The Stones are hitting the road again and, judging from the blistering version of "Brown Sugar" played from a flatbed truck on Fifth Avenue here, the Faces' Ron Wood will more than adequately fill Mick Taylor's departed shoes for the group's 58-concert, three-month-long summer tour.
Wood's hiring ended weeks of speculation on the Rolling Stones Replacement Derby, which had involved names like Harvey Mandel, Wayne Perkins and Shuggie Otis. The choice of a permanent lead guitarist, said Jagger, will be attended to after the tour, which begins June 1st in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and ends August 31st in Caracas, Venezuela. In between, there will be six nights at Madison Square Garden, five at the Forum in Los Angeles and one date in the world's largest indoor auditorium, the 150,000 seat Anhembi Hall in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Different groups will open the show.
In New York for rehearsals with Wood and Billy Preston, who will also join the tour, the band previewed its lineup at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. Instead of a quotable statement from the Stones, the dozens of assembled reporters were treated to a rambling monologue by double-talking comedian Professor Irwin Corey before everyone adjourned to the street for the rain-spattered performance.
Outside, Jagger was in denims and white tennis shoes, Keith Richards wore a silver jacket. Wood appeared in an ankle-length horsehide coat and Bill Wyman just looked anonymous. Billy Preston was ruffle-shirted, and Charlie Watts had a skinhead crew cut and looked like he'd lost considerable weight. "There is nothing wrong with Charlie," said Atlantic's Ahmet Ertegun, watching from the sidewalk along with about 1000 passersby. "The only thing he's on is jazz records." The band played "Brown Sugar" and then suddenly drove off through the puddles, with Jagger throwing kisses and itineraries to those who ran after him.
The night before the mid-Manhattan run-through, Jagger sat down in his hotel room for a short conversation about Ron Wood's selection:
What was more important — that the prospective guitarist please you or please Keith Richards?
He had to please me and Keith both. I can sort of tell a good guitar player, but probably Keith can tell better than me. Remember, Keith used to be the lead guitarist for the Rolling Stones.
Woody seems a natural in the respect that both he and Keith are brilliant rhythm guitarists. It allows a certain cross-trading of riffs not previously possible. They can both play solos; maybe Keith's going to have to do more solos.
What characteristics had you been looking for in a guitarist?
I wanted someone that was easy to get on with, you know, and that was a good player and was used to playing onstage [presumably the downfall of studio musician and one-time leading candidate Wayne Perkins, session player from Muscle Shoals, Alabama]. It's quite a lot to ask someone to come and do a big American tour with a band like the Stones. Not that I think the Stones are any big deal, but it tends to be a bit of a paralyzing experience for people — you know what I mean?
How about writing ability? Is that important to you?
Yeah, as a permanent thing. I've written with Woody; so's Keith. Yeah, that is nice to add.
What about vocals?
Yeah, that's good to have too. Woody can sing — a little. He'll probably say a lot about that! He can sing. He's starting to get it together; the first singing he did was his album.
Woody's personality would seem to fit the bill also . . .
Onstage he's got a lot of style. And it's got to be fun on the road. That's what it's all about, isn't it?
Were you surprised at the widespread interest and rumors this thing has generated? Or did you kind of expect it?
I guess I kind of expected it. We just had to play with a lot of people basically. It was just going to take a long time before we knew what we were going to do. So I expected after a while it was going to develop into a rumor market.
Did it take longer than you expected?
I knew it was going to be a bit of a problem actually, 'cause those things really do take time. It's not like employing a cook or something, you know what I mean? You got to have the guy. You got to like him as well as the way he plays. It's even difficult to know how he really plays. It's really hard. Ask the Average White Band. They rehearsed 1000 fucking drummers, right?
Has Woody familiarized himself with your material? Or did he already know a lot of it?
Well he does know a lot of it. I mean, yeah, that's another thing. The person has to know the music or like it — vaguely, at least. It's better to know a few of the numbers.
Rehearsal time again?
Yep. Starting Thursday [May 1st].
Highly intensely I would imagine.
First time since when?
I can't remember. Uh . . . 19 . . . I don't know. It's a long time ago. But it'll be all right.
What have you been doing with most of your time lately?
Well actually, it's funny. I've been working mostly in posters and things. Artwork. Charlie and I have been working on our artwork. Been heavily into design and stage design. Charlie and I have been working for the last two months on stage design, lights and everything. It should be nice, you know?
This is a story from the June 5, 1975 issue of Rolling Stone.