Lane Changer

Debris by The Faces is the band at their loosest yet least louche. It was written by Ronnie Lane, Faces’ bass player and, as would become apparent, the one Face capable of writing a song that didn’t celebrate their shallow, rock starry approach to life. Stay With Me,Cindy Incidentally et al are magic tracks, ideal for getting dressed to go out on a Saturday night or for a drive on the motorway if you’re feeling the need to creep beyond the speed limit, but Debris will bring you right back down to earth with a swell in your heart and a tear in your eye. A real Lane changer in every sense.

It’s the saddest song in the Faces’ livin’ and lovin’ back catalogue.

The following input us from the ever-reliable Marc Wishart.

Sorry, Craig, he says, but you’ve totally misread the song….

Written by Ronnie for his much-loved Dad, Stan, it’s a song about gaining a different perspective on life as you grow older. The titular Debris was the name of the local rag market.

(Thanks to Marc Wishart for the factual input.)

But I left you on the debris
Now we both know you got no money
And I wonder what you would have done
Without me hanging around

The FacesDebris

Longer than the combined lengths of Ronnie Wood’s and Rod Stewart’s not insignificant hooters, it meanders beautifully on a bed of open-tuned, loosely-scrubbed acoustic guitar that allows Wood’s electric lead to wander all over the top at will. It’s this guitar playing that would see Ronnie confirm his transfer to the Stones where he still plays the perfect foil for Keith Richard’s five-string riffing. Indeed, with it’s early 70s, live in the studio, one-take feel, Debris could easily be a long-lost Stones classic.

It just about hangs together thanks to the glue created by Ronnie Lane and Rod Stewart’s terrifically layered twin vocal; Lane’s on lamenting lead, all effortless introspection, with Rod jumping in and out on the chorus with his perfectly-pitched gravelly harmonies. You might go so far as to say that Rod gives one of his best-ever vocal performances. The addition of his voice lifts an already-great track into a whole other level of brilliance. Of course, a decade later he’d be prancing around in leopard skin lycra and a yellow sun visor, putting ill-advised fashion and production before The Song, so you’d be best to appreciate Rod this way. If ever a vocalist betrayed his God-given talent, it’s good old Rod. I suspect you knew that already though.

Cover Versions, Double Nugget, Get This!, Hard-to-find

Rods & Mockers

I Wish You Would by The Yardbirds is a nagging, insistent blast of garage blues from 1964.

The YardbirdsI Wish You Would

yardbirds 64

It was their debut single, lifted hook, line and sinker from Billy Boy Arnold‘s 1955 track of the same name and re-sold as the hot new thing. It’s the sort of track that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Nuggets or Pebbles compilation.

When David Bowie heard it and/or saw The Yardbirds at the Ricky Tick or Marquee or whatever venue was most hip and most happening that week, something stuck with him. In 1973, pre-dating Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets theme by a good few years, he put together Pin Ups, a fine fine album of parochial r’n’ b stompers from his formative years; The Kinks, The Who, The Pretty Things…. all corners of the Brit beat group movement were covered, including The Yardbird’s Chelsea-booted stomper.

David BowieI Wish You Would

bowie 73

In typical Bowie fashion, his version sounds less like the original and more like a wired, paranoid blues from outer space.

Just a few short months on from the Ziggy album and tour, The Spiders From Mars band are all over it like a glam-slamming racket, Mick Ronson’s Gold Top set to boogie before wigging out in a brief Eastern ragga towards the end. I used to think it was the definitive version until I heard this…

glittery rod

Rod StewartI Wish You Would

He’s an easy target, is Rod. He’s certainly had his knockers (arf) but believe me, this is terrific from start to finish! Mock Rod at your peril.

Rod’s version is a full-on mic swinging, hip swiveling, spandex clad romp. It‘s proof that, despite the nickname he was always more rocker than mod. It recalls a prime-time loose ‘n lairy Faces. Listen to him bark out the commands in that voice that’s equal parts sandpaper and sawdust; “First verse!” “Second verse!” “Bridge!” “Sow-low!” You can picture him, strutting across some Mid-Western balloon-filled stage or other, chest puffed, leaning back into the mic the way he does.

Rod’s voice is superb, all mock cockney and nary a hint of the Scots blood that he’s so proud of. He carries the track from start to finish, his band doing the best bar-room blues that can be coaxed out of them. “And away we go! Whatever happens happens! Let’s just do it!” he instructs, his band hanging on in there right until the end, dive-bombing bass runs, runaway harmonica solo, 3-note riff and all. It’s crackin’!

