensive transcontinental phone hookup installed so he could get live commentary on a Scotland World Cup qualifying game. And Lane lived in the city for a brief period in 1984 for MS treatment.
The book also details bandmembers' activities since the 1975 breakup including Lane's battle (and ultimate loss in 1997) to multiple sclerosis, Jones' stint as Keith Moon's replacement for the Who, McLagan's journeyman career (and relocation to Austin, Texas), and Wood's ups and downs with the Stones. Rod Stewart? Not sure whatever happened to him. There is a guy crooning syrupy pop standards that looks a lot like him, though.
In 2010, Wood, Jones, and McLagan reignited the group for a series of shows, adding ex-Simply Red vocalist Mick Hucknall and ex-Sex Pistols bass slapper Glen Matlock. However, one would hope that Stewart's vacillating statements and actions about ever joining his old mates again would eventually lead to a fuller reunion for Faces (or, The Faces).