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July 8, 2014

Row, row, row your boat gently up the Thames.

American Independence day – venue Half Moon, Lower Richmond Street, Putney. Ian McLagan & Jon Notarthomas Review By Colin Baker

posted by Mike Walton

When you have to earn your daily corn stuck out East in Lego London, the journey West on a Friday night can take many shapes and sizes, so do I just catch a London Overground train to Clapham Junction and jump on the next South West train to Putney? Or shall I be adventurous for once and travel by water catching the Thames clipper as far as it takes me (Waterloo pier would be the only destination of practical use) then catch the train out of Waterloo to Putney? Or simply jump on a “Boris Bike” in preparation for Monday’s visit of the Tour de France to these parts and cycle West – slight problem with this idea….I can’t ride a bike! If only I had a rowing boat, I could probably get there just as quick if the tide was in my favour – but then again if it wasn’t I’d probably end up in Dartford for the night…. Best to stick with plan “A” I guess.

My last visit to see Mac was back on 5 August 2011, at the same venue, but different “faces”, my choice of dates then was based on my wife being away and what better way “not to just sit in front of the box on my own”, but go and see the legendary Ian MacLagen. Okay, still a bit odd maybe, given the prospect I maybe “Dancin’ Alone”, but surely even I might recognize a face or two? Which of course I did, but some might suggest in “the away end”. Amicable discussions were had as we enjoyed the man pump out many a fine tune. The added highlight also included an end of concert in depth conversation with a guy I learnt afterwards was Al Mitchell, plus a chat with Mac himself and a couple of autographs added to a few books of mine.

Enough of yesteryear and on with now, with the sun still shining brightly you could think yourself in some exotic spot like Brazil – but football these days is not something that makes my world come to a standstill. Early July in South West London and maybe The All England Tennis club would be the attraction, again not for me, given what had happened there a couple of days earlier the thought of even bumping into an agitated Scottish lad calling out “Maggie May” on the common was now highly unlikely. Anyway the date had been blocked off in my diary way back on 18 March when “my old mucker” send me a text of the event, which as it was Mac I knew instantly I would be in attendance, so let’s forget all else.

Having slipped out of the dreary office attire into a fitting pair of shorts and tasteful blue tartan check shirt I made my way out of the office only to be stopped by my manager saying, “Hey Colin where are you off to?”, “A gig I replied”, “Don’t tell me. it’s not Rod is it”, “No, I laughed but connected, it’s his old keyboard player Ian MacLagen”, “Where’s that Hyde Park?”, “No, a small pub in Putney”, “What, a pub – oh how the mighty have fallen then?”, “Not really, (with slight laugh) more a case of how to be in touch with your following”. That conversation delay plus the tube train being held at Canary Wharf for 2 minutes of course was enough to mean I missed my Overground connection – they come every 15 minutes, so no big deal I had plenty of time. In fact, once I got to Clapham Junction I jumped on a service straight away, which listed next stop Putney, so I was at my travel destination by 7 anyway.

Putney High Street has more eating establishments than one can imagine, having had a text from Neal offering me a lift, then explaining he was to arrive around 8 having already eaten, I needed to make a choice for my appetite. However that was easy, having walked the Thames Path from the Barrier out East to as far as you can almost go beyond Hampton Court out West, we had eaten in Putney before, therefore Carluccio’s was my chosen pre-concert seat by the Thames as my post journey karma.

Feeling totally relaxed and well fed, my watch read 7:55, time to pay the bill, cross the road to the other side of the bridge and head down Lower Richmond Street. It’s a little odd that you get a greeting on the door by two “heavies” as you walk through the door into the Half Moon, which of course is just a big old pub with a small concert room at the back, perhaps they were anticipating us all storming the stage and needed reinforcements! I looked around the bar area, got myself the standard non-alcoholic coke (liquid not powder format) and stood around probably looking a little odd (being a reclusive Smiler, I don’t exactly know that many of you, and even if I did, I probably won’t remember your name).

With no sign of my old mate and the doors now open into the concert room, I opted to look less conspicuous and head for the dark, the standard scan of the wrist and I was in, a need for a proper drink, that’s a pint of coke this time because it will last me all evening! Then go and sit on the edge of the stage and read through the “What’s on at The Half Moon” booklet. As often when your alone, somebody always seems to come and “invade your space” so, I shift a little further around, but not to worry, soon the smiling wave from Steamy puts me back in a comfort zone, the customary hug and we are straight into conversation like two lost friends – pause for awhile as Neal says, I must go and help Ken with my drink from the bar.

Now you probably all know Steamy, and the loveable soul he is, starts introducing me to half the audience it seems. But am I likely to remember Ken from Camden, was it Dan from Dagenham, I’m referred to as Colin from Carshalton, which just leaves me to say he must be Steamy of Sutton. Sorry folks, but I won’t remember you all and I’m pretty certain Yve, who of course I do know to say hello, is not from Yeovil or maybe Yeading !!! What I do quickly realize is Al Mitchell is once again here with his wife – who’s name I did not catch, so let’s say Judy from Jersey then….

With constant chat between one and all, we overlooked Jon Notarthomas taking to the stage, picking up his bass guitar then announcing “Ian MacLagen”. The cheers and applause circulated as Mac thanked us all for turning out and explained the night would consist of “Old & New material and a few stories along the way”. I must confess at this point, I was unlikely to remember the song titles, plus I don’t have a full catalogue of his albums (I actually believe his voice sounds far better live than on disc) – but certainly much of the Never Say Never album was performed.

Two fitting welcoming tracks started the evening, before Mac started his first (of many a tale) this he had made reference to from memory on the previous concert in 2011, when being invited over by friends, he was the only person booked in a London hotel, so at end of their evening together whilst everyone went off to their own home and wives and girlfriends, he just had a hotel to go to, now as he would say, “I do like a guinness”, he went in search of a nice Irish pub but could only find an O’Neills – hardly Irish, plus in London, nobody ever seems to be English anymore! He said he still loved London though, born a Hounslow boy, although he loved Austin as much these days and we are welcome to come and pay him a visit anytime, even suggesting the when best not to come and the best places to go – he then played My Irish Rose.

Much of this review is really about what Mac says rather than what he plays, it’s the amusement of a night where a keyboard player does “stand up” – sometimes very funny, others almost losing the plot on the story – which if I try and explain the one about his Gran (who died just before her 99th birthday) and Ned we would probably run out of ink! What is more interesting is the references to Steve (Marriott), Ronnie (Lane) and Kenny (Jones) – he said he had tried to contact Kenny since he arrived but had no luck, he had heard he was battling an illness and wished him well in his recovery and hopefully we will meet up soon, he had heard of the concert (Hurtwood Park 14 June) and was glad it all went well and many in the audience acknowledged they too had attended the event. He made reference to The Faces reunion of 2011 where only him an Jesse Wood were the drinkers that day – then commented that Jesse had got married today to Fearne Cotton.

There are the references to musicians management, Don Arden for instance, or shall we just call him the thief? He would say that he would forgive people, and in fact had managed to forgive Andrew Oldham – well he is still alive to have had time to forgive him, but Don was dead so he remains a thieving bastard. He would also tell of the decision one Saturday to leave Boz People, going home to tell mum and dad he no longer had a job. At that point, his dad had said recently there was a brilliant group on Ready Steady Go called the Small Faces and he thought his son would fit in well with them. Come Monday morning, nothing planned he did not get out of bed to early, but part of the way through the morning the phone rang and it was Don Arden saying, I would like you to come to my office. Having made his way to Wardour Street, he said I’ve got a little project for you, but I need you to come back to the office around 6 – now this was when Valerie (who just happened to be in the audience this evening) would have finished work. So as a musician will do to pass a few hours away, he went to the pub, after a drink or two, it was close on 6, so he went back to the office waited for a “short” while, then the door opened and there was Steve, Kenny and Ronnie – they all laughed and Steve said, I thought you would be much taller than that! – Mac played a “B” side of a Small Faces single that I cannot remember the title of – after all he did say nobody remembers “B” sides that’s why most of ours were just instrumentals.

