It’s impressive to think that rhythm guitarist turned bassist Ronnie Lane was just twenty when he laid down the distinctive tones that backed The Small Faces’ "Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake" (1968). The affable young Eastender befriended another, singer Steve Marriott – the pair were most integral to the rise of the mod movement’s earliest heroes.
Lane was as significant a contributor as the vocalist/guitarist, sharing songwriting duties as The Small Faces – Marriott, Lane, Ian McLagan (organ) and Kenney Jones (drums) – enjoyed well-documented singles-chart success during the mid to late sixties (1966 number one "All Or Nothing" was the high spof ot). Some the band’s most impressive, idiosyncratic material lay in their album output, however, and with the charttopping "Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake" they proved they could compete with The Beatles and Stones as far as homespun psychedelia was concerned. The album also performed admirably in the US, spawning The Small Faces’ only American hit, "Itchycoo Park" (1968).
Lane stayed put after the departure of his sidekick in 1969, the band becoming The Faces, now with still-wet-behind-the-ears Rod Stewart as singer. Commercial success continued as the band veered down a seventies pub-rock avenue, songs such as "Last Orders Please" (1971) and "Pool Hall Richard" (1973) suggesting where the new band would be happiest spending a lazy Sunday afternoon. But, with Stewart becoming the focal point – he was concurrently cleaning up in both the US and UK as a solo act – Lane found his input compromised, and embarked upon his own folk-rock project, Slim Chance, which earned modest approval with Top Forty hits in "How Come?" and "The Poacher" (both 1974).
By now Lane was living a maverick lifestyle, making a caravan his home as he further busied himself on projects with top-table associates Marriott (as Majik Mijits), sometime-Face Ronnie Wood and that other mod guru Pete Townshend – their "Rough Mix" (1977) was one of the best-received records of Lane’s career.
Ronnie Lane had been advised that he had multiple sclerosis as early as 1976 (the condition had occurred previously within his family). This news shocked many of his contemporaries such as Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, who, in 1983, rallied to raise money for both Lane and MS research (as would natural successors Paul Weller, Oasis and Ocean Colour Scene at the time of his death). Lane continued much of his professional life from the confines of a wheelchair, relocating to the USA – the harrowing death of his old friend Marriott ( April 1991) was another hard psychological burden with which he had to deal.
Although he continued to perform and record as much as he was physically able, Lane finally succumbed to his debilitating condition in hospital near his home in Trinada, Colorado. His third wife, Susan, buried the guitarist on the day of his death – apparently an Apache tradition.
The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars -Jeremy Simmonds, 2nd Edition, Chicago Review Press, Incorporated, 2012, pages 315-316
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