Spare the Rod, Gimme the Faces

More than a footnote in Rod Stewart's story, the Faces wrote the only chapters worth rereading

Mac also found a way of sabotaging the dreaded strings that Stewart insisted bringing on the road with the group. "One of the guys in the string section, because they were new guys each night, unplugged his pickups because he didn't like the way they were gaffe taped to his priceless violin. Nobody knew, but when he unplugged his, he unplugged all of them. When I found that out, every night I'd tell one of the string players, 'If you don't want that on your violin, just unplug it.'"

With the rot setting in, the Stones didn't even wait for the Faces to split up before snapping up Ron Wood. In late '76, Ronnie Lane walked away from a Small Faces reunion that managed to churn out two uninspired albums before slipping quietly into the dark. Mac reunited with Woody on the Stones' Some Girls and Tattoo You tours while Kenney Jones had the unenviable task of being Keith Moon's successor in the Who. When McLagan toured with Dylan (dates from that jaunt comprised Dylan's Real Live album), he wound up playing with Mick Taylor, the Stones member Wood replaced. "Bob was great, a little distant. I remember when Peter Grant introduced himself to Bob, he said, 'I manage Led Zeppelin.' Bob looked at him and said, 'I don't come to you with my problems.'"

Because of Lane's long bout with multiple sclerosis (which ended with his death in 1997), there's been only one original Faces reunion, in 1986, instigated by Stewart. "Rod was selling fewer tickets than he'd hoped to for this Wembley [Stadium] gig, and he asked us to get back together. He flew Ronnie in and they had Bill Wyman on bass. It wasn't great, but it got a lot of press."

Good boys, sort of: The Faces, from left, Kenney Jones, Rod Stewart, Ronnie Lane, Ron Wood, Ian McLagan.
courtsey pf Warnder Bros.
Good boys, sort of: The Faces, from left, Kenney Jones, Rod Stewart, Ronnie Lane, Ron Wood, Ian McLagan.
Ronnie Lane inspiring Rod Stewart's hit-in-the-making-- "You're in my heart, you're in my way."
Ronnie Lane inspiring Rod Stewart's hit-in-the-making-- "You're in my heart, you're in my way."

Faltering again commercially in the early '90s, Stewart got back together with Wood on an MTV Unplugged special and album. "They were promoting it on the radio one night, and they were both very drunk when I called in to the station. Woody said, 'Hey, mate, Rod wants you to tour with him,' and I said, 'Why doesn't he ask me?' And Rod comes on the mike to ask me and I said, 'Of course I will.' And we had a good time. Four years of it."

"Although," McLagan sneers, "I was part of his 'backing group.' If he ever recorded such an abomination as 'Da Ya Think I'm Sexy' with The Faces, we would never have played it live. We would never have allowed it."

Which begs the question, does Stewart -- whose donation of all the royalties from "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" to UNICEF still doesn't make one want to hear it -- actually enjoy all of those crappy albums of his?

"He looooves it," enthuses Mac. "He thinks he's making rock 'n' roll! The last album he had out when I was touring with him was called Spanner in the Works -- a better-named album I've yet to hear of because it was the least-selling album he'd ever had."

"I loved Rod's early stuff," Mac continues. "There's still songs he's written since then that are real good, but his best stuff was definitely back then.

"I don't think he even picks the songs anymore. I've submitted songs to him, I know other people who've submitted songs to him and this guy at Warner Bros. in London seems to pick his fuckin' songs," says McLagan. "I'm not really concerned with his career anymore. I think his career was over in '76."

Given that, could there ever be a full-fledged Faces reunion? In 1997, when Stewart played in Dublin, McLagan got Kenney Jones to come up. "Since Woody has a house in Ireland, the Faces had another little reunion," recalls McLagan.

"We had a group meeting at the end of the show, which was us basically having a meal and throwing drinks at each other. We decided we'd get together in Ireland at Woody's house and go through the stuff we had in '75 and put out a best of, put a few new tracks on and do a tour. Nothing happened because Rod denied he ever said it. Rod said, 'I never said I'd go to Ireland,' which was a complete lie. We wound up working on Woody's album with Bob Dylan. We had a tour for Europe and America lined up with the Stones' tour promoter and everything. Woody wants to do it. Kenney wants to do it and I want to do it. We're just waiting for Big Nose. Big Nose and his management."

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