Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Lies of Ron Wood

What’s this, Christina is reviewing Ronnie by Ron Wood, a music biography and not something that is art related? Well surprise, besides being a musician, Ron Wood has also had some success as an artist, so I have remained true to my art theme. The next question you may have is what is my tagline all about and what are these lies? Well, just to keep this blog from becoming War and Peace, I’ll only discuss two lies. Let me give you a little background first regarding this lively, light autobiography from a member of one of the greatest rock and roll groups of all time, the Rolling Stones.

The Rolling Stones have always fascinated me so I try to read as many books as I can on them. Ron Wood has never been one of my favorites but when I heard that he was a talented artist with his work having been exhibited in several galleries, I decided to give his autobiography a try. If you are interested in the later period of the Rolling Stones, the mid 1970s to the present, this book is great fun as Wood recounts the shenanigans and antics of the group as they struggle to find themselves after reaching the zenith of their success in the early seventies with such albums as Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street, only to crash and burn due to substance abuse issues and subpar records. After their blues virtuoso guitarist, Mick Taylor, left the band in 1974, Ron Wood was hired in 1975 as a replacement. Wood seemed perfect and the group reinvented themselves with some fresh sounds and made a comeback in 1978 with the album Some Girls, which contained several songs that topped the charts.

I found the best part of this book to be about Ron Wood's childhood and how he developed his love for music and art. It turns out that his ancestors were water gypsies who had lived and worked on barges in the rivers and canals in England. The arts were highly valued by the Wood family, his parents were artistically talented and both of his brothers were also artists and musicians. I also enjoyed reading about Wood's experiences with his early rock groups, The Birds (The British band, not the American group, The Byrds), the Jeff Beck Group, and the Faces because not much has been written about those bands.

The book bogs down a bit as Wood recounts episode after episode of his excesses involving drugs and alcohol. It is truly amazing that this man is still alive, he and Keith Richards are like the Frankenstein monster. At least Keith Richards appears to have cleaned up his act. The latest news (December 2009) regarding Ron Wood is that he left his wife of 23 years for a woman who is only 20 years old. There were also reports of his returning to rehab after more bouts with substance abuse. This news is a real shame as by the time you get to the end of the autobiography, it seems that Wood had finally gotten it together.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I now present the lies of Ron Wood:

Lie #1 - Mr. Wood states that he was asked by the manager of the Yardbirds, Peter Grant, to form a new group that would be known as Led Zeppelin. Wood says that he turned down the offer which led to Grant hiring Jimmy Page. Meanwhile, the truth of the matter is that Led Zeppelin was Jimmy Page's idea from day one. He was the guitarist for the Yardbirds and when that group disbanded, Page decided to form the New Yardbirds which became Led Zeppelin. This is an accepted fact, so Wood's story is simply perplexing.

Lie #2 - Mr. Wood states that he was the Rolling Stones' first choice to replace Brian Jones (a founding member with multi-instrumentalist capabilities, he could play the guitar, harmonica, piano, sitar, dulcimer, marimbas, recorder, mellotron, and more, it actually would have taken 10 people to have replaced him!) in 1969. He says that Mick Jagger called to ask him to join the Stones but Ronnie Lane, his bandmate in The Faces, had answered the phone and not wanting to lose a vital member of his band, told Jagger that Wood wouldn't be interested. I have read several books about the Rolling Stones and none of them say anything about this story. All of them are in consensus that Mick Taylor was the one and only choice to replace Jones.

In conclusion, if you're interested in the rock and roll world, this book is a breezy romp, an enjoyable light read as long as you take Wood's stories with a grain of salt. If you are interested in some better books about the Rolling Stones and their world, I highly recommend Stone Alone by Bill Wyman, The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones by Stanley Booth, Altamont: Death of Innocence in the Woodstock Nation by Jonathan Eisen, S.T.P: A Journey Through America With the Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield, and Faithfull by Marianne Faithfull.

2 comments:

Sachs said...

Sorry, I know that is a very old topic. But now I'm rereading the book, and looked for some review and opinions of others about the book.

Sorry, but what do you mean as "the most recent period of the Stones." The Stones started at 62, Ronnie came in 74.
They are TWELVE years without Ronnie and amaze you, 38 years WITH Ronnie. Almost 4 times more.

How then would be "the most recent period"?

I will only say in this, because I was not interested in reading the rest of what you wrote.

Regards.

Christina said...

Hi Sachs, I'll clarify what I meant by "most recent period of the Stones". Many Stones fans divide their career into three periods - The Brian Jones Era, The Mick Taylor Era, and the Ron Wood Era. So in terms of these stages, the Ron Wood period is the most recent era. In terms of quality, in my opinion (music is very subjective so please don't take offense) those first twelve years are the most important as their best and most creative albums came our during that period. Their output suffered tremendously after 1980 and there are many people who feel that they should have retired in the 1980s. So yes, you are right that Ronnie has been with the Stones for many, many years. But unfortunately, he wasn't there for the prime years.