Ronnie Wood: Sex, drugs and the ultimate rock'n'roller

The Rolling Stone is still playing music, painting, and now presenting a new TV show on Sky. Simon Hardeman meets rock's great survivor

Is there a more quintessential wrinkled old rocker than the 64-year-old Ronald David Wood? It would take more than the world's supply of Botox and collagen to flatten his facial topography, he has been a member of the Rolling Stones for nearly 40 years, and he is about to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a second time, as a member of The Faces.

And yet there's something different about the rake-thin, chain-smoking mop-head lolling amiably on the sofa in front of me ("I've just had a hole in me foot repaired!"). Unlike Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Rod Stewart et al, what's interesting about Ronnie Wood is not so much what he has done, but who he has done it with (the five above, for a start). And not just musically – there's the sex, the drugs, the rehab, the art... and now the award-winning radio show (he was Sony Radio Personality of the Year last year) that is moving onto Sky TV.

"I never played with Elvis," he volunteers, "but there aren't many others!" He played with Dylan for Live Aid. "We'd been at my house for a week before, playing, and then we get on stage and he goes, 'lets play this!' It was hilarious – we played every song we hadn't rehearsed." Then Dylan broke a string. Wood gave him his own instrument and was reduced to playing air guitar to an audience of two billion.

One of his biggest challenges came in the late Eighties when the Rolling Stones all but broke up. "Mick and Keith didn't want to talk to each other. I said to Mick: 'Ring Keith now! And then ring me back in 15 minutes.' If there's something good I won't let it end." Maybe he was so keen because it was, he tells me, always his ambition to join the Stones. "I'd always imagined that was the band I wanted to be in. Through The Birds, Jeff Beck, The Faces, Rod Stewart, they were all stepping-stones towards the Stones.

"I bumped into Charlie and Mick round the outskirts of Hyde Park when Brian Jones died, when they did the concert. They got out of their car in front of me. There were thousands of people, and there they were right in front of me. And they said, 'see yah', and I said, 'yeah, sooner than you think!' And they carried on walking." Before he joined (for 17 years as a waged member) he helped create one of their classics, "It's Only Rock '* Roll", but seems to have had the raw end of the deal.

"I had no bargaining power 'cause Mick was helping me on a song called "I Can Feel the Fire" and he said, 'I tell you what – you keep "I Can Feel the Fire" and I'll keep "It's Only Rock '* Roll"'." The deal got even worse when Keith Richards became involved. "Keith wiped all my guitars off! It's David Bowie and me on backing vocals on the original track and [Faces drummer] Kenney Jones on drums. Keith said [Wood mimics a posh accent], 'I've taken the precaution of wiping all your guitars off'! But I listened to it and said, 'ah but you did leave my 12-string on there'... 'Oh dammit!' [he said]"

Wood might have joined the Stones much earlier. "They rang up once when I was rehearsing with The Faces in Bermondsey, and Ronnie Lane picked up the phone and said, 'no, Ronnie's quite happy where he is'. Five years later I found out... I wasn't ready for it though, I'd have been a junkie or OD-ed or something."

Ah yes, the drugs. He has been in rehab time after time. How on earth is he still alive? "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."

Others weren't so careful or lucky, like his friend, Who drummer Keith Moon, whose drug intake contributed to an early death. "I remember Keith with the Valium. He'd give you like a handful and I'd have like a half and he'd have the whole lot!" says Wood as he takes another puff on the electronic cigarette he sucks between real gaspers.

He blames the very public collapse of his marriage to Jo in 2008, and the tabloid spreads that accompanied his turbulent relationship with the barely 20-year-old Ekaterina Ivanova, at least in part to drugs. "I'd gone a long while without drinking and drugging, and I thought, 'I can do it!'. So I dabbled again, and it would lead to these mad, deranged arguments and in the end it exploded in the street... [The tabloids] were waiting for it to happen. ... But I suppose just because of the fact that it was there and it was undeniable I didn't get annoyed with them."

And so back to rehab for something like the seventh time. It's like a club where rock stars network. He tells me about playing with "Anthony [Kiedis] and the boys from the Red Hot Chili Peppers" while he was "rehabbing it and they were recovering too", and how he got to know Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream at recovery meetings – "it's amazing the amount that are there."

Yet one of the younger guests on his show, superstar producer Mark Ronson, he knows in a much more innocent way. "I helped raise him! Me and his dad Laurence used to stay up late round at Laurence's house and this little kid would be on the stairs. We'd be playing music and getting high and the little kid would clocking it, and it was little Mark. Years on down the road there was this huge star, good-looking guy, and it turned out to be little Mark! 'Come and sit on my lap', it used to be!"

Wood adores making art – he trained at Ealing College, where Pete Townshend and Freddie Mercury went, and has had his own South Bank Show. Recently he has been creating iPhone and iPad art. I ask to see some, and he gets excited, scanning through the galleries on his iPhone for a nude he calls "massif bum". After the distraction of a chummy text from Kelly Jones of the Stereophonics, he emails it to me.

A few minutes later, as I leave the Dorchester Hotel, I realise Ronnie Wood has sent me a naked woman. I wonder how many people can say that.

 

'The Ronnie Wood Show' starts tonight at 11pm on Sky Arts 1

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone