Stone rocking against the clock

Ron Wood playing in Wellington in 2006. Photo / Ross Setford
Ron Wood playing in Wellington in 2006. Photo / Ross Setford

With Rod Stewart and Roger Waters proving there's still life in the old boys of rock, Stones' guitarist Ronnie Wood is also showing no signs of chucking it in. Simon Hardeman talks to the wrinkly rocker in London.

It would take more than the world's supply of Botox and collagen to repair his facial topography, he has been a member of the Rolling Stones for nearly 40 years, and is about to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, for a second time, as a member of The Faces.

At 64, Ronald David Wood is a rake-thin, chain-smoking mop-head lolling amiably on the sofa ("I've just had a hole in me foot repaired!").

Unlike Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Rod Stewart et al, what's interesting about Wood is not so much what he has done, but who he has done it with (the five above, for a start). And not just musically - there's the sex, the drugs, the rehab, the art ... and now an award-winning radio show. "I never played with Elvis," he volunteers, "but there aren't many others!" He played with Dylan for Live Aid.

"We'd been at my house for a week before, playing, and then we get on stage and he goes, 'let's play this!' It was hilarious - we played every song we hadn't rehearsed." Then Dylan broke a string. Wood gave him his own instrument and was reduced to playing air guitar to an audience of two billion.

One of his biggest challenges came in the late 80s when the Rolling Stones all but broke up. "Mick and Keith didn't want to talk to each other. I said to Mick: 'Ring Keith now! And then ring me back in 15 minutes.' If there's something good, I won't let it end."

It was, he tells me, always his ambition to join the Stones. Before he joined (for 17 years as a waged member) he helped create one of their classics, It's Only Rock'n'Roll, but seems to have had the raw end of the deal.

"I had no bargaining power 'cause Mick was helping me on a song called I Can Feel the Fire and he said, 'I tell you what - you keep I Can Feel the Fire and I'll keep It's Only Rock'n'Roll'." Wood might have joined the Stones much earlier.

"They rang up once when I was rehearsing with The Faces in Bermondsey, and Ronnie Lane picked up the phone and said, 'no, Ronnie's quite happy where he is'. Five years later, I found out ... I wasn't ready for it though, I'd have been a junkie or OD-ed or something."

Ah yes, the drugs. He has been in rehab time after time. How on earth is he still alive? "I had a kind of cut-off switch. People would be teasing you, 'come on, have some more', and I'd pretend to take the pill and throw it away. They would carry on and bloody end up in hospital but I always had the sense in the back of my mind, no matter how out of it I was, of the body's ceiling."

Others weren't so careful or lucky, like his friend, Who drummer Keith Moon, whose drug intake contributed to an early death. "I remember Keith with the Valium. "He'd give you like a handful and I'd have like a half and he'd have the whole lot!" says Wood as he takes another puff on the electronic cigarette he sucks between real gaspers.

He blames the very public collapse of his marriage to Jo in 2008, and the tabloid spreads that accompanied his turbulent relationship with the barely 20-year-old Ekaterina Ivanova, at least in part to drugs.

And so back to rehab for something like the seventh time. It's like a club where rock stars network.

He tells me about playing with "Anthony [Kiedis] and the boys from the Red Hot Chili Peppers" while he was "rehabbing it and they were recovering too", and how he got to know Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream at recovery meetings - "it's amazing the amount that are there".

Wood adores making art - he trained at Ealing College, where Pete Townshend and Freddie Mercury went and has recently been creating iPhone and iPad art. I ask to see some, and he gets excited, scanning through the galleries on his iPhone for a nude he calls "massif bum", which he emails to me.

As I leave Dorchester Hotel, I realise Ronnie Wood has sent me a naked woman. I wonder how many people can say that.

- Independent

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 17 Apr 2014 18:57:25 Processing Time: 247ms