Music Interviews
3:50 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

Ian McLagan's Song For A Muse

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 11:31 pm

Rocker Ian McLagan has been singing and playing keyboards for almost half a century. He's played with Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and The Faces. In 2012 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But it hasn't always been an easy road.

"Well there, was a time when I gave up music," McLagan says. "But actually what I had given up was drugs and the people I was playing with. They weren't making me happy."

McLagan credits his late wife Kim, whom he married in 1978 and was with until her death in 2006, with helping him find his way back to music. His latest album, United States, includes a tribute to her called "Love Letter."

"I have all the love letters I sent her on the road that I had completely forgotten about — just postcards from different places around the world. She kept them all," McLagan says.

The couple first met in 1965 thanks to unexpected help from another iconic rocker, The Who's Keith Moon.

"When I joined Small Faces we would occasionally bump into The Who, and Keith Moon and I became firm pals," they keyboardist says. "Keith came to one of the Small Faces gigs with his then-girlfriend — who was Kim."

After the dissolution of McLagan's first marriage, he found himself mulling about nightclubs, running into Kim and Moon more often and spending the waning hours of the evening getting to know his future wife.

"Invariably, the girl I was with would fall asleep, Keith would fall asleep and it would be left to Kim and me," he says. "We would spend the night just chatting and drinking."

Late nights together eventually led to a kiss, which led to a marriage, which led to the two being together for 33 years. In that time and beyond he's written many songs with traces of Kim in them — though McLagan says it was years before he realized it.

"She was my muse. I mean she actually is my muse," he says. "I always heard that term, and it took me a long while to realize that she was the inspiration for so many songs and continues to be. Not all the saddest songs — I mean, some of the funniest songs or the lightest songs, there are little bits of her. She's always there, bringing that out of me."

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Rocker Ian McLagan has been singing and playing keyboards for almost half a century. He's played with Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and the Faces. Last year, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But he says it hasn't always been an easy road.

IAN MCLAGAN: Well, there was a time when I gave up music. But, actually, what I'd given up was drugs and the people I was playing with. They weren't making me happy.

SIEGEL: McLagan credits his wife, Kim, with helping him to find his way back to music. On his latest solo album, he's written a song called "Love Letter," which he says is a tribute to Kim.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE LETTER")

MCLAGAN: (Singing) I'd send you a love letter, but I can't find you anywhere. You may not be hiding from me, but I can't find you.

"Love Letter" is all about Kim. It's about my wife, who died seven years ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE LETTER")

MCLAGAN: (Singing) Candles and your name in blue.

I have all the love letters I sent her, on the road - I had completely forgot about, just postcards from different places around the world. She kept them. She kept them all.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE LETTER")

MCLAGAN: (Singing) I captured the light in your eyes.

I met Kim in 1965. When I joined Small Faces, we occasionally would bump into The Who. And Keith Moon and I became firm pals. And Keith came to one of the Small Faces gigs with his then girlfriend, which was Kim.

Later on, my first wife and I split up and I was spending a lot of time in the nightclubs. And I bump into Keith and Kim a lot more. Invariably, the girl I was with would fall asleep. Keith would fall asleep. And it would be left to Kim and me. And we would spend the night just chatting and drinking and that happened a couple of times. And the second time, there was a pub at the end of the road. We hadn't slept. I think we might have been doing drugs. But anyway, when we got back, I got out of the car to open the gates for her. I had driven and she was on her bicycle. And as I went up to her, I pushed her off the bicycle, so I had to grab her. I mean, you couldn't make this up. I grabbed her and kissed her. And we kissed and there was a moment of, oh my God. And that's when it started and we were together 33 years.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE LETTER")

MCLAGAN: (Singing) I'd send you a love letter, though you may never read it - that it goes out from my heart.

Yeah, she was my muse. I mean, she actually is my muse. I'd always heard that term. And it took me a long while to realize that she was the inspiration for so many songs and continues to be. Not all the saddest songs - I mean some of the funniest songs or the lightest songs - there's little bits of her. She's always there bringing that out of me. I think it's a good thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE LETTER")

MCLAGAN: (Singing) I'd send you a love letter. I'd send you a love letter. I'd send you a love letter.

SIEGEL: That's Ian McLagan sharing the story behind the song "Love Letter." It's from his new album called "United States."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE LETTER")

MCLAGAN: (Singing) I'd send you a love letter. I'd send you a love letter. I'd send you a love letter. But I can't find you anywhere.

SIEGEL: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.