Ron Wood: Not Just Another Pretty Face
LOS ANGELES — I’ve Got My Own Album To Do is a good title for Ron Wood’s first solo album: It fits his sly, impish look, and besides, it was suggested by no less than Mick Jagger, who had his own album to do.
Ron Wood, of course, is the Faces‘ guitarist, has been for the past five years; before that he played bass behind Jeff Beck. He’s cowritten Faces songs with Ronnie Lane and Rod Stewart, coproduced Faces albums and worked on Stewart’s solo efforts, but now he’s taking sole musical responsibility. Well, almost.
Wood’s album features Jagger and Keith Richards (with a few songs by them as well), plus Rolling Stone Mick Taylor, Ian MacLagan (keyboard player with the Faces), drummer Andy Newmark (from Sly Stone’s old band) and Willie Weeks, bassist formerly working behind Donny Hathaway and Aretha Franklin. It was recorded in Wood’s eight-track basement studio, under the house once owned by actor John Mills. “Little Hayley grew up there,” Wood said, grinning.
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Making the album was “controlled madness,” Wood said, but it doesn’t come through on the vinyl. One or two tracks are pleasant, notably the Jagger/Richard tune, “Sure the One You Need,” which might be the single, and “Crotch Music,” written by Weeks, an unassuming instrumental. But “Far East Man,” by George Harrison and Wood, is a pale reprint of that familiar Harrison Eastern theme, and the real low point is “If You’ve Got To Make a Fool of Somebody,” which doesn’t come within shouting distance of the James Ray original.
Still, the album marks a step forward for Wood, who for several years has been in the near background of the indomitable Rod Stewart. “If the songs aren’t up to scratch, it was only me to blame,” Wood said. He sat hunched forward in a little chair on the hotel patio, wearing white jeans and a colorful shirt tied around his waist calypso fashion. His hair seemed to sprout straight up, and he’s so thin his belt buckle seemed to weigh him down. Earlier, David Bowie had wandered in to say hello, rendering everyone else in the room speechless with awe or fear; Wood was infinitely more comfortable.
“When the Faces were in Australia and Japan,” he said, launching into his story, “we had lots of time to ourselves and began gathering all the ideas that I’d put down over the years as my own songs. At the time I laid them down I didn’t think of anything in particular, whether it was Faces, Rod or the film music I did with Ronnie Lane [for a movie called Mahoney’s Estate, due late this year]. So I itemized all these ideas and found that if I didn’t do something with them they’d never see the light of day.”
Though Wood has often contributed music to Faces songs, this album is his first wholehearted attempt at lyrics. “Writing songs is a definite art. I’d always left the words to Rod,” he said, with a small shrug. “Rod’s words will continue to be the main thing for Faces,” he added, but some of the songs on Wood’s album fit the Faces easily, like “Take a Look at the Guy” and “Am I Grooving You.”
After the album was finished, Wood and Stewart and Keith Richard, plus Weeks, Newmark and MacLagan, did two gigs at Kilburn States Theatre in London which “Knocked me out. We would all have gone off on tour together right then,” including Richard, but there were other commitments – like a Faces tour of England and Europe currently underway. “We only had four day’s rehearsal for the gig. I had no time to learn the words, so I’d make up lines as I felt.
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“I hope that by getting my rocks off in this way the change is as good as a rest. It’s all the same pattern – the Clapton Rainbow concert improved me; so did my live concert and the whole making of the album. I learned so much about mastering and mixing, which I’ve never really got that much into; because there were always five of us, you could pass the buck.” Wood coproduced his album with Gary Kellgren, owner of the Record Plant recording studios in Los Angeles and Sausalito. “He came to my basement studio and in return I went to his really deluxe studio in Sausalito to mix.”
Wood hopes to do his solo tour after the Faces visit the States early in ’75, but it’s still tentative, and he’s not sure who would be playing with him then.
Wood was traveling with his wife, Chris, which may or may not explain his calm, uncrazed demeanor. “There was a time when we were madmen,” he said, smiling. “We’d loot and pillage every time, but now I feel a bit ashamed of some of those things. I’m basically cautious; I only let it rip when I’ve got the other boys behind me.”
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This story is from the October 24th, 1974 issue of Rolling Stone.