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Faces Keyboardist Ian McLagan

McLagan played with the first generation of British rockers, handling keyboards for both the Small Faces and Faces, led by vocalist Rod Stewart and guitarist Ron Wood. McLagan produced a new box set of Faces recordings, Five Guys Walk Into a Bar.

44:57

Other segments from the episode on August 16, 2004

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, August 16, 2004: Interview with Ian McLagan; Review of the film "Open water."

Transcript

DATE August 16, 2004 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Ian McLagan discusses his musical career and the newly
released box set he produced of recordings by his group Faces
DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, sitting in for Terry Gross.

Our guest, Ian McLagan, may not be a household name, but if you like rock 'n'
roll, chances are pretty good you've heard his keyboards. McLagan started
playing music in London in the mid-'60s, when bands like The Beatles, the
Rolling Stones and The Animals were taking over the charts. McLagan played
keyboards in the bands Small Faces and then Faces, which featured a young
bluesy singer named Rod Stewart.

McLagan's musical life extended well beyond Faces. He wrote a memoir called
"All the Rage" that tells of his four decades in rock, playing with legends of
the business like the Stones and Bob Dylan, and living out rock star cliches,
including sex, drugs and trashing hotel rooms.

His life is less frenzied now. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, Kim,
and he's still making music, recording and playing local clubs with his group
The Bump Band. McLagan has now produced a box set of Faces recordings for
Rhino Records. It includes their hits and some rare recordings from
rehearsals and BBC broadcasts. In addition to Ian McLagan and Rod Stewart,
Faces included guitarist Ron Wood, now in the Rolling Stones, songwriter and
bass player Ronnie Lane, who died of MS in 1997, and Kenny Jones, who later
played drums with The Who. Here's Faces' only hit in the US, "Stay With Me."

(Soundbite of "Stay With Me")

Mr. ROD STEWART (Faces): (Singing) In the morning, don't say you love me,
'cause I'll only kick you out of the door. I know your name is Rita, 'cause
your perfume's smelling sweeter since when I saw you there on the floor.
Guitar.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. STEWART: (Singing) You won't need too much persuading, I don't mean to
sound degrading, but with a face like that, you got nothing to laugh about.
Red lips, hair and fingernails, I hear you're a mean old Jezebel. Just go
upstairs and read my tarot cards. Come on. Stay with me, stay with me. For
tonight, you'd better stay with me. Oh, yeah. Stay with me, stay with me.
For tonight, you'd better stay with me. Oh, come on.

DAVIES: Ian McLagan, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Mr. IAN McLAGAN (Musician): Thank you, Dave. Nice to be talking to you.

DAVIES: You came of age at a time in the mid-'60s that--really, the dawn of
British rock 'n' roll, and have been doing music all these years. Tell us how
you got into music.

Mr. McLAGAN: Well, that's an interesting--actually, my mom paid for me to
have piano lessons, but I didn't want to have piano lessons. It took me
several years to figure out that that's what I was going to do with the rest
of my life. But I wanted to play snooker with my pals who eventually formed a
skiffle group which I joined as the tea-chest bass player and...

DAVIES: Now I think you've got to explain for an American audience what
skiffle and snooker is.

Mr. McLAGAN: Skiffle--OK, snooker is...

DAVIES: Snooker.

Mr. McLAGAN: Yeah, snooker is what pool should be with a much larger table
and smaller, tighter pockets.

DAVIES: Snooker, right.

Mr. McLAGAN: Yes. And they used to have a lot of snooker holes in England at
that time, very popular. And I still like to play whenever I can. Skiffle
was what preceded the Beatles. In England, Lonnie Donegan, who just died last
year or this year--Lonnie Donegan was in a Dixieland jazz band in England, the
Ken Colyer Band and then the Chris Barber Band. And in the intermission, he
would play his version of blues. I call it kind of speed folk. It was very
uptempo and influenced by the blues and Leadbelly and all those guys, but it
wasn't the blues. It was folk; it was skiffle. That's what it was called,
and it became very popular. And almost everyone in my generation who ended up
in a band started out playing washboard or guitar or banjo or tea-chest bass.
It was a very kind of--it was like punk in its way, you know, that it was
very, you know, up and at it. It was all kind of made-up instruments. You
didn't have to be talented; you just had to sort of bash away. And bit by
bit, I kind of fumbled my way into playing.

I got a guitar and I started playing a basic Chuck Berry riff and then
transferred that to the piano which was sitting in the sitting room still and
which I hadn't played. But then when I heard "Green Onions," Booker T. & the
MGs, I thought, `Well, boy, this is the sound for me. I've got to get one of
those, whatever it is.' And it turned out to be a Hammond organ.

DAVIES: And you were in love.

Mr. McLAGAN: Yeah, and I haven't stopped being in love.

DAVIES: When you were a teen-ager in the early '60s and just scratching
around in the music business, it was a time when British rock was really just
taking form. I mean, the Beatles and the Stones and The Who were all just
getting going. And give us a sense of what the scene was like. I mean, were
you aware that something kind of new and different and exciting was happening?

