Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Godspeed Ian McLagan

Ian McLagan, who played keyboards for Small Faces and later The Faces, died on 3 December 2014 at age 69. The cause was complications from a stroke.

Ian McLagan was born in Hounslow, Middlesex on 12 May 1945. It was his grandmother in Ireland who, as an accomplished accordion player,  drew him towards music. Young Ian McLagan was only ten years old when he first encountered rock 'n' roll in the form of "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and His Comets. He learned guitar and later saxophone, and played in various skiffle groups. Having played guitar in the various skiffle groups, it was his mother who insisted that he study piano. He developed an interest in the organ after hearing  Booker T. and the M.G.'s. He was also heavily influenced by Cyril Davies' All Stars.

Ian McLagan attended Twickenham Art School, where he formed The Muleskinners with friends there. With The Muleskinners he continued to play guitar. The band saw some success, even touring the United States in support of The Rolling Stones. From The Muleskinners he went onto join the somewhat more jazz oriented Boz People with future King Crimson bassist Boz Burrell. It was while he was with The Boz People that Mr. McLagan switched to keyboards. While The Boz People released four singles and even toured in support of Kenny Lynch, the band saw little commercial success.

It was in 1965 that Ian McLagan replaced Jimmy Winston as the keyboardist for Small Faces. Mr. Winston had only played on the first few singles released by the band. Small Faces proved to be fairly successful in the United Kingdom and developed a large following in the United States. At their peak they were second in popularity only to The Who among the Mods and they even rivalled The Rolling Stones at times in over all popularity in the UK. He remained with the band in its initial incarnation, appearing on the albums Small Faces (the 1966 Decca release), Small Faces (known as There Are But Four Small Faces in the U.S., the 1967 Immediate Records release), Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake, and the post-break up collection  The Autumn Stone). Mr. McLagan co-wrote several songs while with Small Faces, including "Own Up Time", "Up the Wooden Hills to Bedfordshire",  and "Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake".

Towards the end of 1968 Steve Marriott left Small Faces, increasingly frustrated with the group being labelled a pop band. The remaining members of Small Faces (Ronnie Lane, Kenny Jones, and Ian McLagan) then formed The Faces in 1970 by recruiting Rod Stewart and Ron Wood (both former members of The Jeff Beck Group). The Faces would have some success, producing hit singles "Stay with Me",      "Cindy Incidentally", "Pool Hall Richard", and "You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything".  From 1970 to 1973 The Faces recorded four albums: First Step. Long Player, A Nod Is As Good As a Wink... to a Blind Horse; and Ooh La La. With The Faces Mr. McLagan wrote such songs as "Bad 'n' Ruin", "You're So Rude", and "Cindy Incidentally".

The Faces broke up in 1975, after which the original Small Faces reunited. Ronnie Lane, who was just beginning to suffer from multiple sclerosis, did not remain with the reunited Small Faces for long. To take his place Ian McLagan, Kenney Jones and Steve Marriott recruited Rick Willis (formerly of Joker's Wild and Roxy Music) to take his place. Small Faces released two more albums, Playmates in 1977 and  78 in the Shade in 1978. Ian McLagan co-wrote several songs, including "Over Too Soon" and "Real Soul". Neither album performed well and Small Faces broke up once again in 1978.

In 1977 Ian McLagan launched his solo career. In 1979 he released his first solo album Troublemaker. It was followed in 1980 by Bump in the Night. Over the years he released several more solo studio albums, including Last Chance to Dance (1985), Best of British (2000), Rise & Shine (2004), Here Comes Trouble (2005), Spiritual Boy (2006), Never Say Never (2008), and United States (2014).

Over the years Ian McLagan also played with several different artists. He has played with The Rolling Stones, Ron Wood, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and many others.

Ian McLagan was an extraordinary musician. His evocative keyboard work is much of what made Small Faces one of the greatest British bands of the Sixties. He was also very versatile. It was not simply a case that he could play both organ and piano equally well, but that he was comfortable with a number of different styles. He could play soul, old time rock 'n' roll, jazz, and a number of different genres with ease. Ian McLagan was one of the greatest keyboardists in rock history. There were very few could ever match his talent.

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