Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ron Wood - Ronnie, the Autobiography

I’ve wanted this book for a while and finally got a copy (thanks, Jorg!). I’ve been a fan of Woody’s since the days of the Faces and subsequently discovered his many other endeavors and have always been impressed by his style and skill. This is his autobiography and he writes in a casual, easy-to-read and entertaining fashion.

Of course, he starts with his childhood and his musical (and alcohol-fueled) family, including brothers Ted and Art, the latter who played with Blues Incorporated, who practically started the blues phenomenon in England and later formed the Art Woods. Woody started early and formed the Birds while still a mid-teen. This is especially admirable considering the quality of his songwriting at this time.

From here he moved to the bass in order to join the Jeff Beck Group along with Rod Stewart, who he had already become friends with. This band toured America several times and was managed by Peter Grant. Ronnie includes an extremely bizarre anecdote in which he claims that Peter put together the “New Yardbirds” (later Led Zeppelin) and asked him to play guitar! Of course, in everyone else’s reality Page put together the band and this is so well known that it seems odd that the editor let Woody leave this story in the book.

I thought that he was skipping his time with the Creation, but it turns out that he only played guitar with them for one tour while he was out of Beck’s group for a short time. I always assumed that the Jeff Beck Group was much later than the Creation, but so many of these bands overlapped times and styles that it is hard to keep track.

Of course, from there he formed the legendary Faces with Rod and the remaining Small Faces (after Steve Marriott left the band to form Humble Pie) and eventually joined the Rolling Stones.
I’m more interested in his early days, but by now he has spent probably 3 times longer in the Stones than in all of the other bands combined, which is why so much of the book concentrates on the more recent times.

Funnily enough, his chronicle becomes less interesting after he joins the Stones. Sure, he has money problems (mostly due to bad decisions), housing problems, drug and alcohol problems, and a concurrent art career, but none of this is told quite as compellingly as his youthful days.

Still, Ronnie seems charming and likable and this is a casual, fun read telling us his life story to date. Definitely recommended for lovers of 60's and 70's r'n'r.