At the office, we chatted awhile. Richard was voluble about the Toronto situation (he was arrested by Canadian officials and charged with possession of one ounce of heroin) which he said was blown out of proportion as much by botched PR as anything. He spoke of the tremendous amount of material that had to be sifted through to come up with the right takes for the album, and the ongoing mix sessions. "Atlantic's a good studio," he said, "once you get past the idea that what you hear on the monitors isn't the sound you're actually getting." As Keith talked Wood roamed around the room, walking on the furniture, performing mild practical jokes, teasing, blustering, the life of the continuous party he and Richard have made of life. His newest trick was exhibiting his son, Jesse James, nearly a year old, which he did with paternal pride so typical it seemed odd.
A half-hour later, Marshall Chess (former head of the Stones' record label) walked in unexpectedly. He and Keith made for an empty office to have a chat. Woody and I wandered down the hall to a spacious conference room.
Dressed in a multicolored silk shirt (the top few buttons undone for chest exposure) and tight black pants, with a set of leather bags slung around his neck, this rock & roll vagabond was the world's least likely proud pop. But Jesse was our opening topic. He spoke of how a newborn child changes every day, how much he misses the baby and Chrissie when his gypsy lifestyle takes him away, how the arrival of the baby has brought their marriage closer together. And with real feeling he acknowledged why Jesse was so important to him. "I think every rock & roller needs that extra bit of responsibility," he said. "I know that Mick and Keith say they've both felt it."
Soon, it was time for additional supplies of rum and Coke, the drink of the day. Wood likes to tell stories in bursts, punctuated by confidential giggles and grins, mugging, wry asides and broadly comic irony. When the talk turned to old friends, I asked if he had seen much of his Faces and Jeff Beck crony, Rod Stewart, while both were living around Los Angeles.
"I was there not long ago," he said. "We had quite a nice time – it was a bit like the old days. Rod and I know each other so well, it was easy for us to be natural with one another...at least, after he told Britt [Ekland] to get out of the room." This last, delivered with a sly grin, was only half a joke. For even more than Wood joining the Stones, it was the friction brought on by Ekland's arrival and Stewart's consequent estrangement from the other Faces that really broke up that band.
"I'm sort of a guinea pig for Rod, you know," Woody said with a conspiratorial wink. "He watched me get married and that seemed to work out. So now there's Britt. [This was before the couple's split-up.] Now I've got a kid, and we'll see what effect that has on him.
"It's amazing, you know. People are always mistaking me for Rod, even though we don't really look that much alike. The other day, Mick and I were walking down the street and we got stopped." He drops into an impression of an awe-struck passer-by."'Are you...ROD STEWART?' The great thing about it, of course, was that no one even recognized Mick. He loved that." More giggles and time for more drinks.
There are special problems involved in interviewing a person whose attention span is limited, particularly in an environment where distractions are ready-made and ubiquitous. Sometimes, talking to Ron Wood, that seems to be any environment which contains guitars, women, music, drink, telephones, food, radios, televisions or anything else that can be consumed or performed. On this occasion the intervening forces were human. People kept entering the room – a couple of the folks Ron and Keith arrived with sat and listened for a few moments; someone else who wanted to know if we needed more drinks (of course); Chess popped in to say goodbye, Richard to make sure all was going well.
Then a really odd character walked in – thirtyish, wearing a business suit and a look of mild but potentially eternal distress. It became apparent that he was a lawyer or an accountant, charged with helping extricate Woody from his Warner Bros. solo contract.
By mutual agreement, I did not use a tape recorder, and the business type obviously wasn't aware that I was a journalist. That amused Woody enough to let the tableau play itself out for a bit before filling the businessman in.
He blushed. "Well, maybe we'd better talk . . . alone."
"Right." False confidentiality is one of Woody's favorite targets. "You'll excuse me for a moment, won't you, Dave?" Cracking up, he headed off down the hall.
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