Mr. McLAGAN: Oh, yeah. I mean, it was in the air. You know, I loved the
Stones. I used to see them every Sunday after I discovered them, you know,
and then I'd follow them, I'd catch them on a Wednesday somewhere else, you
know. And then I'd find they were playing somewhere else on Saturday night
and I'd go there.

And then when The Who came out--actually, I met Pete pretty early on at Jim
Marshall's drum shop as it was before he made guitar amps. I met Mitch
Mitchell. He used to serve behind the counter there. He ended up as drummer
with Jimi Hendrix, of course.

And, you know, there was a buzz going on, and Townshend was like--the first
time I met him, he said, `So how you doing?' You know, like, `What's your
band?' He was all interested in what I was doing. I was interested in what
he was doing. And, you know, we'd all heard the music, you know, and we
wanted to play it. And then the next thing was to try and get gigs.

And then, you know, I became manager and the kind of agent of my band,
although I wasn't the singer. I was just the rhythm keyboard player. But it
was very exciting. You're just constantly trying to get gigs and playing and
finding out where the clubs were and checking other bands out and thinking,
`They ain't that good, we're better than them,' you know. I was too committed
to know that, you know, I was just having the best time.

DAVIES: You were listening to a lot of American blues. Were a lot of British
teen-agers into that then? I mean, I don't think American kids were so much.
Where did you get the records?

Mr. McLAGAN: Well, they were difficult to find. You know, the thing is one
night Humphrey Littleton had a jazz program. I think it was a Monday night on
radio--BBC One, I suppose it was then. And he played Muddy Waters' "Live at
Newport," "Hoochie Coochie Man." And that pretty much changed my life. That
album, which I eventually bought with great difficulty from the local record
store in Helmsley where I lived, that and Thelonious Monk, "Monk's Moods,"
just changed my life. And I figured, well, Monk's a great blues player and
whoever is playing with Muddy is a great blues player. That was, of course,
Otis Spann. And Otis is probably my main influence on the piano, you know.

DAVIES: So you're with The Muleskinners. They split up and you find yourself
bandless and then get recruited to an established group with a record
contract, right, Small Faces?

Mr. McLAGAN: Yes.

DAVIES: How did that happen?

Mr. McLAGAN: Well, strangely, I was in another band in between, but they
weren't that keen to work. And the van broke down one night and they kind of
laughed, and we were supposed to be going up to Scotland which is, you know,
like a six- or seven-hour drive back then before the motorways, you know. And
so we set off again the next afternoon and the van broke down again. I said,
`That's it, I quit.'

And so I was depressed and I went to see my girlfriend that night. And on the
way back, I bumped into a friend of mine, Phil, who said, `So how's the band?'
I said, `Oh, I just left.' And he said, `Oh, you should join the Small
Faces.' I said, `Oh, yeah, that's very funny, Phil.' I thought sarcastic.
And the next morning, their manager called me and that afternoon I joined the
band.

DAVIES: Was that just a coincidence?

Mr. McLAGAN: Yeah.

DAVIES: Amazing.

Mr. McLAGAN: `Cause they had had that one hit, you see, and I'd seen them on
television. My dad said, `Check this band out. They're great.' And I looked
at them and I thought, `Boy, they're great; great singer, and they look great.
Boy, that's the sort of band I'd like to be in,' you know. And within, you
know, a few months, I was a member.

DAVIES: Sometimes dreams come true.

Mr. McLAGAN: Unbelievably true, yeah. It felt like I was just plucked out of
nowhere.

DAVIES: The group had a certain visual style. What did you look like?

Mr. McLAGAN: Oh, we were pretty sharp. I mean, apart from anything, we were
all the same height. None of us were over 5'6".

DAVIES: Thus, the Small Faces.

Mr. McLAGAN: Yes, although the guy I replaced was taller. But that wasn't
why they threw him out. He just wasn't much of an organ player. But they
read a review of the band I was in previously and they quoted me as
saying--well, the reviewer said that I played really good. But they had a
photo of the lead singer, who was much handsomer than me. And they thought,
`Well, he's obviously a great player and he looks great, let's get him.' But
when they met me, they were a bit surprised by the change in face. But I was
the right size.

DAVIES: My guest is musician Ian McLagan. We'll talk some more after a
break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: We're back with musician Ian McLagan. In the 1960s and '70s, he
played keyboards for the British bands Small Faces and then later Faces. He
also toured with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, and he's produced a new box
set of Faces songs which has just been released.

Your big hit in America with Small Faces was "Itchycoo Park." And maybe we
should hear that. Tell us about that song.

Mr. McLAGAN: Well, strangely enough, Steve and Ronnie, Steve Marriott and
Ronnie Lane, wrote together, and it was hard to break into that partnership,
although occasionally I would write a little germ of mine that Ronnie would
help and then that would come out as Marriott/Lane/McLagan. I could never
just separate them.

