Ron Wood: Rolling Stones Are Born, Not Made

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It was mid-September by that time. Woody was staying in New York at the Plaza. "We're gradually getting back into more and more hotels," he said. "People are gradually letting me back in and forgetting I ever used to be with the Faces. Like the proprietor of the Beverly Hills Hotel, for instance."

Woody's room at the Plaza was small and incredibly crowded, with cassettes overflowing the dressers and a dinner tray, nearly blocking access to the room. So we adjourned to the always fashionable Oyster Bar. The bartenders were not exactly sure what to make of a rooster-haired young man with a blue silk print shirt wide open, exposing a white T-shirt with a picture of a Jamaican child, blue trousers and platform boots. The tourist clientele was even less certain, but we picked a corner to talk anyway.

A solo recording deal with CBS was set though not yet signed, Ronnie said. Why not record for the Stones' label? "It seems the obvious thing to do, I guess, but we decided that in the long run it's not good for either the Stones or myself. It's potentially confusing. Also, being with CBS gives us, through me, another company working for us."

Well, then, what about the third solo album? "Well, it means I'll probably do one after all," he laughed. "I' ve got loads of ideas, and I'm gonna pick a good producer. This time I'm giving up the old back-room sound. I still want to treat it as an enjoyable side trip, but this time it should be more lucrative. You might as well make it... Besides, I gotta look after Jesse, you know. I'll be making solo albums to pay for Jesse's school fees."

The Stones were in town, all together for the first time since their last live date to make an appearance at a party the next day at Trax, in honor of the release of Love You Live. It was another step toward complete integration into the band for Woody: on the '75 tour, he often sounded tentative, a bit unsure of himself, though when he and Keith clicked together, they were thoroughly impressive. Black and Blue featured Ronnie's picture prominently on the covet, but not much of him inside – he appeared mostly as a bassist or backing vocalist. Love You Live begins to arrive at the Wood-Richard version of the Rolling Stones sound: less distanced than the Taylor-Richard era, more rock & roll than late Brian Jones-Keith Richard music and more funk-oriented, rather than blues, than either. The differences are subtle, but they count for something. The sound is updated.

Still, listening to Ron Wood talk I don't think about sounds, modern or otherwise. He tells a few stories, mentions some recent experiences. Going to a Crickets benefit performance sponsored by Paul McCartney in London the weekend before, "with Mick and Eric." Making a videotape congratulating Linda McCartney on the birth of her son: "'Congratulations on James,' I said. 'This is the serious part of the video.' Then Mick came on: 'Linda, I'll be at the Navarro [Hotel] in Room 1235.' Imagine her in her hospital bed, gettin' this you know?" Speaking with Eric Clapton by telephone the night before, and remarking how much he liked the new Clapton album. And how much he liked the re-formed Small Faces, particularly since they'd added Jimmy McCulloch on guitar. "Mac [Ian McLagan] and Steve [Marriott] rang me up a couple of hours before I left home. Marriott said, 'Wood, either you be over here in thirty minutes or I'll be over there in thirty-five.'"

Which was not name-dropping, but simply news from the community in which Ron Wood lives. To say that Ron Wood is not one of the new breed, but the last of the old may be underestimating it. What he really is, the evidence seems to say, is a transitional figure in pop stardom. Functioning smoothly in a high-pressure group like the Rolling Stones, hanging out, remaining unaffected by it all – there's no one who knows him who would say he is different as a Rolling Stone than when he was scuffling with the Faces. He's a reassurance, I think. That talent does not necessarily imply self-imposed isolation and studied arrogance. That rock is still made, even at the highest levels, within a context of friends and neighbors who mean something special to one another. That the boredom and the tabloid headlines are all worth it, not because the money's great but because given the choice, it's what almost anyone of our generation would do with his time.

"It has something to do with luck," he said, explaining how he wound up drinking in the Oyster Bar as a Rolling Stone rather than managing a pub in Cheswick like his brother Ted. "Yeah, and after a while, you have to realize it has something to do with talent, too. I mean, I have to realize that. I suppose I tried for years and years and it finally paid off. I think the best thing is starting, not wanting anything particularly but hoping one day that you'd make it."

And what did making it mean?

"At that point, I suppose making it meant being in the Stones, or a band that could make $300 a night. Being in such demand, you know." And he laughed once again.

This story is from the November 3rd, 1977 issue of Rolling Stone.

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