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An interview with Kenney Jones

by John Hellier (11th December 2001)

 


How much rehearsal time was allocated to the band before they started playing live?

Can’t remember that far back.   I remember us kinda rehearsing at the Ruskin Arms.    Rather than call it rehearsing we were actually just discovering ourselves.   We just loved each other and were excited about playing together.   It was quite electric really we didn’t need a lot of rehearsing we had this telepathic thing.   We just knew what each other were going to do.   Strange eh!    Even when we started recording I don’t ever remember actually learning the songs.    Steve and Ronnie would come up with a chord sequence and away we’d go.     It was never a jam session all the songs were arranged it was so incredibly easy.

Do you remember if there were any songs in the set that were never recorded by the band?

I remember Jump Back and Oo Poo Pah Do.    But we were only doing 20 minute sets back then not like later on.    We played a lot of our own favourite songs in the studio when we were just jamming.   

     

Do you remember the very first paid gig?

Before the Cavern in Leicester Square I remember a little youth club in Forest Gate, I think it was Saint Katherines.    It was right near where Ronnie was living at the time on the Romford Road.   

After the first hit you became tagged with a teeny bop image.   What did you make of that after all you started out as a raucous R & B band. 

Well we had no control over it, because we were all the same size and dressed as Mods it just took off.     The mod thing wasn’t a gimmick it was us.    At first we thought it was a bit of all right but after a while all the screaming girls got us down, we couldn’t hear ourselves play on stage.    A lot of that got in the way, it was very annoying.   We were plagued right from the beginning with managerial problems.   We had our own ideas of what we wanted to do but we were pointed in the direction of commerciality.     Because we were always doing TV shows we just dug ourselves in deeper and deeper.    When we joined Immediate we took on a different direction, we had matured by then.   The sound got tighter and for me personally I was really enjoying it and my drumming became very distinctive.    The early Decca stuff was just wild but by the Immediate days I had been doing sessions and stuff and I discovered the real me.    I just adored the Tin Soldier, Green Circles era.    I am just re-discovering it now I’m back to playing a four drum kit just as I did then.   It was my eldest son who remarked that the double bass drum set-up that I played later on with the Who was now old hat.     Even when I played Zak’s kit at the Steve Marriott Memorial gig I disposed with one of his tom toms and lowered the cymbal.    I do play a lot, lot better with less.  

What are your feelings in retrospect of Don Arden and Andrew Oldham.    What positive things did they do for the band?

Well Don Arden I always thought was a necessary evil.     His side kick Pat Meehan came to see us at the Cavern Club in the West End and told us he thought we had something special and invited us to Don Arden’s office in Carnaby Street the next day.    When we met Don Arden we were impressed, he managed the Animals and the Nashville Teens and he was like a bit teddy bear really, a father figure I suppose.    He told us he’d put us on a percentage and a wage.    He was very enthusiastic and made us feel real good about ourselves.    It was Don who was responsible for Jimmy Winston’s departure.    Jimmy was always trying to overshadow Steve on live gigs. While Steve was doing his bit Jimmy would be in the background waving his hands and whatever and because he was that much taller and that much older he stuck out like a sore thumb.    After Jimmy had departed it left a big gap we desperately needed a good keyboard player and that was where Mac comes in.    The first rehearsal with Mac was like heaven.    From a drumming point of view it was magic we were sounding just like Booker T & The M G’s!    The fact that he was the same size as us was just a coincidence.     In some ways it would have been better if we had all been different sizes.    Mac was superb, we used to call him posh because he was from Hounslow not the East End.    With Andrew Oldham we got lots of studio time.    I remember Immediate would pay 50% and we would pay 50%.    With freedom in the studio we were allowed to relax and experiment.   The Small Faces were never afraid to experiment.

Which moments with The Small Faces bring the biggest smile to your face.   Anything in particular?

Dunno really!   Just being with them, Westmoreland Terrace and all that.    Very brotherly relationship.    We were just a bunch of piss takers really but we all helped one another.

Why didn’t the Small Faces tour the USA on the strength of the hit single Itchycoo Park?

