1973 – "Ooh La La," The Faces

My choice for 1973 is “Ooh La La” by The Faces. It’s a quirky little tune — basically a riff with a little story and sing-along chorus thrown on top — and, honestly, the first time I remember hearing it was during 1998’s Rushmore (Wes Anderson’s soundtracks, particularly Rushmore and The Royal Tennenbaums, are almost additional characters in his films).

Poor old granddad
I laughed at all his words
I thought he was a bitter man
He spoke of women’s ways

They’ll trap you, then they use you
Before you even know
For love is blind and you’re far too kind
Don’t ever let it show

I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was younger.
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger.

The can-can’s
such a pretty show
They’ll steal your heart away
But backstage, back on earth again
The dressing rooms are grey

They come on strong and it ain’t too long
Before they make you feel a man
But love is blind and you soon will find
You’re just a boy again

When you want her lips, you get a cheek
Makes you wonder where you are
If you want some more and she’s fast asleep
Then she’s twinkling with the stars.

Poor young grandson, theres nothing I can say
Youll have to learn, just like me
And thats the hardest way
Ooh la la

I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was younger.
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger.

Written by Faces bassist and principal songwriter Ronnie Lane, the instrumental track was cut while vocalist Rod Stewart was on the road promoting one of his early solo albums. The story goes that when Stewart came in to record the vocal, he claimed that a) the key was too high for him to sing in, and b) he didn’t like the song anyway. Lane had cut a guide vocal during tracking, but he didn’t like his performance on it — he’d written it in Stewart’s key, or so he’d thought, and it was too much of a stretch for him. On a lark, really, they asked guitarist Ron Wood to take a crack at it, and his scratchy, straining tenor is, in my opinion, the most charming thing about the recording. The lyrics are nostalgic, but in a clearly tongue-in-cheek kind of way — I wonder if it’s not the sincerity in Ron Wood’s voice that really sells it?

facesoohlala1

Not only do I love the tune, and the images of childhood/young manhood that the lyrics connote for me, but the fact that there is so much rock and roll history underlying its creation makes it a no-brainer for my project. It’s nearly impossible to think of a band bursting with more possibility than The Faces were in the early 70’s. The core of the band — Lane, Maclagan, Jones — had been part of The Small Faces, the Steve Marriot-led psych-rock group that was one of the best singles/albums acts of the late 60s. When Marriot left to go in a heavier direction with Humble Pie, the remaining trio recruited Stewart and Wood, then with the Jeff Beck Group, and changed their name to The Faces.

With one of rock and roll’s best singers in Stewart, best songwriters in Lane, and most inventive guitarist/writers in Wood — as well as the powerhouse drumming of Kenny Jones and the inimitable keyboard stylings of Ian Maclagan — the band was one of England’s biggest live draws. Unfortunately, despite some great singles (like “Ooh La La,” “Had Me a Real Good Time” and “Stay With Me”), they were never able to translate their talents into a great album. Oddly enough, it’s Stewart’s solo albums of the era (Every Picture Tells a Story and Never a Dull Moment) — which feature appearances by most of his bandmates — that are the true classics: much to the very-talented Lane’s chagrin, I’m sure.

For whatever reason — professional jealousy, too much booze — The Faces split up, for all intents in purposes, with the departures of Lane (1973, right after the release of Ooh La La) and Stewart (1975). Ron Wood famously went on to join the Rolling Stones, and has now been a member of that band for 34 years (gulp!); drummer Kenny Jones attempted to replace the late Keith Moon on The Who’s drum-riser from 1979-1985, but has since been replaced by a series of young drummers during the Who’s seemingly-interminable series of reunions; and keyboardist Ian Maclagan has served time in so many bands (he’s now one of Billy Bragg’s “Blokes”) and played on so many records that there’s literally no room to mention them.

Lane went on to record albums with Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance, as well as a great duo album with the Who’s Pete Townshend entitle Rough Mix, but never acheived the popularity he desired or deserved. Lane passed away from complications related to MS (which he was diagnosed with in 1976, during the recording of Rough Mix) in 1997.

And Rod Stewart — whatever happened to that guy?

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About russellwriter

Rob Russell is a dad, husband, writer, musician, educator, comic book reader, bad solderer, pop culture junky, trivia buff and student of everything cool and uncool. His favorite records are Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and, currently, The Best of Bobbie Gentry: The Capitol Years. His favorite comic books are Kurt Busiek's Astro City and Neil Gaiman's Sandman. His favorite literary novels are Gabrial Garcia Marquez's 100 Years of Solitude and William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. His favorite genre novels are John Scalzi's Red Shirts, M.R. Carrey's The Girl with All the Gifts, and Dan Simmons' Drood. His favorite movie is Goodfellas. His favorite hobby, besides everything, is writing about himself and his favorite things in the third person.

Posted on January 12, 2010, in Songs, The Singer Not the Song, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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