Ronnie Lane: Annie

4 Jun

Ronnie Lane/Pete Townshend: Rough Mix

Ronnie Lane and Pete Townshend's 1977 album Rough Mix

Remembering British guitarist/songwriter Ronnie Lane on the day of his death in 1997.

Lane is best known for his work with Faces and Small Faces, but what we like him best for was his rarely remembered collaboration with The Who’s Pete Townshend, the 1977 album Rough Mix.

The album was part Lane, part Townshend, part guests John Entwistle, Eric Clapton and others, and all quality from first track to last. Townshend’s songs Misunderstood and My Baby Gives It Away were great, but so too were Lane’s Nowhere To Run, Annie (see below) and April Fool; the two artists co-wrote only the title track.

John Pidgeon, on, said Rough Mix only happened when Lane asked Townshend for a loan. Townshend turned him down, Pidgeon said, but suggested an album.

Pidgeon on Lane’s song Annie from Rough Mix: “It’s a cliché to call a song timeless, but ‘Annie’ sounded as old as the century. It could also have been the work of Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie or George Gershwin. Or a century older and by John Newton or Charles Wesley, since, sung in church by a choir, it would certainly have sounded like a hymn. Expressed most directly in its ‘God bless us all’ plea, the song was infused throughout with a hymnal tone, its melody uplifting, its message that in spite of mortality, life was ongoing, that even in death was optimism. A hymn by Ronnie Lane would almost be worth going to church for.”

Lyrics from Annie below, or why Pidgeon wrote what he did:

When all the colours have faded
When ol’ Jack comes to call
Don’t tell them no, tell them maybe
Oh Annie, may God bless us all
Oh, yeah, Annie, may God bless us all
                                        Ronnie Lane

From “The album doesn’t try to make any ‘big statements’ or do anything new, and as such I’d rank it as a minor rather than a major classic, but Rough Mix is at least that, as this overlooked gem of an album sounds as good today as the day it was recorded.”

I disagree in only one respect. It sounds better.

Lane died at 51 from complications of multiple sclerosis, 21 years after he was first diagnosed with the disease, right about the time Rough Mix was recorded.



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