But, in fact, I didn't realize that Ronnie Lane wrote that song almost as one
of his. You know, the way a partnership works, it's one or the other mainly
and the other one helps. Well, that was a Ronnie Lane composition. And years
later, when I was living in LA, he called me from Austin in 1990 and asked if
I would tour Japan with him. And I said I'd love to. I said, `Just one
thing, Ronnie.' He said, `What's that?' I said, `Let's not do "Itchycoo
Park."' I said, `I'm sick of that song.' He said, `But, Mac, I wrote that.'
I said, `I'm sorry; I hate it.'

DAVIES: Do you really hate the song?

Mr. McLAGAN: Yeah. Well, see, I don't think it is all too beautiful. I
mean, I'm a lucky guy, I'm a happy guy but I don't think it's all too
beautiful.

DAVIES: And not so much like most of the music you were doing?

Mr. McLAGAN: Right.

DAVIES: Well, with apologies to our guest, Ian McLagan, let's hear "Itchycoo
Park" from Small Faces.

(Soundbite from "Itchycoo Park")

Unidentified Singer #1: Over bridge of sighs to rest my eyes in shades of
green. Under dreamin' skies, to Itchycoo Park, that's where I've been.

Unidentified Singer #2: What did you do there?

Unidentified Singer #1: I got high.

Unidentified Singer #2: What did you feel there?

Unidentified Singer #1: Well, I cried.

Unidentified Singer #2: But why the tears then?

Unidentified Singer #1: Tell you why.

SMALL FACES: It's all too beautiful, it's all too beautiful, it's all too
beautiful, it's all too beautiful. I feel inclined to blow my mind, get hung
up feeding ducks with a bun. They all come out to groove about. Be nicer
than fun in the sun. I'll tell you what I'll do.

DAVIES: That was "Itchycoo Park" by Small Faces. On keyboards was my guest
Ian McLagan.

"Itchycoo Park" is a song that's sort of more in the psychedelic vein rather
than the blues that you were playing. Is that what you don't like about it?

Mr. McLAGAN: Well, yes, but, you know, we were--Ronnie, Steve and I took acid
in 1966 and took acid again the next week and took a lot of acid over a period
of time. And the music did change, and I think, in some ways, for the worse.
I mean, it's like movies made around that time. Some of them are so hopeless,
I can't look at them now. They're just so desperately trying to prove that
they've taken acid, you know. And `It's all too beautiful' is the chorus of
"Itchycoo Park" and it's that whole thing. You know, I don't think you have
to prove it. You know, the experience was pleasant and now let's move on.
Let's go back to what we were doing. But we never did really.

DAVIES: It's also remarkable that you were in a band that had a lot of
hits--I mean, you had 14 hits in the UK, if I remember, and yet you didn't
make any money. You couldn't even afford your own apartments for a long time.
Why?

Mr. McLAGAN: We had very good management, or should we say thieves? We were
just unlucky in that way. I mean, we were enjoying ourselves, you know,
making the music and touring, but we never actually managed to get any
royalties, publishing or any money from the gigs. We were paid a wage of 20
pound a week, and that's pretty much--we were living in a house together at
that time. That was paid and our food was paid and our clothes were paid and
that was about it. That's all we got out of it.

DAVIES: You were awfully young. I mean, you were--What?--20, 21, and some of
the guys were younger.

Mr. McLAGAN: I was the oldest, yeah, and Kenny was 16. Yeah, I mean, we were
ignorant about business. I mean, boy. And, I mean, we were so thrilled to be
able to, you know, play music really that it never occurred to us--we never had
a bank account. But our parents kind of suspected it and went to have a
meeting with our manager, Don Arden. And he threw a red herring in front of
them. He said, `People in show business spend money and they spent theirs and
anyway, they're on drugs.' And the parents then just left the office so
downhearted, you know. And, of course, we weren't on drugs, we were smoking
pot.

DAVIES: Right. But they...

Mr. McLAGAN: I mean, you know, it wasn't--I mean, the suggestion was and what
they thought was that we were on heroin or something, you know. That was the
end of the inquiry into where the money was, you know.

DAVIES: And you were generating a fortune for them, right?

Mr. McLAGAN: Well, yeah, we were. But we were then on 50 pounds a week, so I
suppose that was some improvement. We still didn't get record royalties. In
fact, we didn't get record royalties from Immediate until 1997 and from Decca
Records, which was the earlier period, till 1991 I think it was.

DAVIES: Well, Ian McLagan, we were talking about your association with the
group Small Faces which split up when its lead singer, Steve Marriott, decided
to leave and join Peter Frampton in a group, Humble Pie. And then you
recombined and formed the group Faces. I mean, how did that happen?

Mr. McLAGAN: Actually, we wouldn't have called ourselves Faces because we
wanted to disassociate ourselves from Small Faces because we figured, you
know, we had Ronnie Wood joining, Kenny, Ronnie and I and Rod Stewart, and we
figured the music will be different. You know, just naturally, it will be
different, and we weren't gonna use the name. But the American company Warner
Bros.--we signed in England, but the American branch of the main part of the
company weren't willing to sign us unless we kept the name Small Faces. So,
in fact, our first album, called "First Up," came out as Small Faces in
America and as Faces in England because the English company said, `No, we
understand. Look, we can drop the `Small,' we'll just have to keep `Faces.'
And I think we thought we might be able to change the name after the first
album. I think that was pretty stupid but we would've been, you know, the
Strawberry Newspaper Egg or something, you know. I don't know, but Faces
worked anyway 'cause it kept the lineage of Ronnie, Kenny and me going, you
know.