What I failed to add to the above, was Mac was sworn to secrecy not to tell anybody for 2 weeks until it was to be officially announced – so when he phoned is Mum & Dad to say “Dad I’ve found a new band, I can’t say who they are, but I think you will be pleased” – In fact that was probably about the last time he would spend the night at his parents house.

Being the age I am, the 60’s were not exactly my era – in those days (in case recent topical news events you had not realize), children were children a lot longer, innocence, very, very limited exposure to the media (the world around us) so when a decade stretches between the age of 3.5 and 13.5 – by the time the 70’s arrived you were ready to get into your music. Okay I had two older brothers, but they were grammar school boys and hardly via off the straight and narrow. So yes I was aware of the Small Faces and who would not have enjoyed Top of the Pops “All Or Nothing”, “Itchycoo Park” and “Lazy Sunday”, but with just 3d. pocket money a week at the ages of 10 to 12 I was hardly going to rush out and buy them was I. So when Mac asked the audience who was a Small Faces fan and who was a Faces fan – I could hardly lie could I? Well maybe, because Mac said there was one lie in his book (All The Rage) – but he won’t say exactly what that was!

There was also the story that Kenny was “the good boy” of the 4, he would sit in the front when they were out on the road, in the back, Steve, Kenny and Mac would compete as to who could roll the longest joint – irritating Kenny and always asking him to turn over the music they had in the car …. Which in the mid-late 60’s does make me wonder what sort of “machine” were they playing their music through to have to turn it over…. Even radio’s were not standard fixtures back then in a car from my memory!

I probably have missed a couple of pieces in Mac’s storylines, but your probably losing the will to live by now, it’s obvious to me that he makes no reference to Rod, plus only a little of Woody. Which has the undertone of my second to last paragraph below. Clearly Mac reflects long and hard on the fun he enjoyed with the Small Faces – I guess what made the difference and launched a career, but of course as he pointed out, thanks to management you were not millionaires even though you might think you soon would be – take the example of Carnaby Street and then a number of shirts Steve would put on account when he went shopping – fully knowing that was the only real way he was getting paid, whilst Mac would say I will have one of them and another of that please!. His “take” on how to perform an encore was the same as it was 3 years ago – but he added, he was expecting the lads to rush off to by him a pint of guinness, whilst the ladies lifted up their tops to show him their tits!

After Mac had completed his set it was the assessment between us all meeting full approval of what we had just witnessed, Mac as ever had his “meet and greet” session which with the initial crush allowed us to chat, relieve yourself if required and consider what’s coming up next. Al and his wife (Judy!) needed to leave fairly sharp – they were over from Jersey to catch Mac then make haste to Sheffield to see the Tour de France – Should I repeat my confession of earlier and falling off bikes? Judy was more in my camp here, she confessed she was only tagging along to catch up on her knitting – I probably would get further knitting than I would on a bike.

With my lift home secured and no need for catching two buses, we thanked Mac on our way out and made a purchase each, Neal buying the newer album United States whilst I opted to buy Never Say Never – he thanked us and “personalized” our purchase – mine saying “Cheers Colin” – Mac. As we left the Half Moon, again Neal would chat to two people he said he had only recently met, he asked if they had spoken to Mac and their response was “No, but did you ask him when the real Faces reunion would happen”? – Personally, like the album I had just bought, Never say never, but I feel the lead singer needs to convince his keyboard player a little better that he is truly up for it – Which to me does not seem anytime soon.

The journey home meant I was in my front door by midnight rather than turning into a pumpkin, as we bid our farewell’s I said my next musical event would be at Epsom Racecourse to see The Beach Boys – Neal’s response was – they are my Beatles (knowing I love both the Beatles & Stones – he say’s having already dismissed the ‘60’s earlier!) then said he looked forward to a review of the evening, I stressed I would not remember the song list, which the response was, well you will know the Faces ones surely? I smiled and said, that is a possibility…. so put away the Flags and Banners (because he didn’t play that did he!) Cindy Incidentally, I’m Glad and Sorry I left no Debris in your motor me old mucker…. See you all soon if you can bear it …

Photograph By Yve Paige

© 2019 SMILER Magazine

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