The wisdom of a rock veteran…
Ian McLagan

Keyboard player with Small Faces, the Faces, The Rolling Stones and more, Ian McLagan retains his passion for music…

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Faces, ‘Flying’ (1970)

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Take Every Opportunity

“It wasn’t about getting girls or being rich and famous – I loved the music! I tried to figure out a way to play it. Long story short: after a while I was listening to Chuck Berry and I figured that I could play that basic rhythm on piano and as everybody else was playing guitar it would mean that I would have more of a chance to get into a band. I got my dad to get a little Hohner electric piano on the never-never. Then I heard ‘Green Onions’ and my whole life changed!”

Believe In Fate

“I believe in fate. Absolutely. I had seen the Small Faces on TV, on Ready Steady Go!, and I was absolutely knocked out by them, by Steve Marriott’s voice and just the look of the band. They were doing the sort of stuff I wanted to do – and then it turned out that we were all the same height. That wasn’t part of the plan, although I’m sure if I was seven foot I wouldn’t have got in the band. If I’d have been three foot I might not have got in the band, either!”

Find A Great Drummer

“As long as you’ve got a great drummer and a great singer, the rest is just icing on the cake! That’s not to say that we didn’t have value but Kenney Jones was so great. You can’t name a great band without a great drummer. If you say ‘Grateful Dead’ I’ll say, ‘See what I mean!’”

Always Check The Small Print

“If I’d known I was going to be ripped off so badly by so many I might have taken a course in accountancy. But that never in any way interested me – I’m not very good with maths. When you’re just a young kid following a dream, listening to music and looking at bands, trying to play music – that’s 24 hours a day. You can only dream of becoming a big success, you just want to carry on and play. So when you get the big chance it’s already too late. You’re involved with people who don’t give a damn about you – they’re just looking to get their money back. It’s as ruthless a business as any.”

Surround Yourself With Energetic People

“I play the same Hammond organ which is on ‘Maggie May’ and all the Faces albums. I bought it in ’69 when we got together as a band. It’s a beautiful instrument – but I can’t lift it on my own! It’s essential: you have to surround yourself with positive, energetic people. It’s absolutely true.”

Keep Moving Forwards

“It’s really easy: I never made millions. So I’ve got to keep on working. The thing is, I don’t do every bit of work that is offered to me – I’m quite selective and I’m very lucky to work with such great artists. The thing is, if you stick around long enough, a lot of people die and it ends up that yours is the number they call. Big advice to anyone in bands who wants to get to my age is to make sure you’ve got a big black suit. Sad but true.”

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As told to Robin Murray

Find Ian McLagan, now playing with The Bump Band, online here

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