DAVIES: You had four albums and a lot of hits. You toured in the States, but
let's listen to a track from the new CD box set. I thought we would listen to
"You're So Rude," which is a song you collaborated on with the late Ronnie
Lane. You want to say a word about this tune?

Mr. McLAGAN: Yes. I only wrote one song with Ronnie actually in all the
years we were together. And he came over to my house and I had a beautiful
Harmonium, a pump organ, in the hallway of the house because I was having work
done on the studio and I couldn't get it in there at that moment. So you
had to kind of squeeze past it. And he said, `Oh, that's nice.' And I said,
`Yeah, listen to how it plays.' And I played him something I'd written on the
Harmonium. And he sat down and he wrote the lyrics to "You're So Rude" in
about 10 minutes flat. And it's a true story how he and his girlfriend were
caught at it at her--or was it--I'm not sure if it was his--it was his mum's
house, anyway, his parents' house. And he suggested that, you don't have any
socks, pretend that you just got caught in the rain. Anyway, it's a true
story.

DAVIES: OK, so let's listen to "You're So Rude." This is the group Faces.
It was originally recorded on "A Nod Is As Good As A Wink" and is on the new
four-CD box set.

(Soundbite from "You're So Rude")

Mr. RONNIE LANE: (Singing) My mum, she likes you, she thinks you're swell.
Got the makings of a dance hall girl. Your low-cut frock and your bird's-nest
hair, stiletto heels and the way that you swear. She said to take you back to
see my folks again on Sunday. Why, it looks as though there's nobody in.
They've all gone out to see my Auntie Renee. Don't you worry, you just come
right in. I'm sure we'll pass the time till they come home. Well, let me
take your coat, take off your shoes, warm your toes, try the sofa.

DAVIES: That was "You're So Rude" from the group Faces. It's included on the
new CD box set produced by our guest, Ian McLagan, who played keyboards.

You know, one of the things that I like about that track, apart from the organ
that you play at the top, is that is it not Rod Stewart on the vocal, who
people have long associated with Faces, but Ronnie Lane, the late Ronnie Lane,
the bass player. He gives a great delivery there, doesn't he?

Mr. McLAGAN: Yes, he does. I mean, it's tongue in cheek, you know. You can
hear his smile, you know. He was a very cheeky boy, Ronnie. And I met the
girl in question, funny enough, previously. I met her when we were in Small
Faces together. But he was the most prolific writer with Faces and Small
Faces. And I figured this box set, "Five Guys Walk Into a Bar..."

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. McLAGAN: ...should honor him as much as anything because he's not around;
he's not here to be honored in person. And he's very much loved by all who
knew him and know him or know his music. And so the box set is dedicated to
Ronnie.

DAVIES: Keyboard player Ian McLagan. He's just produced a CD box set of his
former band Faces. He'll be back in the second half of the show.

I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

(Announcements)

DAVIES: Coming up, more with keyboard player Ian McLagan of the British rock
band Faces. And film critic David Edelstein has a review of the new film
"Open Water" about two scuba divers stranded at sea.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies sitting in for Terry Gross.

Let's get back to our interview with Ian McLagan. He played keyboards with
the British rock band Faces and has just produced a CD box set of their
recordings, rehearsals and live performances. He's also written a memoir,
"All The Rage," about his four decades in rock 'n' roll.

The name of the new CD box set is called "Faces: Five Guys Walk Into A Bar."
And in a way, you're five guys who walked into a buy and almost never left.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Drinking was a very big part of this band.

Mr. McLAGAN: Yeah.

DAVIES: Is it true that you actually set up a bar on stage behind the drums?

Mr. McLAGAN: Oh, yeah. I mean, we had drinks anyway. We figured, well,
there was--one of the guys was out--tour manager had nothing to do during the
show, and so we dressed him up as a barman and had, you know, a bar built,
which we carried with us. And, in fact, Glenn Matlock is quoted--I think
it's funny; I don't know if it's true. But he said that during the drum solo
in "Losing You," we all went to the bar and stood there and chatted, ignoring
Kenny thumping away there, and then walked back on stage as if to start. And
Rod said, as if to say--well, you know, imagine he said it, `Well, should we
have one more?' And we went back to the bar and left him there (laughs). I
can imagine that happening, but I don't remember it.

DAVIES: Well, let's listen to a cut from Faces. This is one that I think, to
me, captures a lot of the energy of some of those live performances, although
it's a studio recording. It's "Too Bad." It was originally done on "A Nod is
as Good as a Wink." So hear Faces and "Too Bad."