Ask Mac!    Mac had a previous drug offence and therefore we couldn’t get a permit.   It did slow us down in a sense.    The Small Faces did actually go to America, we didn’t perform but we landed on US soil on the way back from Australia.    We got fogged in and had to land in Honolulu and then got diverted to San Francisco.    It was still foggy and we ended up staying the night in a hotel.    No immigration, no passport control, no customs……nothing.    They put us on a bus and we went to a Holiday Inn between the airport and city centre.   My first impressions of America were when I turned on a TV in my room and they were showing that now famous clip of a Vietnamese Soldier being shot in the head, blood everywhere.    Got back on the plane and came home.   I arrived home from that Australian trip with Australian crabs they were upside down ones anyway!

In retrospect do you think the band could have gone on a bit longer and if so what direction do you think it would have taken?

I wish we had been a little bit more grown up at the time.   If we had have played Ogdens’ live it would have boosted our confidence so much.   We were labelled as a pop band, which definitely got up Steve’s nose more than we realised.    I wish we had been more like The Who in the fact that when they have problems they stick together until they’ve overcome them.    Steve just thought well how do we top Ogdens’ and he was off.   Ogdens’ was a masterpiece if we had played it live we would have gone to even greater things.    I reckon we were on the verge of crossing the great divide and becoming a heavier band.

What are your favourite Small Faces singles and albums?

I really like the second single “I Got Mine”, very Who like although that was not intended.    We wrote this single ourselves and it bombed.    I remember Don Arden telling us he was getting in Kenny Lynch and Mort Schuman to write the next single as he couldn’t afford another flop.    I remember we recorded the follow up “Sha La La La Lee” at Decca in West Hampstead.    I also remember Kenny Lynch saying to me “Never play anything you can’t mime to!”    I felt sick when he said that.    After that single we started writing our own stuff again and thank God it was successful.    Another single I loved was “If You Think Your Groovy” that was us, with PP.    Favourite album well, that’s got to be Ogdens’.

Next The Faces.   The ultimate kicking band.    Mac was once quoted as saying that the Small Faces were simply the apprenticeship and that the Faces were the real thing.    Do you also think along those lines?

Not at all.    Mac would do because he wasn’t a founder member.   The best band and most creative one was the Small Faces.    I still listen to the Small Faces to this day and it always brings a smile to my face and now I’ve become a Small Faces fan.   I look at it from the outside looking in.   The Faces were fun, a party band.   We all loved it but it wasn’t creative.   There were no really great songs.    We could have done a lot more if had pulled together more as songwriters.

Towards the end the band were being billed as Rod Stewart and The Faces did this anger yourself and the other guys?

To be honest it did get up everyone’s nose.   It was Billy Gaffs (our manager) idea with Rod’s support.    It was within Rod’s power to curb it a lot more, but he didn’t.    What we were doing effectively was going around plugging Rod’s solo records so we became almost a backing band.    All the best songs were saved for Rod’s solo albums so the Faces suffered in that respect.   If the band including Rod had pulled together we could have come up with some fantastic stuff.

What is your favourite Faces album and why?

I like “First Step”.    The album features a definite link between The Small Faces and the Faces.    I wouldn’t say it was necessarily my favourite--- in fact I haven’t really got a favourite Faces album.   They’re all very much in the same mould.

What are your thoughts on the Small Faces reformation in the late 70’s?

It was great when Ronnie was there.   I regret it to this day, if Ronnie had stayed it would have been okay to a degree.   If only Ronnie and Steve hadn’t argued so much.    Marriott had become super cocky, he’d always been cocky but he was piss taking all the time and going through a spitting stage.    I think he was a bit insecure at the time, don’t know why maybe it was because his hair was falling out, yeah let’s put it down to that.

How did you come to join the Who and how did you feel about replacing possibly the most flamboyant drummer in Rock & Roll, Keith Moon?

