This drink-soaked autobiography can stand tall and proud next to the spate of excellent rock and roll autobiographies, even if the author can’t. McLagan readily admits his shortcomings (height being a recurring theme), especially waiting too long to kick alcohol and drugs, but this ride through the classic era of rock is superb.
His early love of the USA was not from any visits but from weekly cinema trips with his father to see American movies. McLagan finally reached these shores with a layover in San Francisco. The Small Faces were en route from a series of gigs Down Under. His eyes boggled at the luxury and vast choices of music on the radio and channels on the TV, all of which was available 24/7, a phenomenon unheard of in the UK.
The band’s opus Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake went straight to number one but it took 26 years for royalties to come in. MacLagan mentions that astounding fact almost in passing; he had become inured to the criminals running the management and record companies to which he was signed. “There’s an estimated 10 to 15 million pounds leached from the band Small Faces” is his conclusion.
He describes the bliss of recording with his mates; much of the album was recorded floating down the Thames on huge barges. The book is packed with eye-opening descriptions and insights; I finally connected the dots to the lyric in “Eight Miles High.” Dashing through an airport, McLagan gets to meet Graham Nash and David Crosby, the latter had penned the phrase in the Bryds’ hit: “In places small faces unbound.”
When McLagan finally overcame a prior drug bust allowing him unfettered entry into the US, it was because Lennon triumphed over Nixon’s ongoing harassment; then both Brits were free to travel in the US.
McLagan talks lovingly about hanging by the side of the stage in the early 1960s after opening for the Rolling Stones, marveling at their prowess. He is beside himself when asked to join the band decades later for some recording and tour dates. The negotiation of his fee with Prince Rupert Lowenstein is almost comical.
Indeed, the book elicits a smile on almost every page, and I often found myself stifling a belly laugh.
He speaks frankly about Rod Stewart and the difficulty of helping drive the latter’s solo albums high into the charts while both were touring in the Faces.
I was fortunate enough to see Faces in concert, it was late September and I really should have been back at school. Actually, it was later in autumn 1975 and the band played their final gig a few weeks later. Talk of a Faces reunion in 2015 still swirls, as it has for the last couple years.
McLagan gets an improbable call to tour with Dylan and Europe, and describes that bard’s inscrutability in fine form.
McLagan eventually moved to LA with his wife (the former Mrs. Keith Moon), but they decamped to Austin after one too many an earthquake. He maintains a thriving recording career, and gigs around not often enough. Appropriately, McLagan’s latest album is called United States and it has more than a few gems: “Love Letter” and “I’m Your Baby Now,” the former an aching ode to his late wife. His raspy voice is reminiscent of Bonnie Raitt’s; he formed her back up band and toured for a few years with her.
Let’s hope he gets back to SoCal before too long on a couple club dates.