Ian McLagan doesn’t need an introduction, does he? In fact, the somewhat unsung organist of the Small Faces (with Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane and Kenney Jones) and, later, the Faces (with Lane, Jones, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood) is suddenly a huge influence on contemporary rock ’n’ roll. Look no further than the Sights for proof.
In fact, Sights frontman Eddie Baranek’s knowledge of McLagan is so rooted in passion it borders idolatry; Baranek could stump any hardened rock crit on anything having to do with the Small Faces/Faces. So to coincide with Ian McLagan and the Bump Band’s upcoming Detroit show (with Baranek’s side band, Drinking Problem, supporting), we asked Baranek if he’d like to chat with his hero. The 24-year-old Baranek, who was obviously born long after the Faces called it quits, leaped at the chance.
Here are excerpts from that conversation.
Eddie Baranek: I met you when you were playing Detroit with Billy Bragg. I asked to meet you and you and your wife came out. You both had a Guinness with me.
Ian McLagan: Wait. Where was this?
Baranek: Detroit, a couple of years ago.
McLagan: My wife wasn’t with me.
Baranek: Yeah, she was.
McLagan: No, she’s never been to Detroit.
Baranek: Nah, she was there, man.
Baranek: I drank with her.
Baranek: I was putting the moves on her.
McLagan: (Laughter) I don’t blame you. Nah, she was never in Detroit.
Baranek: It must have been some other lady then. She was smokin’ though.
McLagan: She was smoking cigarettes?
Baranek: No, no. Smokin’ hot. I went to meet you backstage. And you opened up to me; you were so warm. I totally geeked out and told you how I worshipped the Small Faces.
McLagan: Ah. Well, bless your heart, Eddie. I appreciate that.
Baranek: We covered [the Small Faces’] "Hey Girl" on our first album. I think I was 18. I even played the Hammond organ part. It’s really terrible. How old you were when you first recorded?
McLagan: Well, I’m 60 now and when I joined the Faces I was 20.
Baranek: Early on, you’ve said that you were into Booker T. and Billy Preston …
McLagan: Yeah, yeah.
Baranek: These are black American guys, and for you — a young guy in the U.K. — did you look to them as maybe someone you could relate to? Were you into Georgie Fame?
McLagan: Oh yeah. And I love Georgie.
Baranek: What got you onto the Hammond organ?
McLagan: Booker T. That was it. I heard "Green Onions," and I said to myself, I want that.
Baranek: What impresses me is that you’re still getting excited about your sound.
McLagan: Oh, man. That excitement was there from day one.
Baranek: I really appreciate the Bump Band for touching on your past without doing the rehashed, packaged oldies hits. You’re obviously doing a really good gritty, blues-based R&B. …
McLagan: Yeah, but some people will say I sound like the Faces. Well, why wouldn’t I? The keyboard player is the same guy. I look around me at some of the people in my age group, and bands I’ve been with. Not to name names, but they are so bored. My wife criticizes me for being such a vicious … I’ll slag anybody off I don’t like musically. But the people I love, I’ll value them to the end of my days.
Baranek: That sounds just like my girlfriend.
McLagan: There you go.
Baranek: [Adopts a girlfriend’s voice] Stop ragging on these bands!
McLagan: Yeah. I mean, Coldplay … who cares? Sorry!
Baranek: [Laughter] You were fortunate enough to play with great singers like Steve Marriott. So, that fucker could howl, right?
McLagan: Oh, yeah, he was incredibly loud. Like Little Richard loud. When he would sing a ballad it would be a strain on his voice.
Baranek: Like in "I’m Only Dreaming"?
McLagan: Yeah, there you go. He’s a great singer, Marriott. Fucking hell. I’ve gotten pretty lucky, haven’t I?
Baranek: Well, yeah, but he had you backing him on Hammond. Does your Hammond have a name?
McLagan: She does, but I don’t discuss it.
Baranek: I get it. You spend nights with her, but you don’t know her name?
McLagan: Betsy, Betsy the B3.
Baranek: When you played with Rod [Stewart] during the Faces era, let’s cut the shit here. Did he help carry the Hammond around with you guys?
McLagan: Rod’s never lifted a Hammond in his life. He never even had his own mic. No, we had road crew. Have you seen the Faces boxed set?
Baranek: I’ve memorized it. I’m stealing all of your licks and riffs. I hope you don’t mind.
McLagan: Thank you.
Baranek: I read where you said your fourth American gig ever was in Detroit.
McLagan: Yeah, Detroit made the Faces.
Baranek: And I got some live boots! You guys covering Little Richard’s "I Don’t Want to Discuss It" and Ike and Tina. And I could relate. It wasn’t that Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes shit. I could really hear where you guys were coming from. But making it on your own, being these white guys from the U.K. …
McLagan: When the Faces got together, when I met Steve, one of the first things we discussed was Muddy Waters. His favorite record was Muddy Waters’ Live at Newport. As it was for me, and Woody and Rod.
Baranek: By ’68, the Small Faces were getting more country. Did you guys listen to any Band, like Big Pink, or Dylan, ’cause you did "Wicked Messenger" off John Wesley Harding. How did the American acoustic shit filter in to the U.K.?
McLagan: Well, Tim Hardin lived in London for a while. We were listening to him. Mick Jagger actually came down — Ronnie, Steve and I lived in a house out in the country in ’66, ’67 or whatever it was, ’68 maybe — and he brought the Band’s Big Pink and Dr. John’s Gris Gris album. He [Jagger] turned us on to that.
You know, I’ve worked with [the Band’s] Levon [Helm]. I worked with him last year and the year before. I said, "You know every single drummer in England who had ears turned everything around when they heard you." They all started playing half-time. From Ringo on …
Baranek: I read a Ronnie Lane interview where he mentioned that "Cindy Incidentally" is one Faces song that he’s most fond of. That’s one of my all-time favorites.
McLagan: Oh yeah, I always play that, ’cause I co-wrote it.
Baranek: I know.
McLagan: You know that? (Laughter)
Baranek: Any all-time fave Small Faces or Faces songs?
McLagan:Well, "Tin Soldier" — I think we reached a peak paying a homage to Booker T. & the MGs. Also, "All or Nothing," that’s a great fucking song.
Baranek: You’ve had this successful career in music just doing what you do. It really gives me hope.
McLagan: Well, you know the music business has to be the lowest form of life. If you wrote a song and you haven’t kept onto your publisher over the years and if they don’t pay you for six months, they don’t have to. That money is gone — Hello! What the fuck is that all about? Publishers, I think, are the lowest form of scum, well, just after managers.
Baranek:I can relate. I got sued at 18.
Baranek: Yeah, I love it. But I just can’t tell you how much I love Small Faces.
McLagan: And I am looking forward to coming to Detroit. The years with the Faces. … We had friends that came to all of the gigs, girlfriends, you know, relationships. It was a lovely time. The truth is, a lot of the boys were in Vietnam and so there were a lot of lonely girls. It was a strange time. So we’re at the Magic Stick, eh?
Baranek: That’s my home, where I’ve drinking and playing since I was 16.
McLagan: Oh, good for you. And thank you, Eddie, for keeping the faith.
Ian McLagan and the Bump Band appears Saturday, July 2, at the Magic Stick (4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700) with Eddie Baranek’s Drinking Problem.Send comments to [email protected]