Stone Face: Ronnie Wood on Keef, Clapton, Rod and the Booze. Part Two

The second installment from the Jack archive finds Wood talking about his booze battles, how Mick Jagger is a nicer guy and what Keith Richards does with seawater.
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Why do you think you’ve survived?

I think I’ve got this value that stopped me from having a blackout. I’ve never had a blackout, which I found was quite common with people in recovery. They totally don’t remember driving, but I would never drive. I did it in the early days when I was young and mad, but people know they shouldn’t drink and drive and it’s a simple rule.. but they still do it.

Did any of the band say to you, ‘Do you want to take a bit of time out?’

Yeah, Mick was saying, “I’m your mate, I want you to keep your health and I don’t think you can do the next tour the way you’re carrying on.” And I’m going, “Well I think you’re dead right and I don’t think I can either, I think it would be ridiculous.” Him just saying, “Well why don’t you just help yourself.” That’s all I needed a little support and my kids saying please do it dad. You have to be ready to accept it and give it your best shot.

Do you still see Jimmy White?

Yeah, he’s very admiring of what I’m doing and he says, “I’ve been clean, man, for a month.” And I say, “Go on, my son!” He says he wants to come out and see us and bring Ronnie O’Sullivan. I look forward to seeing him, he’s a good mate.

When I was at Loaded I went down the pub with him and he was brilliant, so I put him on the cover, there wasn’t a tournament or anything…

I’ve got that Loaded with that cover in my snooker room in Kingston, above the light. I went round Jimmy’s flat about a year ago and he gave me it. The only other picture above his fireplace is that scene out of Pink Panther where Sellers rips the cloth with the bent cue. That’s the only one he had and he said you can have that one.

I heard his brother died and they all took him out on the town. Did you go on that?

No. They took him out, got him all dressed up and had him back in the morgue by the morning. They gave him a big party. The morgue he was in found all the evidence that it had been broken into and found a load of beer cans and nothing missing, no damage done. Jimmy said, “It was what he would have wanted, he did just go and fucking die on us.” They couldn’t leave him without seeing him again.

Is it true you’ve got a pub in your house?

Yeah, always did, I still do. Other people drink! I collect white wines and stuff.

It was inspiring watching you last night and thinking, ‘He’s doing this straight’. Like when Tony Adams went on after he quit.

And Ronnie O’Sullivan when he quit and went on to win the World Championship. I’m still finding it quite hard to walk past an open bottle…

How do you fill your time now?

Well, I still love sleeping in late and going to bed late. I got up about 1.30pm, went out on the beach and had a good day.

Well, it used to be like that before AIDS came along. That’s the other thing that tore the arse out of the groupies and the stuff that would go on, you know.

Do you read?

Yeah, I got into reading a lot more. Keith gave me this book called The Floating Brothel. It’s about 1788 when all the first convicts were transported to Botany Bay with all the whores on the boats to set up the first colonies. Very interesting book, about the old ships, the filth, the scurvy, the disease. God, it makes you feel lucky. Every time I look out to sea I think of this book. It was just these convicts who were done for nicking a yard of linen and suddenly they were sent to Australia. But they were dumped there and had to find food and there were cannibals at the time and it was very hard for them, setting up in the early days, growing crops, finding a partner that didn’t have the clap or some kind of disease.

I suppose it’s a bit like being in a band!

Well, it used to be like that before AIDS came along. That’s the other thing that tore the arse out of the groupies and the stuff that would go on, you know.

I was looking in the audience last night…

There’s a good range.

There’s the executive bloke who’s brought a girl with big tits, and some amazing looking women, maybe in their forties. There was a row of four of them and I just thought, ‘Are they ex-girlfriends, one night stands or Royalty?’

And some young ones too… at least three generations of good looking chicks there.

But it’s like a women’s gig, isn’t it? Them dancing and getting down doing their thing.

I’m glad you noticed. There were lots of guys last night going, “Do you like her tits?” I was telling Mick, “Look over there – there are guys over there showing me their girlfriends’ tits.” And he was like, “Where? Where?”

Can you hear and talk to each other when you’re onstage? What do you say to each other?

Yeah, well you can’t say too much, but Keith comes up and says, “I love you”, or “I fucking hate you”, or whatever. If someone makes a mistake then Charlie notices or Mick notices and he’s like, “What the fuck was that?”

Who decides what you all wear on stage?

We all do, individually.

If someone walked on halfway through in a bowler hat or something, would they get laughed at? Or is it a communal thing you just know?

You’d get laughed at. They’d say, “You look like an arsehole, take that off.” Especially Keith. I wind him up. I’ll put something brown on. He thinks it’s the vilest colour. But most of the time it’s just jeans and a t-shirt and the odd coat. And a support round the ankle, when I’m standing all the time, from my old car crash ten years ago. In cold weather it still comes back.

A mate of mine, we used to work on the NME together, said: ‘Ask him about the car crash.’ I said, ‘What car crash?’ He said, ‘I only remember it because I wrote the headline in the NME – “Ronnie Legless Again!” What happened, you were on a motorway…

We were coming back from Jo’s dad’s funeral. It was a rotten week, over-tired and just spun out in the wet, in the night, in the fast lane. Broadside on the motorway after going into the central bit and we were going round and round. I had the kids in the back and I could see the traffic behind me. So I got out. One car broadsided next to us in the fast lane and I saw the headlights full on and thought, “This is it!” So I jumped over the bonnet of our car and it smacked our car into the other car, but it just clipped my ankles between the cars. So I broke this bone once and this one twice, but I got away with a lot.

