In the early 1970s in England there were a few rock bands that mattered and one that really mattered, and that was the Faces. I mean Rock band. Rock and roll. They were a supergroup, a bridge between genres, a match in a haystack. They had big hits and the best hair.
For English kids the Faces must have represented a lot of things, glam without the spacesuits, the Stones but more fun, a way to get back to the basics in the wake of the Beatles’ passing. So they could springboard Rod Stewart to pop stardom, sure, but also be an inspiration, both in attitude and rock power, to punk bands from the New York Dolls to the Sex Pistols. The Faces were about energy and, when they put their mind to it, peerless songwriting, thanks in good part to Ronnie Lane, the core of a band who counted among its cadre once or future members of the Jeff Beck Group, the Small Faces, the Rolling Stones, and the Who. Across their four albums you get the strong sense the rest of them were there because of Lane — playing a cheery bass and occasionally singing, in his homespun warble, songs with a a bit of a wink and a whole lot of heart.
“Ooh La La,” a rock and roll music hall chanty of the type Lane virtually invented in the Small Faces, was the last song on the Faces’ last record. It’s perfect. It’s a smiling shake of the head, a “poor old granddad” and “poor young grandson” dialogue of women and love and sex. There was genius in the decision to have Ronnie Wood sing Lane’s lyric — ragged but right, he brings to it the feeling of an old man, twinkle in his eye, holding forth in the corner of a bar. Such places are after all where the Faces lived, and where you can still find them.
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