(Soundbite of "Too Bad")

FACES: (Singing) No, no. Whoo! Go ahead. All we wanted to do was to
socialize. Oh, you know it's a shame how we'd always get the blame. All we
wanted to do was to socialize. Oh, you know it's a shame how we'd always get
the blame. Whoo, hoo, hoo. Twenty girls, damp hotels is where I'm going to
stay 'cause now I see what it's all about. I didn't have the old school type.
Don't worry. We had more fun waiting for the all-night bus home. Too bad my
(unintelligible) gave up to wait again. Whoo!

DAVIES: That was "Too Bad" with the group Faces. On keyboards was our guest
Ian McLagan, who is also the producer of a new four-CD box set of Faces songs
called "Five Guys Walk Into A Bar."

This was also a time when you did a lot of touring, did a lot of touring in
the States and did a fair amount of hotel room-bashing. I mean, you write at
one point, `It was not possible to walk into an identical room in 20 different
cities without wanting to hurt it just a little.'

Mr. McLAGAN: Just a little, yeah.

DAVIES: And then later on you note that when you were going to a place where
the only place was a Holiday Inn, that you said that in Holiday Inns, because
of past damage and room wrecking, The Faces had been banned from all Holiday
Inns.

Mr. McLAGAN: Yeah.

DAVIES: And in this case you would check in as Fleetwood Mac, and they didn't
know any difference. Is that true?

Mr. McLAGAN: Yeah, it's true. And then eventually they sussed us out, and
we changed our name to Family. And I think we got them banned as well. Yeah,
I mean...

DAVIES: Help us understand why rock stars trash hotel rooms.

Mr. McLAGAN: You don't understand it. It's because--I mean, see, now Holiday
Inn's a very nice hotel these days. Back then, I mean, they were--I mean, the
ones we stayed in were always on the freeway, you know, like near a freeway
intersection. You know, you couldn't walk out from there to go anywhere, and
every single room was identical in every city--same horrible wallpaper. But
they were cheap, and they were cheerful and they--clean, you know? So you'd
walk in and you'd just say, `Oh, God,' you know. You'd just want something
different, I mean, just a carpet that wasn't a shag--orange and green shag
carpets, you know. It was--they made the carpets like that so that in case
anyone threw up, no one would notice, I think (laughs). So we...

DAVIES: So you did your own remodeling.

Mr. McLAGAN: Well, it just got out of boredom, you know, and it didn't
matter, it seemed, because, you know--I mean, we'd paid for the damage, but it
just didn't matter because, you know, there'd be another one tonight, you
know, and it'd be in another city; it'd be 300 miles away, another one
identical that was clean (laughs). So--the bed wasn't broke. We used to
subtly break the room and leave it, like, fixed so that someone would pick up
the phone, and there'd be no microphone in it, so they couldn't hear. And,
you know, we--you could undo the door handle, so that you'd check in and they
couldn't get out.

DAVIES: One of the other colorful pieces of your life is that your wife, Kim,
you, well, I guess, stole from The Who's Keith Moon.

Mr. McLAGAN: Actually I didn't really steal her, and she wouldn't accept that
either. I mean, she had had enough of Keith. Keith had been pretty brutal to
her over a long period of time, and she left and I grabbed her.

DAVIES: OK.

Mr. McLAGAN: And I grab her still.

DAVIES: And Keith didn't take this easily. I mean, is it true that he once
paid a guy, some thug, 200 pounds to break your fingers?

Mr. McLAGAN: Yeah. Unfortunately, I knew the guy, and I knew he was capable
of it, but Pete Townshend got wind of it and paid the guy another 200 pounds
not to do it. So the guy did well, Keith never knew and I carried on; I'm
still playing. You know, Uncle Pete, God bless him.

DAVIES: Uncle Pete Townshend...

Mr. McLAGAN: Yeah.

DAVIES: ...who--right. Did you ever kind of reconcile with Keith Moon before
he died?

Mr. McLAGAN: No. I mean, we--in person, he would be fine with me. But, you
know, he--it made him very unhappy. He loved Kim. He just didn't know how to
show her love or, you know--he was a very--I mean, really, if anyone was
schizophrenic, I'd say Keith was. But I got on well with Keith every time I
saw him, and I was a good friend to him before, you know, Kin left him.
That's how I--you know, I met Kim through him. But I met Kim just before they
were married, you know, and I thought, `What a beautiful girl.' And every
time I saw her, I thought, `What a beautiful girl. What's she doing with
him?' And then I started hanging out with them when my first marriage fell
apart. I used to hang out with Keith and Kim, and he eventually would fall
asleep and Kim and I would spend all day and all night just chatting and
drinking and just becoming best friends, you know.

DAVIES: My guest is Faces keyboard player Ian McLagan. He's just produced a
box set of their recordings and live performances. We'll be back after a
break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: My guest is musician Ian McLagan. In the '60s and '70s he played
keyboards for the British bands Small Faces and, later, Faces. He also toured
with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. And now he's produced a new box set
of Faces songs just released. He lives in Austin and has his own group, Ian
McLagan & the Bump Band.

Well, Ian McLagan, when Faces split up, you were known in the music business.
I guess you lived in the States at that point, right, in LA?

Mr. McLAGAN: No, actually I moved to LA in '78. The Faces broke up the end
of '75.

DAVIES: OK.

Mr. McLAGAN: Yeah.

