As the former bassist for the Small Faces, and later the Faces, Ronnie Lane left both bands when he felt the spirit of the group had died, gaining him the reputation of an uncompromising artist, and allowing him the opportunity to release some fine solo material in the '70s.
An underrated singer and songwriter, Lane (along with guitarist Steve Marriott) co-founded the British mod group the Small Faces in the mid-'60s, helping to guide them to the top of British charts with his clever songwriting. After Marriott left, Lane jettisoned the group's mod reputation and, adding former Jeff Beck cohorts Ron Wood and Rod Stewart, Lane re-formed the group as the Faces, a loud, boozy rock band that achieved widespread success in the States (something the Small Faces could never do). Although Lane was the unacknowledged leader among the group members, audiences were drawn to singer Rod Stewart, and when Stewart's burgeoning solo career began affecting the quality of the Faces' albums, Lane jumped ship to form his own band in 1973.
Billing themselves as Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance, the bassist organized an ambitious tour dubbed the "Passing Show" that included a traveling circus complete with jugglers, clowns, and animals in 1974. Although the tour was an interesting moment in rock history, it was a financial failure from which Lane would never recover. For income, he continued leasing his mobile recording unit out to bands like Led Zeppelin, who used it to record their double-LP Physical Graffiti.
With Slim Chance, Lane released several albums with a folk-rock flavor in the mid-'70s that spotlighted his minstrel-esque songs and fragile voice. And in 1976, Lane teamed up with Ron Wood, releasing the movie soundtrack album Mahoney's Last Stand. The following year, Lane again collaborated, this time with longtime friend and fellow mod Pete Townshend, on the critically acknowledged classic Rough Mix. Contributing songs such as the acoustic-drenched "Annie" and "April Fool," Lane once again exhibited the depth of feeling in his songwriting that he had displayed so wonderfully with the Small Faces and Faces. Sadly, Lane was diagnosed with the debilitating disease multiple sclerosis in the late '70s, severely curtailing his musical output. He released the solo album See Me in 1980, and in 1983, friends such as Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, and Jimmy Page rallied around him, organizing an ARMS foundation benefit concert and tour, and donating the proceeds to the treatment of MS. In the '80s Lane relocated to Austin, TX, recording songs and occasionally fronting a local group called the Tremors, playing gigs around the city. In 1990, the bassist toured Japan, his last major tour, and later moved to Colorado where the climate was better suited to the treatment of MS.
Always remembered as a kindred spirit and talented musician who was able to write songs that cut to the core of human emotion, in June of 1997, the disease that had curtailed Ronnie Lane's music finally took his life. In 1999, there appeared a compilation featuring a number of rarities and outtakes titled April Fool. ~ Steve Kurutz