Meet the man who founded The Small Faces - Kenney Jones
This week, an interview with Small Faces founder and drummer Kenney Jones. He’s hilarious! For those of you who don’t remember the English band The Small Faces, they later dropped the ‘Small’ to simply become ‘The Faces’. The group was one of the first mod bands in the mid-sixties and featured a bunch of notorious rockers including The Rolling Stones, Ronnie Wood, singer Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan, later Rod Stewart and the band’s driving force, Kenny Jones. I asked Kenny about the new music the band is about to release
We’ve recorded about, let’s say we’re halfway through the album. It would be still going to go in the studio and do some more stuff. So we found some old stuff, that hasn’t been released and we reworked some of it and got some new stuff to go in there as well. But the good thing about the old songs not being released is that we’ve got that lovely magic atmosphere and lovely feel to, you know, going back in time, 50 odd years. Me: I bet you never thought 50 years ago that you’d be rereleasing songs or doing it still today, did you? Kenney: It’s remarkable. I didn’t think any of us would still be around. Me: I was going to say, you lived it pretty hard, huh? So you’d have to describe those days as the good old days, right? Kenney: The good old days was in The Faces. It was like having a party every day, every night, every show we did, we were on stage and we had a party on stage and a party with the audience. The audience could have been on stage and we could’ve been in the audience. So there was that party atmosphere and we enjoyed every moment of it. We used to give the audience some wine and they gave us some wine. We all got drunk together. Me: So do you reckon that was a part of the secret of your success in the early days? Kenney: Oh, no, we just like to drink. I suppose my liver will never be the same. None of us. Me: It’s lucky livers regenerate, isn’t it? Kenney: I know. Me: It’s obviously not the drinking that you most miss from those days. It can’t possibly be. You did enough in those days to last you a lifetime. If you had to point at something that you missed from those days, what would it be? Kenney: Being younger. I mean, the good thing is to say it’s still carried on over all these years because Ronnie Wood and myself and Rod Stewart and Ian McLagan, when he was alive, we all used to get together at least two or three times a year, you know, to go out in the restaurant or a bar somewhere and cause havoc. Me: You were really the naughty lads, weren’t you? Kenney: So we still are when we get together. But it’s great fun being with each other.
New music from The Faces on its way
Wonderful that you’ve maintained the friendship all of these years. Kenney: Oh yeah, no, it’s great. But the pandemic has slowed us down to somewhat because we were supposed to do get together to do a 50th anniversary tour. And so now it’s like three years later. Me: So, you’re waiting for 55. Or are you going to go out and do it anyway?Kenney: We’re going to do now. We’re probably going to do it, I think. Last time we met was only about a month ago in London, and we just all agreed that we’re touring in 23 to promote the album that is going to come out. It’s going to come out in 2022. Me: Oh, that’s awesome. Any chance we’ll see you this side of the world. Kenney: I tell you. Well, I’d love to come to Australia, but I haven’t been there for such a long time. I’d love to come to Australia and be a part of it over there. One of my sons is going to marry a New Zealand lady, so I’d love to play in New Zealand. Me: Yeah, it’s been a long, long time since you’ve been here, hasn’t it? When was the last time do you remember? Kenney: Yeah, it was. We were The Faces – 70, 71. Me: Wow. How is your memory these days? Kenney: Funny. What did you say? Well, yeah. No, my memory is okay on certain days. Others, it’s fine. Me: But I think with age, no matter how much you’ve taken into your system, your short term memory is not quite as good as what it used to be for sure. Kenney: I know, I have a very selective memory now. Me: Yeah, I’m told. Kenney: Lies. Me: Do you think being older and wiser now, if you had the benefit of hindsight, would you have done anything differently? Kenney: I don’t think so. I mean, apart from the crooks that are around in the music industry that screwed us in the past, I’d get rid of them, straighten out now. But other than that, I’m fairly content with what we’ve all achieved and what we’ve done. Me: All right. So tell me, how did you get into it in the first place? What were you doing before playing music and how did you get a break?Kenney: I was kind of a little tearaway in the east end of London with all my mod friends we didn’t know we were mostly just being. We just created mods and just going up and down, you know, causing havoc again, you know? And I fell in love with this banjo that was hanging in a pawn shop in Bethnal Green. And I saw it there and I thought, Right, yeah. Because my mate said, Let’s form a skiffle group. And I said, Well, what’s the skiffle group? He said, well, you get a tea chest and a broom handle sticking one in one corner and a piece of string and tie it to the corner and that makes the bass sound, he said. Then you get your grandmother’s