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.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Okay, what’d I do? Did I Kill Someone?

Blame by Michelle Huneven

Waking from an alcoholic blackout in jail (not for the first time), college professor Patsy MacLamoore jokingly utters these questions and is shocked when the police say yes. Apparently Patsy has run over and killed two Jehovah's Witnesses -a mother and child-in her driveway. Patsy has no memory of the event, but given her history of drinking, DWI and wild behavior, she comes to accept her role in the tragedy. Now she must answer the question how do you go on with your life knowing you have taken the lives of others. Throughout her journey - going to prison, coming to terms with her alcoholism, her attempts to make amends for her actions and to rebuild her life - she is haunted by this question. Then decades later, Patsy gets some news that again forces her to re-evaluate her life. Well written with believable characters, this novel is an interesting psychological study of guilt, blame, finding redemption and forgiveness.