I was on the rum, there were 16 crew members on this boat and I was giving them all lessons in how to drink the proper Navy rum. I must have done a couple of bottles and got alcohol poisoning.

And his other question was do you and Keith still dye and cut each other’s hair?

I cut my own. I think Caroline does his. I have a trim every now and again from a good hairdresser… Kate Moss says, “I’ll send someone over.” That bloke with the same name as yours.

What do you do for holidays?

I went to the Virgin Islands with Keith a couple of years ago. We took our families. We rented a boat and went round all the islands, and Drake’s Passage. We were drinking. I was on the rum, there were 16 crew members on this boat and I was giving them all lessons in how to drink the proper Navy rum. I must have done a couple of bottles and got alcohol poisoning. I’ve only had that a couple of times in my life.

What sort of boat was it? Did it have sails?

It was a big old boat, 150ft. Yes, it sailed and motored. The captain, we found out later, wasn’t properly qualified and we nearly hit a reef because we were in big 30ft waves at one point, in a storm.

What did it look like, the boat?

Well, I don’t remember too much about it. Luxurious it was. Spent most of the holiday in bed, not even being able to look at a glass of water. I just ruined myself. Then I did it again in Hawaii. Shep Cooper, who used to manage Alice Cooper, he runs his own tequila company now, in blue bottles. He sent me a case and I drank a couple of bottles and got fucking alcohol poisoning again. Things like that I don’t really miss. As we say there’s a difference between scratching your arse and tearing it to pieces. Still get a buzz, thinking of those stories.

But you can’t live in the past, you’ve got to live for today…

And you can’t live in the future, gotta live for today and take it as it comes and hope it all gets better.

How many pairs of pants do you get through on a tour?

Wardrobe have at least three pairs of jeans.

No, undies?

Er… I have about ten pairs that get recycled all the time and I have favourite pairs of underpants.

Do you wear them on stage?

Favourites, that fit. Otherwise they pull your arse cheeks together too tight.

Is there anything you wished you’d done more of in your life?

I’d like to play some more pedal steel, got to do a lot more painting. I’m having exhibitions all over the place, got a big one in LA. I’ve got such a lot of work from over the years, my exhibitions are getting interesting now… bits are turning up that I’d forgotten I did from the Sixties. It’s good to get a full body of work instead of just portraits of band members and stuff. I do landscapes and paint horses and buildings.

Do you bring your equipment on tour?

I have an art trunk. I was going to do a view from every hotel. I did Boston, Philly, Chicago, but since then it’s been a bit mad and I’ve done a few one nighters where I haven’t had a chance to. But I will get back into it.

Who are your favourite painters?

Well, many over the years. I was at a gallery in Toronto and they opened up and took us down to the sealed chambers underneath, the vaults. And there were Rembrandts, Picassos, Matisse, Rodin – lots of his sculptures – and Gaugin. I suppose I was a big Impressionist fan and I loved Toulouse Lautrec. I have such a broad range and appreciation for different styles of painters, and etchers. My favourite medium is oil painting and that is hard to take on the road because it takes so long to dry. I’m looking forward to take some time off to do some oils.

We’re still pioneering. It’s better than ever, instead of settling into medleys or seasons in Vegas or whatever. It’s still a proper touring band.

Where do you go and paint?

I’ve got a studio at my house in England, Kingston. And one near Dublin.

Have you seen the film Lust For Life?

About Van Gogh? Yeah, saw that a few weeks ago. That’s Van Gogh and Gaugin arguing all the time? Didn’t he go off to Polynesia –Tahiti or somewhere?

Does anything surprise you anymore when you’re playing?

Yeah, there’s a very thin line between a whole number crumbling and it going well. You have to keep on top of it.

What about the other Stones off-stage. Do they ever do anything to surprise you? You’ve been together for decades…

Well, Mick’s got nicer, he’s a much nicer bloke now. He’s not this bunch of guys that he used to be.

Why do you think that is?

I think that’s because he got himself together and Charlie has too, he did it on his own which I’ve always admired. Keith’s the same, he’s still very funny. That we’re all such different personalities is maybe why we’ve lasted so long.

I was watching you play live and there really isn’t anyone else. I felt like I was watching history. It’s like you’re blessed.

We’re still pioneering. It’s better than ever, instead of settling into medleys or seasons in Vegas or whatever. It’s still a proper touring band.

I wonder if those blokes outside (bongo players in the hotel gardens) know they’re playing to The Rolling Stones?

Yeah, you can bet they do. We’ve been here a few days now. Keith’s got his skull flag flying out there on the other side. He was out there earlier. We were on the beach and we rang him, “Are you coming down?” He said, “No, I don’t think I’ll make it down but can you bring us a bucketful of seawater up?” So we did.

There was one interview I was reading and he was still talking about being on the drugs. He doesn’t give a fuck does he?

Haha. He was very interested when he found out I was doing an interview. When I went up and gave him the bucket of water, I said, “I’m going to do an interview now.” He said, “Who with? What’s it for?” He was out on the balcony but it’s unusual to see him on the beach.

I can’t imagine a Rolling Stone sunbathing. What did he want the seawater for?

His nose.

Click here to read part one of Ronnie Wood on Keef, Clapton, Rod and The Booze

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