By Buddy Blue
Ian McLagan is one of those cool old English guys from England who's so English you walk away from
a conversation with him speaking in a bad cockney accent, craving warm, syrupy ale and looking for a cricket match to observe, bless 'is cute li'ul roostery 'ead.
McLagan -- or "Mac," as he prefers to be called - is best known as the keyboardist with '60s mod gods the Small Faces ("Itchykoo Park," "Tin Solider") and the boozy, Rod Stewart-fronted '70s offshoot band the Faces ("Stay With Me, "Cindy Incidentally"). McLagan, though, has also played with Everyone Who Matters - Dylan, the Stones, Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt and Buddy Guy, to name a few - as well as being Stewart's organist on his great early solo sides, before Roddy started stinking up the joint; that's Mac's effervescent organ work you hear on Stewwy hits like "Maggie Mae" and "You Wear It Well."
More to the point here, McLagan fronts his own excellent group, the Bump Band, which plays Monday night at Croce's Top Hat. McLagan & the Bump Band's latest release, "Rise & Shine," injects a badly- needed supershot of complex vitamins in the collective, uninspired bum of the modern rock & roll marketplace; more the pity that few will hear this honest-to-god masterpiece, because, well, Mac is a rumpled old fellow whose mug could break a mirror a mile away; hardly MTV-bait.
In McLagan's case, though, age is simply a chronological/cosmetic inconvenience, as he and the Bump Boyz lay down an inspiring brace of classic rock & roll in the best, most timeless tradition of the term - this album is as untamed, heartfelt, good-timey, whiskey-soaked and quintessentially British as anything the Faces, T. Rex or Mott The Hoople ever unleashed, even in their primes.
"A lot of people who hear it said, 'You've obviously recorded analog,' and I said, 'No, we recorded digitally and played analog,' McLagan cackles. "I didn't try to decide beforehand what it was going to be, I just let it happen. It's all from the heart and manufactured right here in my home studio."
Home for Mac these days is the unlikely environs of Austin, Texas, a town not renowned for its high concentration of rumpled expatriate British rock stars, but one McLagan finds quite to his liking.
"I lived in L.A. for 16 years, which was all very well, but I wanted to be someplace real. I don't much like cactus and mesquite, but we don't get earthquakes or phonies here."
Not bloody likely you'll be running into Paris Hilton on the streets of Austin then, eh wot? "Fuck her!" spits Mac. "Fuck her and all she fucking stands for, fucking no-talent bitch!" Don't you just love this guy?! Last year, Rhino Records set loose a Faces boxed set under McLagan's supervision; the All Music
Guide opined that "Five Guys Walk Into A Bar..." may be the essential anthology of its kind; 47 rare cuts and B-sides are included, 31 of them previously unreleased.
"Originally I just wanted to get all four of the Faces albums chronologically into a boxed set with a couple of extra tracks, but [A&R man Erik James] said, 'Mac, we've already heard all that shit, now we want to hear all the bootlegs and rare stuff you've got lying around.' I said 'Okay! Now you're talking!' He's the one that really encouraged me to open it up. It would have been so boring without his support."
There was talk for a time of a Faces tour reuniting McLagan, Stewart, Ron Wood (later with the Stones, natch) and Kenny Jones (later with the Who, natch) in support of "Five Guys..," but Stewart's busy schedule - he's in the midst of critically catastrophic but commercially booming self-reinvention as a crooner of standards - prevented it from coming together.
"Kenny had a party at his house and he had Prince Charles there - you have to understand he's not an East End lad anymore, he hobnobs with royalty now," said Mac with a nod and wink you could virtually visualize over the telephone line. "Anyway, Rod showed up right after I'd sent Kenny the rough CDs, and he elbowed right past Prince Charles and said, 'Here, do you have those CDs Mac sent, then?' Rod wasn't involved in the project but he's been supportive. The trouble is that he's been so successful. He was really keen for a while but it never happened. I just wish he'd have a real bad year and I could sort him out into doing a Faces tour!"
Ian McLagan & the Bump Band, February 14 at Croce's Top Hat, 802 5th Avenue in San Diego, 7 and 9
PM, $15, (619) 232-1193. Sidebar: MAC REMINISCES ON HIS FACES/SMALL FACES MATES
ROD STEWART Rod never cared what he was doing onstage, and I loved that about him. I've seen him do the most ridiculous things, insensitive things, and it's all just because he's having the best fun. It's a great thing for a lead vocalist to be that relaxed. And Rod is a great lead vocalist, even though I don't like the stuff he's doing now. But what does he care what I think? He's making more money than he ever has.
RON WOOD Woody is the most fun to be around to this day. I spoke to him last week, he'd just got back from three weeks in the sun in Kenya while everyone in England was shivering and miserable. Anyway, he's the best fun. If I could pick a night to do anything I wanted, I'd say, "Get Woody! Let's get fucked up!"