DAVIES: But you'd stayed in touch with the Stones, with Mick Jagger, with
Keith Richards, and they eventually invited you to collaborate on a recording
session, then go on tour. What was that like?

Mr. McLAGAN: Well, actually--yeah. Well, actually, Keith and Woody invited
me to go to Paris from London just for a weekend, which kind of--you know,
hotels were seen, beds were seen and made weren't slept in, you know. And we
just played and just played non-stop for days. And then I got back to London.
Eventually when the album came out, which was "Some Girls" and I'd played on
"Miss You" and "Just My Imagination," when they started to tour--was getting
ready to tour in '78, Keith asked me if I would tour with them. I said, `Boy,
yeah, not many'--and I jumped on a plane and toured with them and then stayed
in America. Well, I went back to England, but then we moved straight after
that. I just liked America. At that time England was--there was nothing
going on for me, you know?

DAVIES: You know, I read in your book that you'd played on those recording
sessions for the Stones track "Some Girls" and shocked to discover that they
never paid you for that session.

Mr. McLAGAN: Well, they did, but, you know, I mean, I was there as a guest.
You know, I mean, I wasn't really--I hadn't been hired. I was there...

DAVIES: OK.

Mr. McLAGAN: ...to socialize, really. But I said to Mick, `Is there any
chance of giving me cash?' And I think he gave me the equivalent of--it was
either 120 francs or 120 pounds; didn't really pay for my cab fare. But...

DAVIES: Well, so you eventually ended up touring with the Stones, which must
have been a thrill. I mean, you'd admired them all these years.

Mr. McLAGAN: Absolutely, yeah.

DAVIES: But you had a couple of awkward moments with Mick Jagger, where he
talked to you about payment, what you wanted to get paid, right?

Mr. McLAGAN: Well, yeah. I mean, Mick...

DAVIES: And these guys were multimillionaires at this point, weren't they?

Mr. McLAGAN: Yeah. Well, this was at the end of the tour. They wanted to
record in LA, and so I hung on there for a couple of weeks while we waited to
get in the studio. And Mick had a conversation with me about money over a
game of pool, and he--not really a drinker, Mick, and I am a professional
drinker, and so we had a beer together. And the reason he came over to the
house was to discuss business, but I didn't know. I just thought he wanted a
game of pool. Well, he got more and more drunk, and he said, `So how much do
you want?' And I said, `Well, how long do you want to record?' And he said,
`Two weeks.' I said, `15 grand.' And he said, `I'm not paying you 50.' He
thought I'd said 50 instead of 15. And he said, `I'll give you 20, and that's
the end of it.' And I said, `OK.'

Well, of course, the next day he completely forgot about this conversation.
And then, you know, we screwed around for several days with his employees as
to, you know, deciding on what I'd be paid. And eventually I did get my 15,
but not after a lot of argument (laughs).

DAVIES: You've played with Bonnie Raitt and a whole lot of other artists. I
mean, you became a fairly sought-after session musician, I guess. You
declined a chance to play with The Grateful Dead. Why was that?

Mr. McLAGAN: Well, I didn't actually decline the chance. It was a chance; I
wasn't given the gig. A friend of mine who was a friend of Jerry Garcia's
said they're looking for--their current keyboard player has died, and they're
looking for someone else. He said, `You could--they want you to play to a
tape and submit it,' you know. And he said, `You'd make a quarter of a
million a year, you know. You could live anywhere you want,' blah, blah,
blah. And I was actually on vacation at the same in San Diego with my wife
and our dogs, and I went out and bought a Grateful Dead CD. And my wife went
out to do some shopping and came back to the hotel room, and I was sitting in
a blue funk in a brown study in a green swarm of hell. And she said, `What's
the matter?' I said, `I can't play this music. It sucks.' I mean, just my
personal taste, I couldn't--didn't understand it, didn't get it. You know,
still don't, really. I mean, I know they make a lot of money, they got lots
of fans. I'm sorry if I've upset anyone, but, you know, it's...

DAVIES: Wasn't your cup of tea.

Mr. McLAGAN: Wasn't my cup of tea, no more than Phish, all that jam band.
That's so tediously boring. But, you know, I like a tune. I like a tune and
a singer and a solo and now more of the tune. Yeah, I just couldn't even do
it, you know.

DAVIES: Well, you now live in Austin, Texas, and are continuing to make
tunes. You have a group, Ian McLagan & the Bump Band.

Mr. McLAGAN: Yeah.

DAVIES: I thought maybe we'd hear a track off your latest CD, which is called
"Rise & Shine"; maybe the lead track, "You're My Girl."

Mr. McLAGAN: That would be fine, yeah. This is written about Kim, as most
of the tracks are, it turns out. Turns out to be a love album. There's, I
think, four, maybe five, although I say "She Ain't Mine" is not about her; she
thinks that some of it is.

DAVIES: (Laughs)

Mr. McLAGAN: But, yeah, "You're My Girl" would be a good one to play.

DAVIES: All right. Let's hear "You're My Girl." This is Ian McLagan & The
Bump Band from their CD "Rise & Shine."

