Monday 11 December 2017

Life lessons with Ronnie Wood

Ronnie Wood now lives in Clane.
Ronnie Wood now lives in Clane.
Keeping him young: Ronnie Wood and his wife, Sally.

Andy Welch

Ronald David 'Ronnie' Wood (68) is notorious for his years of hellraising with the Rolling Stones, but these days he prefers an evening binge-watching House of Cards.

Raised by a family of 'water gypsies' who operated canal barges, Wood grew up on a council estate in London, and carved out an early music career in a number of different bands, playing first with The Birds, and later with his friend Rod Stewart in The Faces.

He played his first concert with the Rolling Stones on the night of his 28th birthday in 1975, and has been with them ever since.

Wood has collaborated with everyone from Bob Dylan to U2 to Aretha Franklin, and in a new book, he revisits his lost tour diary from the 1960s.

The veteran rocker - who has a home in Clane, Co. Kildare - has four children: son Jesse (38) with first wife, the late Krissy Findlay, daughter Leah (36) and son Tyrone (32) with second wife Jo, whose son, Jamie (40), he also adopted. After a tempestuous 26-year marriage, he divorced Jo in 2009. He married theatre producer Sally Humphreys (37) in 2012:

I always knew, even when I was in The Birds, that I was going to be in The Rolling Stones. I was going to be in that band one way or another, and I would broadcast the fact. I thought it looked like a good job, and it turns out that it is. It goes to show you can set your sights on something and get it, if you think big and put in the work.

I remember one time when we were all piled in the van on top of each other and all the gear, and it was rough. But it meant we knew each other inside out. There was back-biting and arguing, being that hemmed in, and situations would come up that no one would normally have to deal with.

The Rolling Stones were going through the same thing, too. Even though we travel a lot more luxuriously than that these days, that grounding means we can all deal with all sorts of situations.

Rehearsing in a garage, getting in the gig wagon and playing hundreds of shows, that's what it's all about. More young bands should try it.

I feel sorry for some of the younger bands nowadays who suddenly have to be on the X Factor or something. They don't have any breaking ground to cut their teeth. We had the gig wagon and rehearsing in a mate's garage, treading the boards and doing the circuit. But I don't know if new bands get exposed to as much of it as we did.

I used to keep a diary quite diligently. I'd lost it until recently and forgotten all the details, until I went back through and it all came flooding back. It's the diary of a 17-year-old rock and roller.

Mum used to keep everything of ours, school work, the works, but lots of it was stolen years ago. Fortunately, this diary survived and my brothers had it. The diary is like an old friend, it was all familiar enough. I go back in time when I read it.

With drugs, I had a kind of cut-off switch. People would be teasing you, "come on, have some more", and I'd pretend to take the pill and throw it away. They would carry on and bloody end up in hospital but I always had the sense in the back of my mind, no matter how out of it I was, of the body's ceiling.

Even in the depth of my using, I knew I'd never cross over a certain line. But then, suddenly, nothing worked anymore. The drink and the drugs started to backfire on me and I'd get in these really bad moods. I became a real pain in the arse. I was forever telling my best friends to 'f*** off' and so on. It wasn't good. Something had to change, so I went back to rehab.

Being on tour jet-lags you. You wake up every night about 9pm, just at the time when you would be going on stage. So now, instead, we watch 19 murder mysteries in a row.

We watch loads of box sets on the road. Even with (Mick) Jagger, I go, "Let's go and watch House of Cards." And he told us about Game of Thrones. We had to send someone out at four in the morning when we were in Shanghai to get us the next series.

People think I black up me hair, but I don't. It's my old gypsy genes that keep it so black. I still wear girls' 27-waist jeans, too. Even through all the drinking and the drug days, I stayed like a stick, with hardly a morsel of flesh on me. Just big enough to hold up a guitar, you know.

Since I sobered up, my body's in even better nick. I feel younger and look better. My new wife also keeps me young.

The tabloids tried to make a big deal out of my marriage split, but they couldn't dig up any dirt on Sally. She's a proper girl, Sally; a good working girl with her theatre work and so on. It's been fantastic, being with her. We've had such a great adventure together. And I'm still very good friends with Jo. We bump into her quite often. She gets on very well with Sally, so I'm very fortunate.

I'm happier now than I've ever been, with Sally. One regret I have is that I can't remember what a lot of my girlfriends looked like years ago. I don't regret the drinking - I drank for Britain for 50 years, 'til I got sober five years ago - that was a learning curve I had to go through, but not remembering the wonderful girls is a regret. But it's amazing all this happened 50 years ago. It feels like yesterday.

'How Can It Be? A Rock & Roll Diary' by Ronnie Wood is out now

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