The great Ian McLagan is no longer with us. He played keyboards for the Small Faces and the Faces. He worked with an incredible amount of musicians, everyone from Paul Westerberg to the Rolling Stones. He also had a great solo career along with the Bump Band. Ian was from England, but he chose to live the later part of his life in Austin, Texas. I now live in Austin and might not even have moved here if not for him. I have him to partially thank for all of the friends I have made here and for the musical career that I found in this city.
My brother and I wanted to move to a city that had a larger music scene than our home town. At the time he was dating someone whose mom lived in Austin. We had heard great things about the city and we wanted to check it out while we were trying to make a decision on where to move. We were only down here for a couple days and we wanted to check out some live music. Our friend’s parents just happened to take us to Ian’s free happy hour at the Lucky Lounge. Although I knew his music, as I was a Faces fan, I was not really aware of him. Our host mentioned something about his storied career, but it was only after his show that I checked out more about him and realized just how many amazing records he was involved in.
Seeing him live for the first time was one of those magical musical moments where every song struck some chord in my being. I remember walking out of that show feeling more alive than when I had walked in. I couldn’t believe I could see someone like him for free on a weekday night. The feeling we had leaving that show was one of the things that influenced our final decision. He was also the first artist we went to see when we moved here. He put on another amazing show as our plans that we had been dreaming of so long came to fruition.
Although I have seen his show countless times since those nights, have met him several times, and even got to sing on stage with him once, I highly doubt he would know me by name. (I shared the stage with him at a show dedicated to the British Invasion at the ACL theater. Shinyribs played that event and some of us got on stage for the big finale with Eric Burdon and the Animals. Ian MaLagan was on stage as well.) Yet even without knowing me, he was one of the kindest and friendliest musicians that I have ever met. Usually people will make that bullshit up after someone dies, but with Ian it was true. Even though he was a two time Rock N Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, he would walk through the crowd at his shows like he was just another part of the audience. Several times when I was catching a smoke between his sets he would also come outside to take a break from the bar. He would smile and talk to you as if he had known you for years, even if you were what I was, just another face in the crowd. I can be somewhat quiet by nature sometimes, but he would always initiate the conversation with myself and whoever was standing around. His ego never separated him from the people that came to see him perform. At the British Invasion show he wasn’t holed up in his dressing room or only talking to people that were “names”. He was right down in the thick of things talking to everyone, including me, a simple bass player in one of the opening acts. I’m just trying to get across that this was a warm guy, that lacked any kind of visible pretension. I walked away from every meeting I had with him thinking that there goes someone truly decent.
His music is fantastic, but that really goes without saying if you know any of it. His keyboard playing was good enough for so many top tier artists, and his voice was sensitive and gruff, honest and true. I’m especially a fan of his album Never Say Never, which is one of those front to back great albums. The title tack is the song above. However the song that will always mean the most to me is his song Wishing Hoping Dreaming from his Rise & Shine album. It is one of those songs that creates its own world. It’s sad and happy at the same time and you never want to leave its orbit once it is on:
You could have stayed a little longer
But you slipped away instead..