(Soundbite of "You're My Girl")

IAN McLAGAN & THE BUMP BAND: (Singing) Nobody holds me in the way you do.
Nobody rubs me in the way you do. The way you scold me, as only you can,
you're my girl, and I'm your man. Nobody told me how good love was. The only
reason there is, just because. Nobody knows you just like I do. You're my
girl. I'm the boy for you. You're my girl. Nobody wants you in the way...

DAVIES: That was "You're My Girl" from the CD "Rise & Shine" by my guest, Ian
McLagan, and the Bump Band.

That's nice organ-playing on "Rise & Shine." How do you think your music has
evolved? How's it different than it was when you were in Faces?

Mr. McLAGAN: I don't think it's any different actually. I mean, my
influence--the music I choose to listen to is the same. I listen to the
blues, mainly. I listen to country; I love Hank Williams. But, I mean, my
influence is the same. I'm constantly trying to steal licks from Otis Span
and Johnny Johnson and Meedlux Lewis(ph) and, you know, all those great piano
players. And I'm just--it's kind of--I'm constantly polishing the same stone;
that's really all I'm doing. I think that's all you can do.

DAVIES: You know, I have to ask you, with all of the drug use that you did
and have owned up to--and, you know, you have a son, Lee, and, you know, Kim
has a kid--what's your attitude towards drugs nowadays with the kids?

Mr. McLAGAN: Well, you know, I don't think pot is so bad. You know, I must
say alcohol probably causes more damage to other people. I mean, a pot smoker
isn't going to go crazy with a knife. He's going to fall asleep. But I don't
condone heavy, hard drugs at all. I, you know, don't like them. And I--it's
funny, the thing with E, you know, ecstasy, when I heard about that and I
heard the music, especially in England--the music that goes with that--I said,
`Don't ever anyone spike me with that. Please don't make me take that drug
because I don't want to be ending up liking that music.'

DAVIES: (Laughs)

Mr. McLAGAN: That would be the worst thing in my life. The great thing is we
smoked pot and listened to the blues, you know, and soul, R&B. You know, it
seems like it went with the music.

DAVIES: A lot of the guys that you shared, you know, a touring, recording and
performing life with--I mean, Ron went on to some pretty remarkable things. I
mean, Ron Wood still plays with the Stones. Rod Stewart, you know, does his
thing out there and plays in arenas. I mean, you do music but at sort of a
more modest scale there in Austin. And I'm kind of wondering, do you like it
better that way, or do you wish you were out there in front of these huge
crowds doing it differently?

Mr. McLAGAN: It's such a good question. You know, when I first joined The
Small Faces, I was so happy because, as I said, I was playing every night,
playing with people who wanted to play. And we'd play after gigs. We'd just
play, you know, in the hotel room. We'd just, like, be playing and talking,
listening to music. Well, I did an interview for a magazine called Beat
Instrumental, which was about gigs and musicians and, you know, the current
scene back in '65. And they asked me what did I see in the future, you know,
and it's amazing what you say sometimes. And I actually said this--I said, `I
picture myself in a smoky club playing rhythm and blues.' Well, hello, it came
true. And I shouldn't complain 'cause I love it, still. I just wish I could
make more money at it. But it's what I love to do. We play every Thursday
night, and it's exactly the same. That's what I envisioned.

DAVIES: Would you rather play for a hundred people rather than 20,000?

Mr. McLAGAN: No, but I'd rather I had a roadie. The Hammond organ is a very
heavy item, and I'm 59. I don't want to be doing it when I'm 60. I want to
be able to afford a roadie. So if I could play for maybe 250 people, that
would be better.

DAVIES: So you wouldn't have to set up the Hammond.

Mr. McLAGAN: That's right.

DAVIES: You fell in love with the Hammond organ. In fact, there was one
point when The Faces broke up that you went across continents trying to
retrieve one you had. Are they still around? I mean, can you still find and
play a Hammond?

Mr. McLAGAN: Yeah. Actually they're to be found in a lot of churches. And,
sadly, when a church, for whatever reason, goes downhill, they sell their
Hammonds or other organs, and they're often in perfect condition because
they've never traveled, you know. My--I call her Betty, but I've had her
since 1969. That's what you hear on "Maggie May" and all The Faces stuff, and
that's what you hear on all my records. She's been with me all that time, and
she's really--I mean, she's been around the world a few times. She's been
beaten up, and, you know, she's been damaged a little bit more than some
Holiday Inn rooms. But you can still find them. I found a beautiful one in
1994 or '93 for $500. That's--she's my pride and joy. She's in my studio at
home and will never tour.

DAVIES: Well, do you play Betty because of the sentimental attachment, or
does she have a sound that you just can't get anywhere else?

Mr. McLAGAN: She--well, I've worked on her. I mean, over the years--she's a
bit of a hybrid. She's a racehorse, you know, not just a plow horse. She's
built for speed and built for sound, built for volume. She can--you know,
electric guitarists like to think they're loud, you know. They can't top me.
I can finally complete.

DAVIES: Well, Ian McLagan, thanks so much for speaking with us.