KENNY JONES Kenny is absolutely rock solid and I speak to him all the time. He's a lovely, lovely guy and he never changes. A great drummer. He sat in with my band in London last year and it was brilliant - when he got up there the crowd went absolutely berserk, nuts, they went crazy!
RONNIE LANE (died in 1997) He's my brother. I miss him on a daily basis. That song "Wishing Hoping Dreaming" is about him and it's a true story - he fell down at a party with a glass of brandy and he never spilt a drop. That's not to say he wouldn't spill his brandy quite often, but on that night he didn't. I love Ronnie. The boxed set is dedicated to him.
STEVE MARRIOT (died in 1991) Steve was a great talent and another that sparked out too young. But he lived three lives - he was the most electric person I've ever met. He had such a great voice and played such great guitar. You know, Keith Richards wanted him as the replacement for Brian Jones, but Mick wouldn't have it.
BLUE NOTES By Buddy Blue
It's like this: goofy new-wave purveyors Split Enz was a group so annoying as to send me into convulsive fits upon exposure. Crowded House left me out in the cold with its well-crafted but frequently sugary, over-baked output. Conversely, I found ALT to be a self-consciously sloppy and ultimately boring exercise. Plus, the name was really, really lame.
So it's unequivocally ironic that I belatedly came to appreciate the Finn Brothers - independently or in tandem, braintrusts of all the above bands -- through kiddie music heroes, the Wiggles (in case your home is barren of screeching fledglings, the Wiggles are the combined equivalent of Sinatra, Elvis and the Beatles amongst discriminating toddlers the world over).
My two-year-old girl is a quivering Wiggles junkie; I've bought her every DVD they've released and she watches them several hours each day while sitting amidst her pile of screeching Wiggles toys. Hey, it could be worse - before she discovered the Wiggles, the girl was on a roll with the Teletubbies; viewing that show is akin to ingesting poisonous psychedelics.
Anyway, I digress: Tim Finn was a guest artist on one of my daughter's Wiggles discs, and the song he performed with them, "Six Months In A Leaky Boat" - previously recorded with Split Enz in a noxious rendition that bears little resemblance to the sublime Wiggly version -- is a sea-chantey-inspired sonnet so moody, hooky and infectious, it set me off on a Finn Brothers downloading spree. This is how I discovered Tim and Neil Finn's "Everyone Is Here," released last year, an album so magnificently melodic it bears comparison to such pop-vocal-harmony acts as the Everly Brothers, Simon & Garfunkel and the Proclaimers. Happy ending: I now approve of Tim. And even Neil.
The Finn Brothers perform Saturday night at the Belly-Up Tavern, a concert well-worth attending even lacking the presence of Captain Feathersword, Dorothy the Dinosaur and Henry The Octopus. Someday I'll tell you how the Wiggles also turned me on to Slim Dusty and Kamahl. But not today. You're welcome.
Speaking of Simon & Garfunkel, it was a disheartening turn of events when Artie's post-S&G solo career turned out to be fruitful as an orange grove in the Gobi while Paulie churned out a series of classics so universally lauded they made most folks (but not me) seem to forget that S&G ever even existed. Our angel-throated, scruggy-headed hero lost his way for decades after the break-up, producing a series of maudlin albums that generally relied on sluggish re-workings of '50s oldies as cornerstone tracks.
Happily, Garfunkel finally found his way home with 2002's presciently-titled "Everything Waits To Be Noticed," which, at times, recalled his better duets with Simon. Okay, so there were a couple tracks that smelled unpleasantly of smooth jazz, but on balance, this was a welcome surprise of a comeback, both in terms of material -- Garfunkel made his (co)-songwriting debut here, redeeming himself nicely - and performance - that towering tenor remains blessedly untouched by Father Time. One hopes this will prove a portent of more and better things to come rather than an anomaly on Artie's old grumpy-studded path.
Das Funkel will croon sweetly for you, gentle readers, Tuesday night at East County Performing Arts Center.
In other concerts of note this week, political country songster Steve Earle will engage in tuneful Dubya- bashing tonight at the Belly Up; gritty, depressing folkie Eliza Gilkyson makes a return engagement to the Acoustic Music San Diego series on Friday evening; swamp-steeped blueser Marcia Ball rips it up Sunday night at the BUT; and local guitar superhero Adrian Demain's Hawaiian swingers, the Cheap Leis, gig Wednesday night at Dizzy's with San Diego boogie woogie queen Sue Palmer & Friends.
Veteran British drummer/singer/songwriter Jim Capaldi died of stomach cancer on January 28; he was 60. Best-known for his work with Traffic, which was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last year, Capaldi also enjoyed a successful solo career, charting several singles in the '70s and '80s. Capaldi left the following poem for fans on his website, jimcapaldi.com, before passing away:
I'd like the memory of me to be a happy one. I'd like to leave an afterglow of smiles when day is done. I'd like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways, of happy times and laughing times and bright and sunny days. I'd like the tears of those who grieve to dry before the sun, of happy memories that I leave behind when day is done.