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

Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

Latest stories from i100
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.

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us