The darker parts of Ronnie Wood’s life read like a long list of things you shouldn’t do. (latest interview to The Telegraph)
In Hollywood he freebased cocaine; he was rescued off the coast of Rio de Janeiro from a burning boat ahead of a Stones concert on Copacabana beach; in the Caribbean he was almost implicated in a serious cocaine bust, and on more than one occasion he’s had to jump out of the way of Keith Richards firing his handgun.
Many of his friends, including Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon, Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins and Amy Winehouse, were killed by drugs and drink, his good mate John Lennon was murdered, and longtime pals David Bowie and George Harrison died from cancer. And yet, despite a life of extreme rock’n’roll excess, Wood has just turned 73 years old, is still going strong,
‘Ha ha ha, well, I got clean! My life’s better now.’ Were you ready to clean up? ‘Yes I was. I don’t have any bitterness or anger. I’m wiser now; I had a great time and I still do, but in a different way.’
‘This is my morning face, my morning energy.’ Only a man who has spent a lifetime of nights playing live music to millions would think that 3pm is morning. Life flashes past you when you’re having a good time, and… ‘I’ve had a very, very good time,’ he finishes in laughter.
He’s not the only one in his family noticing the passage of time, though. ‘When I told the girls they wouldn’t be three ever again they just…’ and he tightens his fists into his eyes and pretends to bawl.
‘The studio is a mile from my house, so I get exercise walking here and back,’ he says. ‘Sometimes Sally can tell I’m itching to paint and just tells me to get down here. I’ve got two workers’ cottages and I’ve built this extension on the back of one for painting. I also paint in Barcelona and Ireland [where he owns second homes].’
He has nine grandchildren and six children of his own from three marriages, his eldest Jesse, 43, with model Krissy Findlay, was named after the outlaw Jesse James. He had adopted Jamie, the son of second wife Jo Karslake, before the couple had Leah, now 41, and Tyrone, 36, and now he has Gracie and Alice. Does he see anything of himself in the twins?
‘There’s a bit of the wildness and the chaos with the girls. They both like to paint. When I decided to do these set lists before we go on stage, I didn’t want to bring oil paint or pastels because it would be too much messing about. So I have felt-tip pens and the girls love to pick them up and draw. Gracie in particular really likes to create. She’s got a very musical ear, too. She’s got a lot of my genes. Like her dad, she’s drawn to and tempted by the things you shouldn’t do.’
Do the older kids see the twins?
‘Well, with the lockdown they can’t, but when they do see each other they all love it and get on.’ Given his status, in a world where drugs and drink were often seen as being as creative as they were destructive, and his overt using in and around his home, how did he set boundaries as a father for the older children? Was he ever concerned it might encourage them to dabble?
‘Well, yes, but I had to talk with my boy Ty and admit that I had lied a lot about my using and behaviour, and he said, “Dad, I don’t want to hear this.” I’d rather just be honest and if they do go and experiment I hope they’d get to a point where they said, “OK, that’s that, I don’t want to do that any more.’’’
Is there anything, looking back, that you regret doing?
‘I know there were times when I could have been a bit more careful. There were close calls and I suppose if I’d been using my brain properly they wouldn’t have been so close. There were times over the years when Jimmy White [the snooker player]and I were up all night partying in London when I had to go straight into being Dad at breakfast.’
Despite loving music, his own father only saw Wood play a handful of times. Once in 1982 from the side of the stage at Wembley Stadium in his mid-70s.
‘He was dancing in his wheelchair, singing along, partying with Michael Caine. He was having the time of his life.’ What did he say to you afterwards? ‘I love you, Kid. He used to call me Kid a lot. That was a big thing for him to say because although we were a physically close family we weren’t really open like that… He was proud of me, he’d call me “Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones”.’
Has Ronnie ever asked the other Stones for parenting advice?
‘If I asked Mick, his answers might be of another world. Say we were discussing allowances for my kids. It wouldn’t be like asking Joe Blow down the road who might say: “Oh yeah, give ’em a fiver.” The answer might be, “I’m not the person to answer this.” It’s a bit like pulling teeth with us giving each other advice.’
Is there anyone he missed? ‘Elvis, one time he was ill in hospital, in Memphis I think, and they wouldn’t let me in to see him. Turns out Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were in there with him. If I’d known that I’d have gone, “I’m Ronnie Wood from The Rolling Stones.”’
You can sense the fondness the remaining Stones founders, Jagger, Richards and Charlie Watts, have for ‘the new guy’. Did they give you an ultimatum that helped you finally clean up? ‘Mick asked me if I wanted to help myself, and was there anything he could do to help. I appreciated that, they’ve been very caring around me. To read the full article click here