Let The Good Times Roll: Kenney Jones Talks

❉ We chat with the ertswhile drummer for The Small Faces, Faces and The Who, whose autobiography, Let the Good Times Roll, is out 31st May.

Kenney Jones, drummer for the English rock band The Who performing live at Madison Square Garden in New York City on September 13, 1979. © Getty Images

“Ronnie and I started the band together” Kenney Jones reminisces. “He was learning guitar while I was learning the drums, so we were playing together from day one. Eventually, Ronnie got fed up with it and said he’d play bass, so that’s why he’s got such a distinctive style as he started off as a lead guitarist. Ronnie and I knew each other when we were young, so we go way back. He had a great gift for lyrics, and wanted to understand people a bit more, so he used his songs for that. He loved his mother and father, his mum had multiple sclerosis too, so we used to her carry her. Great guy”.

Kenney Jones has the authority and integrity to speak of Lane, having played with him in two bands, The Small Faces and The Faces, the first a kaleidoscope of psychedelic brilliance resulting in the excellent Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake (1968) and the latter a thomping live band that inspired many within the punk extraction, including the Sex Pistols (fittingly, Glen Matlock played with a reformed Faces in 2009). Both Lane and Jones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as members of both bands in 2012.

He’s calling from the Hurtwood Park Polo Club, an establishment that has serviced guests as notable as Ringo Starr, Mike Rutherford, Jeff Beck and Stewart Copeland. This is a phone call by which Jones is in enjoyably nostalgic mood, having just completed his autobiography. It’s been a work of some decades. “I was asked to write my book when I was thirty, maybe I was in my early thirties, and I put bits and bobs together, but I eventually realised I haven’t finished living my life yet. How could I write it down? So, I parked it, and got on with life, but got back to thinking about it and whenever I’d speak to journalists or do interviews, I’d get asked, would you like to write a book?”

It was a brush with mortality that prompted Jones to put pen to paper and complete Let The Good Times Roll. “I had cancer for the second time, and I thought, well, if I don’t do it now, someone else will do it after and I’d rather do it now than them do it. It was a nice process, I’d put it all down on tape, tape my thoughts, write it all down and then reading and re-reading it, I’d remember other little bits to put in. My researcher, David, has been invaluable checking facts, he came across these details, Small Faces fans want things very specific, they want to know the exact time and date of sessions or gigs, so he was an invaluable help to me on this book”. It’s a privilege for Small Faces fans to divulge, Jones is the only surviving member who can now openly discuss Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake to those who wish to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary.

WAC has a great amount of time for Ogdens, one of the very best albums of the stylistic sixties. “People compared it to Sgt.Pepper and I’m like, no, it isn’t anything like that” Jones explains. “Ogdens’ is like a proper story, Peppers isn’t. It was way ahead of its time, bit like rap really. When I heard the story, I thought this is a cartoon, definitely, and other people would go, no, they didn’t see the idea, I suppose, but I always saw animation for the story, so that’s what I plan to do is to make it into a full length animation in the near future about Ogden’s”.

The Faces may not have been able to compete with their prequel band, but they compensated by their live performances, a throve of thumping Ronnie Wood riffs and the mesmerising seductiveness of blues rock legend Rod Stewart carving through a rocking repertoire.

Their rationale was simple. “I think in we enjoyed ourselves onstage, we acted like the audience were onstage, we drank and had a laugh, rolling over, giggling. We passed drink to the audience and they’d pass some back to us.  We were all mates. Rod had signed a solo deal with Warner so we had an arrangement where he could sing with us and he’d do a Rod Stewart album for them. So, we’d play some of his stuff and then the band’s stuff, and it was all great fun, we were all mates, so it was all good. When we went to America, it was a great experience, Small Faces never went there, not like The Who, so it was a new experience for us to see this new place and find out they were just like us, a very religious country and people.”

Jones has a natural and infectious effervescence for life, which radiates when we ask him about Paul McCartney’s Rockestra Theme (which featured, among other rock greats, Pete Townshend, David Gilmour, Gary Brooker, Hank Marvin and the Led Zeppelin rhythm section). “I think Wings were brilliant. Definitely better than the media thought they were. Denny Laine and Jimmy McCulloch used to come around to my place to try and nick me for Wings. I was busy with the Faces. But Denny is a great friend of mine, he and Paul and Linda sang on one of my very first solo singles, which I haven’t released yet, but it’s there. The Kampuchea gig was great, we were up on this great plynths, me and John Bonham who I was great mates with. I played with Pete Townshend on that song, but him and me went way back to the sixties, I’d play on some of his demoes, I played on the Tommy film soundtrack and The Who toured with The Small Faces, so it was a bit like we were one band really”. Little wonder Townshend turned to Jones to perform in The Who in 1978.

Jones is in a position of rock royalty, as anyone who can count dalliances with Ronnie Lane, Steve Marriott, Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Pete Townshend and John Bonham should be. Let The Good Times Roll is a memoir enlightening and thriving, but mostly it represents everything the two major bands Jones helped steer; fun.

Kenney Jones’ autobiography, ‘Let the Good Times Roll,’ due out May 31 2018. Format: Hardback; Pages: 368 pages; Publisher: Bonnier Books Ltd.

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