For The Sake Of The Song: ​Ronnie Lane & The Band Slim Chance “The Poacher”

I was inspired to choose ‘The Poacher’ on hearing Slim Chance perform it at a recent show to raise funds for their seriously ill guitarist Steve Simpson. This band, originally formed by Ronnie Lane, took all those packed into the Half Moon in southwest London all the way to a sparkling riverbank in Wales, as half a century fell away.

In 1973 Ronnie Lane left The Faces for his Welsh farm where, in his mobile studio, he began recording songs that became his debut solo album ‘Anymore for Anymore’. With him was his band Slim Chance; Graham Lyle, Benny Gallagher, Kevin Westlake, Billy Livsey, Ken Slaven, Steve Bingham, Jimmy Jewell and Bruce Rowland. Together their rootsy sound that drew on folk, country and blues would perfectly define americana had the term been around then. ‘Anymore for Anymore’ exudes a sense of release, perhaps from the pop world Lane had departed (despite choosing a name for his band that in his opinion summed up its likelihood of success). 

Lane was a city boy from London’s East End but he had always hankered after the rural life. The idea for ‘The Poacher’ came to him while living in a fortune-teller’s caravan parked in Pete Townshend’s garden backing onto the Thames. ‘The Poacher’ is an old loner going down to the riverside alone with his thoughts and the beauty around him. He thinks back to when he caught fish from those waters. To him that was the pinnacle of life. Money and fame were of no interest. That could have been Lane himself. For him it was the music not pop stardom. 

‘The Poacher’ gleams with bucolic space, adventure and a touch of mystery. An opening of oboe, strings and strumming sets the pastoral scene as the old man quietly emerges. Lane’s vocals are unusually muted, as if to avoid any disturbance.   

“Was fresh and bright and early
I went towards the river
But nothing still has altered just the seasons ring a change
There stood this old timer
For all the world’s first poacher”. 

And as that elusive quarry rises to the surface the vocals quieten and sound diminishes to silence before returning with the vigour of an expert, if illegal, cast over those giveaway rings on the water’s surface. Jimmy Horowitz’s string arrangements return to conclude with a crescendo.

What bags this song for me? A developing interest into the roots of mainstream rock and blues alongside a deepening obsession with folk meant I keenly followed Lane taking a similar direction back in 1973. ‘Anymore for Anymore’ therefore was an essential album. ’The Poacher’ has a subtlety and imagination that exemplifies Lane’s immense talent for taking the listener with him as he sought a world different to his own. 

Ronnie Lane’s life was ravaged and ended by the cruelty of MS. Though he did not seek it himself he deserved far greater recognition for his talents and for just giving everyone a great time and lifting their spirits. Slim Chance, reformed in 2010 by original members Bingham, Simpson and Charlie Hart and joined by old friends Geraint Watkins, Brendan O’Neill, Billy Nicholls and Frank Mead, preserve his memory and still ensure a great time is had by all who attend their shows. So here are two versions of ‘The Poacher’.

About Lyndon Bolton 140 Articles
Writing about americana, country, blues, folk and all stops in between
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Eddy Delbridge

Great remembrance of a wonderful record

Rick Bayles

Lovely article Lyndon, and it sums up this beautiful song very well. As you say, Ronnie Lane deserves so much more recognition than he has received over the years – a fine songwriter and an early pioneer for what we now recognise as ‘Americana’. Thanks for reminding us.

Nigel clews

A great song and an under-rated song writer. Slim Chance are still a good live band as the recent Live at Greystones album testifies. If you are interested in Ronnie’s life (small faces, faces, slim chance) the book Anymore for Anymore published last year by Omnibus Press is a good telling of his life and and his thoughts on egotistic lead singers ( Steve Marriott and Rod Stewart)