Mr. McLAGAN: Dave, it's been a real pleasure. Thank you so much for having
me.

DAVIES: Ian McLagan. He's just produced a CD box set of his former band
Faces. He now lives in Austin, Texas, and has his own group, the Bump Band.

Ian McLagan is in New York City tonight to perform at the Makor Center, and
he'll do a performance at the Virgin Megastore on Union Square tomorrow at
6:30.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man: I'm flying across the ocean, and I'm soaring back home to
the place I was born and properly raised. And I'm flying across the mountains
and flying back home to the one that I love. So...

DAVIES: Coming up, terror on the seas--a review of "Open Water." This is
FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New film "Open Water"
TERRY GROSS, host:

The new film "Open Water" was inspired by the true story of a couple that was
accidentally left on the open sea by their charter boat while scuba diving.
The filmmakers went all out for realism, putting their actors in the water for
weeks, at times, with live sharks. David Edelstein has this review.

DAVID EDELSTEIN reporting:

When you see a movie like "Open Water," you do a lot of thinking about what
makes for a good story and why horror movies often get a pass if they don't
have one but still shake you up. You're reminded at the start that this is
based on a real event, and it's the realness that's the hook, no special
effects, no movie stars, live sharks. A husband and wife, attractive but not
by film actors' standards heart-stopping, leave for a Bahamas vacation. Their
talk is ordinary, and so is the camera work. It's totally flat; that's not to
say it's bad. To be bad, it would need to attempt something, besides
presenting the most mundane behavior in the most mundane way. It's good
insofar as it makes you think, `Hey, that could be me.'

The couple's trip on the scuba diving boat is ordinary, too. The guides
recite their standard speeches and say, `Yeah, you might see a shark, but if
you don't want to, just close your eyes.' Then it's everybody in, the first
non-mundane moment in the film. It's when the divers are shot from way down
below splashing and wriggling and looking so yummy.

You've probably heard that much of "Open Water" is the main characters Susan,
played by Blanchard Ryan, and Daniel, played by Daniel Travis, bobbing in the
water up and down, up and down, the camera at their level, waiting for their
boat to return. For a while they think they came up in the wrong spot. How
could the people running the scuba business, so safety conscious, not realize
two divers were still down at the reef? They joke about Shark Week on the
Discovery Channel and warm each other up by peeing. You get to like these
two, to think of their relationship as a wave. Daniel cradles Susan; Susan
cradles Daniel. Each takes a turn keeping the other afloat. Inevitably, they
fight.

(Soundbite of "Open Water")

Mr. DANIEL TRAVIS: (As Daniel) Do you honestly--seriously, honey, do you
honestly think that we got left behind because we were late? I'm serious. Do
you have any idea how idiotic that sounds?

Ms. BLANCHARD RYAN: (As Susan) Oh, so now I'm an idiot? Well, we are where
we are, aren't we?

Mr. TRAVIS: (As Daniel) Yeah, fine. Yes, because of me.

Ms. RYAN: (As Susan) You refused to swim!

Mr. TRAVIS: (As Daniel) Oh, errr!

Ms. RYAN: (As Susan) My God, there were boats all around us, and you refused.
And now look. Look around us. We are stuck in the middle of the ocean with
nobody.

Mr. TRAVIS: (As Daniel) Even if we had been swimming for the last five hours,
we would not be any closer to a boat than we are now.

EDELSTEIN: It's quite a challenge making a movie in which the characters are
stuck in one place for a full hour, the only action coming when they get
nipped at by little things and then nipped at by much bigger things. Once in
a while the filmmakers, Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, cut to the resort where
Susan and Daniel are supposed to be, to people with sweet drinks in coconuts
dancing like there's no tomorrow. Then it's back to our couple, for whom
there might not be. It's pitch black, and more sharks are circling. And the
only time we can see is when the lightning flashes, and then we see more than
we want to, like the tails of the circling sharks. We see human and shark
from underneath, too, accompanied by sad, a cappella island spirituals, not a
hopeful portent.

I won't spoil the ending, but it's fair to say that taken as a story, this is
no more interesting than "The Blair Witch Project," which was basically three
people walking around and around and the camera so jittery that many of us got
seasick. "Open Water" induces seasickness, too, but mostly dread sickness
from what you can't see coming. And what a strange thing to want to put
ourselves through this and say, `That's entertainment.' Anthropologists have
said that we're not running from saber-tooth tigers anymore, but we still have
this leftover fight-or-flight mechanism that needs periodically to get taken
out for a walk or, in this case, a swim, this desire to feel so helpless and
threatened that we revert to a primitive state. It's a huge box office draw,
and this little, no-budget movie, like "Blair Witch," has it down to a
science, the science of torture.

I know some people will have a good laugh, give thanks to be safe in the
theater and go out for seafood. But all I could think was that I'd seen
something sadistic, a movie that used my innate love of being scared and my
capacity for empathy against me, a true exploitation movie. And I thought,
`Yuck.'

DAVIES: David Edelstein is film critic for the online magazine Slate.

(Soundbite of music)

(Credits)

DAVIES: For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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