Most mornings my neighbor Ian McLagan brings his wife, Kim, a cup of tea in bed and says, “Welcome to paradise, darling.” From their bedroom, the view is of mesquite-covered pastures and tangled woodland dotted with a few houses. In this rural neighborhood set on a slight rise just east of Austin, the days are full of the muted roar of rider mowers, and the nights are alive with cicadas and the coyotes’ howls. The trees and bushes resound to the cardinals’ song, and the wet spring has painted everything such a rich lush green that it could be Ireland—McLagan’s childhood home. Paradise, indeed.
A charming, impish man who looks fifty or less but will be sixty on his next birthday, McLagan exudes constant delight at having landed in such a beautiful place with his life intact. He’s a musician, yes, a fine purveyor of boogie-woogie piano and fiery Hammond, but more than that, Mac, as everyone calls him, is a genuine rock icon, a survivor of the British rock explosion of the sixties who has played with everyone from Bonnie Raitt to the Rolling Stones. He was a member of the Small Faces—literally, the diminutive men about town—who were perhaps the best English band never to hit it big over here. They had just one U.S. hit, “Itchycoo Park,” but back home, the band was one of the most successful groups of the Carnaby Street era, whose songs are constantly recycled on records like The Swinging Sixties