washboard. And you get your grandmother’s thimble thimbles on each finger-tip and you just go up and down like that. By this time, I thought I thought he was nuts. Me: And did you do it? Kenney: You know, I said, yeah. On TV tonight, there’s a skiffle group going to play so we went back to watch it on my parents TV, which was like those days of TV’s in black and white. And it’s like looking at an eyeball. Me: I remember well. Kenney: Yeah, so the skiffle group came on and it was Lonnie Donegan playing Rock on the Line. And I just fell in love with the banjo. You know, when I went to get the banjo and the pawn shop had sold it. Me: Gone, Oh, no! Kenney: I said to the guy in the shop, I said, Where’s the banjo? It’s the guy, the pawn shop with the dice and God is taking it back home. So we can’t get it. I can’t get it. So I said, Well, look. So we walked away and my friend said to me, You’re really upset about this? And I said, Yes, I am. I said, But, you know, what could I do? He said, Well, look, my friend’s got a drum kit, so I’ll get him to bring it around this afternoon. I said, Yeah, great. I brought it around the afternoon and ended up being this one bass drum, one for TomTom, and two broken, one broken stick. So I put it together, banged away, God knows what. And that’s it. That was my introduction to drumming. So I learned to play on one and a half sticks and bits of drums. Me: How amazing. Of course, you were still at school at this time, weren’t you?Kenney: Oh, yeah, of course. In school. Eventually I bought a drum kit. I ended up with this drum kit because I found the receipt literally the other day. I don’t know why it was £64.13 shillings and tuppence. Me: Wow. That was a lot of money in those days. Kenney: I know I had to steal £10 out of my mum’s purse when she was at work. Me: But you’d saved up the rest to be able to buy it? Kenney: It was on HP. The only HP I knew was HP sauce.
Too many girls, not enough serious music - Steve Marriot is out
Me: Yeah. Does your Itchycoo Park still exist? Kenney: No. No, because it built all over the East End. So ruins are all gone now. Me: Why did Steve Marriott leave the band in 69? Kenney: Well, he was just as frustrated as the rest of us about this. We were when we were playing because we had all these screaming girls all the way through, you know, which was lovely at first. And then suddenly you can’t hear yourself to the screams, you know? We had this teenybopper image, which we just could not shake off, you know? And so I think it got to stay more than it got to us. He just couldn’t take it. And so he walked offstage at Alexandra Palace, where we were playing and didn’t tell us. And that was that. Me: I can imagine the adoration of all the little teenybopper girls would have been more difficult to take than than it appeared. I mean, from the outside, it would seem so much fun and glamorous, but all the time would be. But did did that challenge the series? Kenney: It wasn’t so much. I mean, you have to say that it was just that was happening to the Beatles and to most bands now. Yeah, but I think what got to us more than anything is the fact that we were completely under pressure to write commercial songs. So short hits Me: Challenging the seriousness of your musicianship? Kenney: Yeah, exactly. So we were all good players. We became you still learning the craft and so learning to play with each other. But this commercial commercialism just got in the way.
And then along comes Rod Stewart
Me: Where did you find Rod Stewart? Kenney: We found him in the gutter! The Stones said, Look, we’ve got a warehouse in the east end of London, where we keep all our stuff and we’ve got a soundproof room in their small room, but go in there and play and just till you get what you’re going to do. Yeah. So the three of us just get together, just jam for a bit. But this went on for a few weeks. And then Ronnie Lane brought down his next door neighbour. And that was Ronnie Wood. Ronnie Wood came. He said, I said, I said, you play bass? He said, No, I’m learning to play guitar. I mean, I’m a girl. So I said, I want to switch from bass to guitar. So he played along with us and we just got a little go along like a house on fire again. Then that went on for a couple of weeks. And then Ronnie Wood, I call him Woody because there are two Ronnie’s in the band really brought down his best mate, which was Rod Stewart.
Rod Stewart sat on the side watching us for a couple of weeks and then, you know, we just I said, look, we’ve got to sign up. You know, we need to sing, not just jam. So Ronnie Lane sang in his beautiful, wonderful sounding voice but we still missed a powerful voice. And all the time, I’m looking at Rod, sitting on the amps. I knew he was a great singer. He just got up to the pub in the middle of rehearsals to have a break. And so this one time we went up to the pub and I said to said to Rod, can I have a private word? He said, Yeah, what’s up ? So I’d like you to join the band. I said, Do you think the others would let me? I said, Yeah. And that evening I told the others that Rod had joined the band. They said Oh, no, we don’t want another prima donna. We don’t want someone walking out on us again. And I just stuck to my guns. I just said no. And I won.
To hear more of Kenney’s interview take a listen to the show or check out the zoom below.