Keith Moon was irreplaceable.     I went into the Who with that in mind.    I had been doing a lot of session work and then I got a call from Bill Curbishly, the Who manager, he told me that following Keith’s death the band was going to pack it in but they had, had a change of heart and wanted to continue and wanted me to join the band and nobody else would be considered.    At the time I had put a new band together which was very much in the Eagles mould and I was very happy with it.    But anyway I decided to go the office to meet Pete Townshend.   We had a drink and a good old laugh and Pete told me that the band wanted to try new things and he also told me that he felt Moonie had been holding them back.    Although everyone was devastated at Keith’s demise they now had the chance to do something different.    My ears pricked up.    They said that The Who and Small Faces had been through a lot together and I’d done a lot of work with Pete anyway.    They put it in such a way that I really couldn’t say no.    I then learnt their repertoire which was much more complex than I had first thought.    This gave me even more admiration for Keith Moon.   I wasn’t gonna change my style for anyone and when I did join the band the whole sound got tightened up.    Perhaps a little bit too tight!     As I got to know the numbers I feel that I did loosen up a bit.

How many world tours did you do with The Who and how many albums?

Loads.   Working with the Who was the hardest I had ever worked drummer wise.    Some of the concerts would go on for three hours.    I became super fit and I loved it.    I certainly loved working with John and Pete.   I don’t think the band fully understood how I was dropped in at the deep end.    They should have come to my aid a bit more.    No one could replace Moony there is no better drummer, not even Zak whom I taught how to play.    With Zak, Moony was his mentor and he plays pretty much exactly the same, which is not particularly what Pete wanted.    I have no regrets what so ever about playing with the Who, they were great years.

Was your departure from the Who down to personal or musical differences or a combination of both?

I don’t think Daltrey ever got used to the new Who.   I always had a problem with Daltrey.    I think Daltrey missed Keith a lot more than John and Pete.    Daltry became intolerable and eventually the band split in 1982 although we got back together for Live Aid a few years afterwards.

What have you been doing since then?    And can you tell me about your current activities?

After Live Aid I got together with Paul Rodgers, which was just the two of us.    The idea was to bring in different musicians at different times.    We were called The Law and we made two very good albums but then we decided to knock it on the head because Paul didn’t want to tour.    That ended in 1992.

Then my Polo Club got bigger and because it is in my back garden I tended to play more and more.    My sons were also playing, one of them has been playing since he was three.   Any little bit of spare time I have I would jump on a horse and play polo.   The club developed itself really its now THE premier polo club in the country.    We hold various charity games here and one thing and another.    It’s a polo and country club with a licensed restaurant that is open to the public.   

With regards to the Ogdens’ animation project.   I have been working with a couple of guys from Liverpool.    They are about the same age as me and massive fans of the Small Faces.    At first I was totally against computer animation but I realise now I’ve got to tow the line and that’s how is has to be.   We are still working on a story line and how it develops all depends on who we use to be in the film.    Pete Townshends’ on standby to write a couple of songs for it.    We’re currently looking at the Small Faces back catalogue and may well use some of those songs in the story if we feel that they fit.     Completion of the project is still eighteen months to two years away but it will definitely happen.

Nice records were originally set up as a charitable fund for Ronnie in 1995 and The Small Faces tribute album achieved success in that direction.    I thought, back then, I can’t stop at that and now is the time to re-establish the label and it will be styled along the lines of Immediate.    Immediate was a very good label apart from the fact that they didn’t pay you.   I’m doing a charity record at the moment called “It’s All About The Children” I’m doing this with my new band and it will feature on Nice Records.   

I am very passionate about my own Small Faces charity.    It’s Small Faces for Small Faces, a children’s charity.    I am not interested in particular charities for particular illnesses.    All a child knows is I’m not well can you help me?    It’s for mental, physical, underprivileged…just about anybody who needs help whatever.     It’s an all children’s charity we’ll give to any needy child.    The new charity record features not only my new band but also Paul Young and Ronnie Wood.   

The new band consists of Gary Grainger, Boz and Robert Hart.   Robert was the vocalist who took over from Paul Rodgers in Bad Company.    This guy can really sing why the world has never heard of him I really don’t know.    We used the charity single as a means to start working a lot more together so it’s effectively my new band.    We’ll being doing gigs, albums the lot.    The only thing we haven’t got is a name.    Maybe Wapping Wharf readers can come up with something.

THANKS KENNEY FOR YOUR TIME AND GOOD LUCK WITH BOTH THE CHARITY AND THE NEW BAND.


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