Jo Wood, ex-wife of Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, has a new book - a personal and intimate glimpse of the wild life - which marks the Stones' first tour, 56 years ago. By Joanna Mathers.
Dressed like gypsies and vagabonds, they'd trip through the streets of Anytown, USA, in morning's early haze. Beautiful urchins accompanied them, blurry-eyed and bedraggled.
They'd wander, unnoticed, through the throngs of the commuters trudging to work. Hardly an hour of sleep between them, this is their ritual. New location, new drugs, a morning walk, then back on the plane. Troubadours of trouble, the Rolling Stones.
Keith Richards led the charge. After the show, his room was where you'd party. There was Jack Daniels and cocaine for hours, before a groggy sleep overtook whoever was left. By 7am, Richards would get itchy feet. He'd nudge and cajole the ragtag assembly: "Let's go for a walk."
"It was always the last thing we wanted to do. But we'd get up, walk around the streets of whatever city we were in. No one would come near us - we were such a mess. It was different then. No one was there taking pictures and putting them on Instagram," Jo Wood, ex-wife of Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, laughs.
No Instagram - but a camera. Wood was an avid snapper and took a camera wherever she went. On tour, on holiday, at home, there she'd be, snapping away. First, she used a Polaroid (the original instant image producer), then a "proper" camera that Ronnie bought for her.
This was the late 1970s and early 1980s. Jo was young - she partnered up with Ronnie when she was 22 and they'd be together for 30 years. She took thousands of photos of Ronnie and the Stones. On tour, films were carried in plastic bags for processing when she got home. She only went to film processors she trusted. There were things on those films you wouldn't want everyone to see. The Rolling Stones weren't known for restraint.
Years passed, things changed. Ronnie left Jo for a Russian waitress in 2008 (she was between 18 and 22, according to different media accounts) then went into rehab. He's now remarried and has two small children to Sally Humphreys, the owner of a theatre production company. She's his junior by 31 years.
Jo was left to pick up the pieces. She moved houses and boxes of her treasured photos went into storage. It was only recently that she revisited this time in her life.
"A few years ago, I took a lot of things out of storage," she explains. "There were all these photo albums. I was a bit scared of delving into them at first."
But she did and there they were. Countless hidden gems. Sepia-tinged pictures of Ronnie, Mick, Bill, Keith, Charlie and the parade of celebrities who paid them court. Brad Pitt, Kate Moss, Bob Dylan, Johnny Depp. Pictures never seen by the public.
Pictures that make up the 250-plus pages of her peon to the past, the book named Stoned.
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If you are of a certain age, sepia-tinged photos from the 1970s will speak to you of intimacy and loss. Christmas parties, relatives who have passed. The photos in Stoned have the same resonance. As you flip through, it feels like sharing a family member's treasured photo album. But instead of drunken Uncle Jim sitting on the deck chair, it's Ronnie Wood.
Jo Wood has spent the day talking to the media when I call from early morning Auckland: "Hello, New Zealand!" she enthuses, with genuine warmth.
As well as the publicity push, she's also in the middle of packing up her London home and moving to Oxfordshire. Money's a bit of a worry and she's ditching the big city.
The country skies may allow her to spot more aliens. She's had three close encounters in her life (she has a podcast called Alien Nation, in which she discusses all things extra-terrestrial). The most recent sighting was a few weeks ago: "I was flying from Spain and I saw a silver streak of light shoot into a cloud. What on earth would cause that?"
Life in the country sounds far removed from the world she discovered when she met Ronnie at a friend's party in 1978. She'd been modelling for a few years and celebrities were nothing new, so when he approached her with a "do you know who I am?" she wasn't impressed.
She told him she worked at the "broken biscuit counter" at Woolworths on Oxford St. The next day he waited outside the staff entrance with his driver, hoping to see her. After her actual work (modelling) the next day, she went back to her friend's house and he was waiting for her. His genuine interest (and the fact he wanted to date a supermarket worker) impressed her. They hit it off. He invited her to Paris. She was pregnant six weeks later.
Not one for living in the past, Wood was slightly worried before delving into her old box of pictures. "I opened it up and thought, 'Oh Jesus, what have we got here?'" she laughs.
The pictures moved her and made her realise what an incredible life she'd led with the Stones. She decided to share a few pictures and put one or two on Instagram. The was great response - and then there was more impetus.
"My son Tyrone has a friend who is a music journalist. He was over one day when I was looking through the pictures and asked what I was looking at. He looked at them and said, 'These are amazing, you need to put them in a book.' They were so familiar to me, I really didn't see them in that way."
It didn't take long for a publisher to jump on board. "We had a first publisher lined up, but I didn't like what they wanted to do with the pictures. Then Cassell came on board, and said, 'Let's do it.'"
You'd imagine it was an easy sell. Scores of unpublished, previously unseen, candid, unguarded images of the biggest rock band in the world, at their world-conquering prime.
Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall intertwined on a couch; the band relaxing together on a bed at the back of their private jet. Cigarettes shared, hotel rooms trashed, kids running wild as rock gods jam in filthy dressing rooms. The sort of pictures that would make Stones' fans and pop culture vultures salivate. Sitting in storage boxes for years; unveiled to public view for the first time.
It's a privilege, viewing such intimacy. These are personal snaps, of babies, children, weddings. Keith Richards' kohl-black eyes, embracing his daughter Angela. The moment Ronnie and Jo's son Tyrone is delivered into his mother's arms. Wood's a generous woman and this is a generous act.
"My kids are probably like, 'Oh Mum, what are you doing?' But, no really, Tyrone in particular has been incredibly supportive.
"People are used to having their lives on display now. Everything is on Instragram; people live their whole lives in public. So, it doesn't really worry me, having these pictures out there for people to see."
Yes, people's lives are on display. But was celebrity better back then? When you had the freedom to wander the streets in a shambolic posse, without being snapped by an iPhone?
"Yes, it probably was. We could do what we liked. When we went to restaurants, there may be a request for an autograph but that was about it. We were pretty free," says Wood.
While the earlier tours were typified by rock star excesses, of which Wood joyously partook, by the late 1980s the band had matured and the corporate tours tightened the rules of engagement.
In 1989, the Budweiser-sponsored Steel Wheels tour was a family affair - the Woods' four children joined by the offspring of Jagger and Richards.
There wasn't an entourage of nannies; Tyrone had a tutor but the road crew, band and partners all looked after the kids.
"They absolutely loved being on the road with us," says Wood. "We really didn't want to leave them: Tyrone was 6, Leah was 11, [Ronnie's son] Jesse was 13 and [my son] Jamie was 16. They would play with the roadies in the hotel corridors, everyone took care of each other."
The images of the children on tour are particularly poignant. Un-styled, un-posed, free from filters or art direction, the offspring of mega-stars are revealed as what they, just kids.
Jo Wood, alien believer, organic foods advocate, unsuccessful Dancing with the Stars contestant, is natural and charming and real. The unguarded nature of the photographs in Stoned reflect this.
"I'm just myself," she bubbles. "I can't be anyone else. I've never been fazed by celebrity - my dad was an architectural model maker; I can remember him meeting the queen. I just treat everyone the same."
While the Rolling Stones journey has ended for her, the sense of adventure is still intact. She spent a month on an island in the Pacific for a television show with Bear Grylls. People find it hard to keep up with her.
But she's found new love (Oxford University rugby coach, Carl Douglas) and she's got her book out. The future is what she's focused on.
"Maybe there will be another book? I don't know. There are thousands of other photographs in boxes, so we will see. Or maybe I will meet an alien!"
* Stoned, by Jo Wood (Cassell, RRP $40) is available at bookshops from November