What’s all the more amazing is that Rod’s take on I Wish You Would is from a long-forgotten studio session sometime in the mid 80s, when he really had no right at all to be recording stuff as thrillingly essential as this. See when he was jumping about in his videos wearing a pink tracksuit and a yellow sun visor on his head? He coulda been filing the charts with dumb rock ‘n roll like this instead. What a wasted opportunity.

Cover Versions, demo, Stinky

Weller Weller Weller oops

elo 72

10538 Overture was the debut single by the Electric Light Orchestra. It was written by Jeff Lynne and produced by Roy Wood when he was still in The Move, pretentiously given the ‘Overture‘ title and prompted the split of the band. Released in 1972, it was the love child of I Am The Walrus and The Who’s more bombastic moments; a Heinz 57 variety pack of swooshing synths, see-sawing cellos, minor key breakdowns, ELO’s trademark multi-tracked vocals….and a terrifically cod-psychedelic, eastern-tinged descending guitar riff.

10538 Overture

10538 Overture would eventually appear on ELO’s self -titled debut LP, with it’s big, ambitious sound a portent of things to come. In America, the same album was released as ‘No Answer‘, after the man from the US record company phoned the band to get the name of the LP. No one picked up, the under-assistant west coast promo man wrote ‘no answer‘ on his paper, left his desk, and someone picked up his note and ran off to the printers where the sleeve was being assembled. True story, that.

Perhaps drawn in by the backwards Beatlish bits and the windmilling Townshend chords and Moonisms on the drums as 10538 Overture drags itself to a bloated end, Paul Weller‘s magpie-like antennae pricked up. “That descending guitar riff,” he thought. “I’m having that.”…..

Weller demo:

weller 95A shame-faced Paul hides his head

Welding it on to a mid-life crisis of a lyric, Weller gave birth to The Changingman, lead single from the epoch-defining Stanley Road LP. Named after a picture his son had drawn – “Who’s that?” “It’s the changingman, daddy,” the single reached number 7 in the charts, at the time a career best for the solo Paul.

This is where it gets a wee bit muddled. On the LP, the track is credited solely to Weller, but if you consult that last bastion of credibility Wikipedia, you’ll see that Weller shares the writing credits with 3 others – Brendan Lynch, his producer of choice at the time who added the ambient textures and wonky noises (his remixes from this time are terrific) that lift the track above bog standard r’nb fare, a certain R. Wood who we now know all about, and, most interestingly of all, forgotten cult hero and Syd Barrett for the Brit-Pop genearation, Lee Mavers.

The Changingman LP/Single version:

Quite what Mavers’ involvement in the writing of the song was is unclear (if any), although around that time he was in a bit of a sorry state through drugs. It’s been suggested that Paul Weller took one of Lee’s unreleased tunes and built Changingman on top of it. Some of the lyrics (‘the more I see the more I know, the more I know the less I understand‘) are kinda La’s-ish as well. Weller, on Go! Discs, as was Mavers at the time (or was he still, in 1995?), also had Lee open a few shows for him. Maybe he was just trying to help him out, a support slot here, a writing credit there,  but as you’ll know already, Mavers is pretty comfortably well-off thanks to the regular royalties he receives for There She Goes (between £5000-£10000 a month, depending on where you read). Maybe Bo Diddley nut Lee contributed the percussive backbeat that gives the track it’s mid 60s swagger towards the end. Who knows? I need to investigate further…

The Changingman Radio1 Evening Session 8th May, 1995 (Exactly one week before the album release);

rod 90sRod Weller

Around the same time as Weller was releasing Stanley Road, an ill-advised Rod Stewart was assembling a catalogue of contemporary tracks of the day that would make up a covers LP. When I first heard about this album, I immediately thought of it as similar in spirit to Bowie’s Pin Ups LP. Primal Scream’s Rocks. Cigarettes And Alcohol. Skunk Anansie’s Weak. All would be filtered through the Rod voice and into the Mondeos and family saloons of 40-something Britain. There was even space for a (terrific) track by Scottish underachievers Superstar that would make writer Joe McAlinden very wealthy.  At the sessions, Rod tackled The Changingman with all the gusto of a prime time Faces, although the finished version comes across as a highly polished piece of session musician rawk and nothing like the raggedy arsed Faces it could’ve been. Consequently, it never made the final cut.

The Changingman Rod Stewart version;

Never has a singer betrayed his talent quite like Rod.

But that’s for another day.