There was a fellow pitching an idea at San Diego, and I can’t remember why he was pitching it to me, perhaps I was listening just to be polite, but he started ‘There are these vampires—’. I cut him off. ‘Stop! I’m bored already.’ There’s only one vampire I have time for and that’s the Count on Sesame Street.
Faces, “(I Know) I’m Losing You” [Live/BBC]
As any rock fan will tell you, listening to the four studio albums the Faces made during their lifetime as a band will give you an incomplete picture of the band. Even listening to all the concert recordings, BBC tapings, and demos that are floating around in both licit and illicit forms will give you an incomplete picture. To hear the band at their tightest, loudest, and most soulful, you have to also listen to Rod Stewart’s solo records.
It was an open secret at the time that the three records he made between 1970 and 1973 might as well have been credited to “and the Faces,” but neither Warner Bros. (to which the Faces were signed) nor Mercury (to which Rod as a solo act was signed) would have looked kindly on any such spine labels, so they mostly went uncredited, while the studio musicians who did in fact play on some of the records’ cuts got credit for some of the most ferocious, economical, and tender rock playing of the early 70s.
They would play songs that were on Stewart’s solo records live, generally with a a bit more verve and raunch than got pressed onto the LP, and mixed and matched so effortlessly that it became natural for “Around the Plynth” to segue into “Gasoline Alley,” for “Had Me A Real Good Time” to finish up with the pounding outro to “Every Picture Tells a Story,” or, increasingly as time went on, for the pounding rockers to be broken up not by the Lane-written ballads from the Faces’ albums, but by the Stewart-written ballads from Stewart’s albums.
But then not all the rockers were from the Faces’ albums. Every Picture Tells a Story, Stewart’s 1971 masterwork, devotes much of the second side to a barnstorming cover of the Temptations’ 1966 classic “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” played entirely and solely by the Faces, and it took up immediate ad permanent residence in their set lists. Not only was it a crackling, rip-roaring update of a soul anthem whose anguish and paranoia had anticipated “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” as well as the Temptations’ own psychedelic adventurescapes after 1968, it provided the perfect answer to that most pressing of questions faced by every stadium rock band in the early 70s: where do we put the drum solo?
Yes, the Dreaded Drum Solo, the most sneered-at feature of Dinosaur Rock, the twenty minutes when any audience member not too stoned, paranoid, or horny to move could check out for a smoke break, a nip down to the pub, a quick fumble in the line to the lav. Led Zeppelin dedicated a whole song to the tradition, but perhaps only John Bonham could get away with “Moby Dick.” (And then ask how many Zeppelin Rules mooks would name it their favorite Zep song? Only other drummers.) But the Faces weren’t Led Zeppelin, and Kenney Jones wasn’t John Bonham. (Nor was he Keith Moon, but we’ll get to that in a bit.) The drum solo he played on Every Picture Tells a Story, barely thirty seconds long, is just an extended, amped-up version of the pound he’s maintained throughout the song. And when he played it live?
It was still an amped-up version of that very pound. This is a song—at least in the Faces’ reading—all about pressure. The open space of Norman Whitfield’s arrangement for the Temptations is nowhere to be found; even when there’s a pause, it’s only a desperate hurl across a gap before the band crashes, galloping, back in, and Kenney Jones’ job isn’t to relieve the pressure at all, but rather to pile it on. He fill after fill, adds off-beat accent after off-beat accent, but the same relentless bass thud, impossibly fast and hard, is still driving the song forward. Take a smoke break, hell—you can’t take your eyes off him; what if he plows us all into a wall? (No, seriously: the BBC’s video of this very performance is here; just try to not be mesmerized by his power and fluidity.) The solo lasts just under two minutes here, and a lifetime of heart-stopping suspense seems to have gone by. Twenty minutes of it would kill you—or him.
Because though the Faces liked to jam, by mid-’71 their constant touring and radar-like ability to anticipate one another had molded them into a band that provided not just thrills but narratives—conflict, anguish, resolution, joy, reversal, doubt, regret, peace—in their extended instrumental sections. Rod’s increasing focus on pop songwriting—though never too intent; even his biggest hit of the era was essentially structureless, without a chorus or even a middle eight, just a long outro—pushed him towards concision and broad, legible dynamics in his lyrics. The focus of the Rons Wood and Lane on blues and country, respectively, kept them paring down their own structures and narrative voices until the Faces’ final album was very nearly full of nothing but superb three-minute pop songs.
But that’s another day.
This song was performed live at a taping of the BBC’s Sounds for Saturday program in October, 1971. It’s on the Five Guys Walk Into a Bar… box set. In case you needed more encouragement to buy it.
I know, I said I’m done (and I still am), but if you’re not reading Jonathans excellent week of delving into the Faces you’re a mook.
Toonerville will always draw me back.
jonathanbogart said: Oy, what? Who’s going to like my occasional comics posts now?
Goodbye, Tumblr, you free but barely functioning piece of crap code. I’ll miss your community, but at least we went out with a high note on Robyn Hitchcock’s birthday.
It looks like I’m going back to I Am Not Me for good. Hope y’all come comment and keep me in the loop.
My mom taught a lesson this week on gelatin printing at the Fiber Art Alliance meeting in Western Carolina, and she got a nice little write-up from a fellow member on her blog. Go mom!
Iggy Pop & Kate Pierson | Candy
As a senior in high school, one of my best friends and I lip-synced this for a fundraiser. He had a nice, full, Van Dyke goatee. I was Kate.
Robyn Hitchcock’s ROCK ARMADA was the name of the 1999 touring combo, and it was comprised of Robyn & Kimberley Rew with most of the members of Tim Keegan’s band Departure Lounge, who pulled double duty as the opening band.
The idea was that every couple of songs another member came out to play, until, like Talking Heads in Stop Making Sense, the entire ensemble was on the tiny stage rockin’ out.
It’s on the quiet side so crank it up. Also, though it is a bit hard to hear, Kimberley is playing the violin parts of the studio version with an e-bow and guitar.