Admittedly, I came to this album late, more than three years after its original release in September 1977. Maybe it was because the intervening period was filled with the urgent sounds of The Clash, Talking Heads and Elvis Costello. Don't get me wrong: I was an avowed fan of The Who, and in fact their leader, Pete Townshend, had answered critics labelling them "dinosaurs" in the age of punk and disco with the powerful Who Are You in 1978. But a side project with a lesser-known member of The Faces? This record had maybe merited a small ad in the back of Rolling Stone and it didn't even garner much air play on the few free-form FM stations left on the dial.
So when my roommate came through the door with an excited look on his face proclaiming he had picked up a great LP while trolling the local record store cum head shop, I nodded and waited for him to drop the needle. . .and. . .
BAM! Roaring out of the gate comes Townshend's stinging guitar on "My Baby Gives It Away," a light-hearted take on, well, favors in a low-rent apartment setting. But then there is an immediate right-turn to Lane's "Nowhere To Run," highlighted by Peter Hope-Evans gorgeous harmonica. And so the yin and yang of Rough Mix begins; and it dawns on you maybe that's the meaning of the album's title.
Lane's contributions are measurable, and at times magnificent. In retrospect, there is a tinge of sadness to the whole project given it was around this time that he was diagnosed with MS. (Lane would live with the illness for 2o years before finally succumbing to its devastation.) The native of East End London was apparently keen on merging rock with Irish ballads and Scottish and British folk music. Indeed, "Annie" and its dirge-like quality juxtaposed with the stomping "Catmelody" (with the unmistakable back-beat of none other than Charlie Watts) could both fit at a traditional Irish wake, with a mourner holding a tumbler of Jameson's in one hand and a pint of Guinness in the other.