Happy Birthday to Rolling Stones and Faces guitarist Ron Wood who turns 74 today (June 1st)!!! Back in April, Ron Wood revealed that during the pandemic he’s battled back from another bout of cancer. The guitarist told Britain’s The Sun: “I’ve had cancer two different ways now. I had lung cancer in 2017 and I had small-cell more recently that I fought in the last lockdown. I came through with the all-clear.” Small-cell carcinoma is a fast-growing type of lung cancer commonly caused by smoking.
Ron Wood spoke about what he’s been plotting while on lockdown: “I’m just as busy as ever but nowadays I can remember what I’m doing. The music is still throbbing away. I’ve got a new album recorded at the Royal Albert Hall with Mick Taylor and my band — a tribute to Jimmy Reed called Mr. Luck. I used to never stop. It must have been relentless to be around me, just crazy the stuff I did. I was erratic but none of my enthusiasm has gone.”
Out now on DVD and streaming services is Somebody Up There Likes Me, the career-spanning Ron Wood documentary. The film, directed by Mike Figgis, covers Wood’s life and career from making his bones in the mod-based mid-’60s London combo the Birds, through the Jeff Beck Group, the Faces, the Rolling Stones, and beyond. Among the participants in the doc are Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Rod Stewart.
Recently released is Wood’s latest solo set, titled, Mad Lad: A Live Tribute To Chuck Berry. The set, which opens with a new original tune saluting the “Father of Rock N’ Roll” was caught live in 2018 with Wood’s backing band, His Wild Five, at Wimborne, England’s Tivoli Theatre. The album is the first of a trilogy in which the Rolling Stones guitarist salutes one of his primary influences.
In addition to his work with the Stones, Ron Wood co-wrote such Faces and Rod Stewart classics as “Stay With Me,” “Miss Judy’s Farm,” “Ooh La La,” “Gasoline Alley,” and “Every Picture Tells A Story.”
Although clean and sober for over a decade, Ron Wood spoke candidly on why he drank and did drugs, and ultimately what caused him to go get straight: “Y’know, I think a lot of it is to do — the drink and drugs — with the celebration thing. Like, if you’ve done something really well, you go, ‘Yeah! Let’s drink to that.’ And that was just getting kind of out of hand. And I realized that I wasn’t getting any happier if I drank. In fact, I was getting this person that I wasn’t. I was getting very depressed and quite an angry person, and very snappy with people, and I don’t like to think that that is me.”
Keith Richards attributes much of the Stones’ longevity over the years to Ron Wood, who joined in time for the band’s 1975 tour dates: “Definitely without Ronnie Wood, we wouldn’t have had the cohesion to stick together. But, y’know, it was. . . he came along at just the right time. And with a guy like that around, you gotta hang around, ’cause he so damn funny (laughs).”
Ron Wood — who first recorded with the Stones 47 years ago — is still considered the “new guy” in the band. He told us that he was actually born a Rolling Stone, and it simply took until ’75 for him to actually become part of the group: “I was born with those songs in my mouth, anyway. Y’know, you can name any song of their. . . And I was with it, y’know, I didn’t have to learn it. When I joined the band back in, ’74, or whenever and I had to learn 160 songs, or something — that was my initiation down in Woodstock — I ended up teaching them to the band! I mean, I knew the songs. I’d never played them before, but I just knew them.”
Ron Wood recalled the lead up to his debut as the Rolling Stones’ third and final second guitarist: “Well, it was a fragile ship when I joined, y’know, because they’d been through many ups and downs, and there was kind of a grey cloud. Even though I knew the music, I’d never actually played the songs. So, at Montauk, Keith and I hardly slept and we kept going through the songs and, like he was hittin’ me — ‘Okay, ‘All Down The Line’ — here we go (sings riff, laughs)!’ And all these songs going through my head and June the 1st in Baton Rouge in 1975, that was my opening gig. Yeah, that was really. . . I said, ‘Come on, throw it at me. Whatever you’ve got.'”
Out now is Under Their Thumb — How A Nice Boy From Brooklyn Got Mixed Up With The Rolling Stones And Lived To Tell About It, by rock writer Bill German. German, who’s best known in music circles as being the editor of the legendary Stones fanzine Beggars Banquet, recalls his first impressions of Ron Wood as a member of the Stones: “At first I had no idea, like, why is this guy coming over from the Faces? It was like, where’s Mick Taylor going (laughs), y’know? I remember — I think I read it in (Rolling Stone’s) Random Notes first, like in 1974 — the end of ’74: ‘Mick Taylor Is Leaving The Stones.’ But I kept an open mind, y’know? And the first thing I heard was that he played on the back of a truck on Fifth Avenue. And it was just one song, but it sounded good — I guess I was caught up in the excitement of another Stones tour. Y’know, I read that it was working out, so I was more than happy to welcome this guy once I started to get to know who he was.”
On September 5th, 2015 the surviving Faces — Wood, Rod Stewart, and Kenney Jones — reunited at Surrey, England’s Hurtwood Park Polo Club benefited Prostate Cancer UK. The performance marked the first time in 22 years that Rod has taken to the stage to publicly front the Faces. Sadly, keyboardist Ian McLagan died in 2014 with bassist Ronnie Lane passing in 1997 at age 51 after suffering from multiple sclerosis for over two decades.
The Faces’ seven song set marked the first time all three members had played live together since their 1993 appearance at England’s Brit Awards. In recent years, the Faces have played a string of shows featuring Simply Red frontman Mick Hucknall on lead vocals.
Recently released is You Can Make Me Dance, Sing Or Anything (1970-1975), the Faces’ latest box set, which features newly remastered versions of all four of the band’s studio albums, plus a bonus disc of rarities.
The collection includes The First Step (1970), Long Player (1971), A Nod Is As Good As A Wink. . . To A Blind Horse (1971), and Ooh La La (1973). All the discs feature unreleased bonus tracks recorded in conjunction with each set.
Kenney Jones told us that the Faces’ sound came about due to Ron Wood reinventing himself as a musician: “When we first got together, Ronnie was learning how to play lead guitar. He was — and still is — a fantastic bass player. So, for him to convert from bass, it was a bit tricky, so we were with him every inch of the way when he did it. So, we were kind of learning his style along with him. So that really was a benefit to all of us — especially me.”
Over the past dozen or so years, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood have teamed up in the studio for a supposed joint album, which at one point was said to be tentatively titled, You Strum – I’ll Sing. A while back we asked Rod if there’s any chance we’ll see him and Ron Wood teaming up for new sessions: “There may be, there may be. Y’know, it all depends on Ronnie. . . Ronnie’s got another group that he’s in, y’see (laughs). He wants to know what they’re going to do before — y’know, I can’t put my career on hold waiting for Ronnie, who’s waiting on them. So that’s the way it goes on and on. Y’know, maybe one day when they pack it in, we’ll have a bit more time together.”
Wood’s close friend, former Stones bass player, Bill Wyman remains one of Wood’s biggest fans — both on and off the stage: “Woody? He’s mad (laughs). He’s a clown, he’s great. Good guitar player — learns very quickly, picks up things very easily. He’s a great in-between person, he gets people together and he makes you laugh, and got a lot of humor, and lots of mates. He’s a good-time boy, and he’s great for the band.”
2015 saw the publication of Ronnie Wood: How Can It Be? A Rock & Roll Diary. Featuring a cast of characters that went on to figure heavily into his life and career — including Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, Marianne Faithfull, and many more — the story of Wood’s adventures as the 17-year-old guitarist for the Birds was handwritten in his 1965 diary, which includes newly created illustrations for the book.