Rick Galusha's Pacific St. Blues and Americana

Since inception (1989), Pacific St. Blues & Americana strives to be a discerning voice helping roots fans sift through the mountains of music released every year. We are not for everyone; we want to engage active, critical listeners that hear beyond d'jour. Interviews include: Johnny Winter, Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), Jerry Wexler, Tommy Shannon & Chris Layton, B.B. King, Dr. John, Robin Trower, Robben Ford, Mato Nanji, Joe Bonamassa, Harry Manx, Sue Foley, Marshall Chess, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Louvin, Kim Richey, Radney Foster, Eric Johnson, David Clayton Thomas, Al Kooper, Phil Chen (Wired, Blow By Blow), Ian McLagan, Art Neville, Southside Johnny, Miami Steve Van Zant, Nils Lofgren, Bruce Iglauer, Charlie Musselwhite, Studebaker John, Chris Duarte, Smokin' Joe Kubeck, Hamilton Loomis, Peter Karp, Roomful of Blues, James Harman, Hadden Sayers, Malford Milligan, Melvin Taylor, Otis Taylor, Dave Alvin, Coco Montoya, Jimmy Thackery, Marsha Ball, Maria Muldaur, Shelby Lynne, Magic Dick & J. Geils, Lil' Milton, BuddyGuy, Aynsley Lister, Matt Schofield, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Guy Clark, Joe Ely, James Cotton, Robin & Jesse Davey, Hugh Coltman (Hoax), Sean Kelly (Samples), John Entwistle (The Who), Mark Olson (Jayhawks), Walter Wolfman Washington, Anthony Gomes, Bob Malone, Chubby Carrier, Buckwheat Zydeco, Murali Coryell, David Jacob Strain, DeAnna Bogart, Michael Lee Firkins, Guy Davis, Jason Ricci, John Doe, Little Feat, Matt Woods, MikeZito, Peter Buffett, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Corky Siegel, Todd Park Mohr, Watermelon Slim, Magic Slim, Corey Harris,- - - - - - ------------------------Radio archives: http://www.kiwrblues.podomatic.com/. Playlists: http://www.omahablues.com/ Reviews featured in http://www.blueswax.com/. Email: KIWRblues@gmail.com Live online; Sundays 9 a.m. (-6 GMT) http://www.897theriver.com/

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Book Review: Ron Wood's Autobiography

Book Review: Ronnie
Author: Ronnie Wood
Writer: Rick Galusha

“When it rains, it pours.” This Christmas Season is the year of the rock autobiography. There are releases by Eric Clapton, Patti Boyd (the former Mrs. George Harrison/ Mrs. Eric Clapton) and now Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood; as well as a long threatened Keith Richards tome later in ’08. In 1990 the Rolling Stone’s bassist Bill Wyman left the band and quickly released his autobiography, and perhaps the finest Stones’ insider book, ‘Stone Alone.’ In 1998 former Small Faces and Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan released, ‘All the Rage’ which included his many years as a significant sideman in the Rolling Stones as well as with Dylan, Raitt, Billy Bragg and of course the ever “frugal” Rod Stewart. As a member of the Faces along with Ron Wood, McLagan’s book offered a raw look into the playful antics of a band of imbibing youth who eventually became hopeless drug addicts dabbling in music.

Set-up in a chronological read, Wood’s book begins with his youth as the first member of the Wood family to be born on land; as opposed to the canal barges that still populate portions of the London area. Like many of us, with two older brothers, the young ‘Woody’ was introduced at an early age to pre-rock music, ‘young birds’ and the gang mentality cocoon that many bands develop. Woods story is no different than many of his era, successful band signs contract with crooked manager, get screwed to the wall, find themselves broke and are forced to start all over again. Whether it’s the Stones or the Beatles, Ronnie’s first band, ‘The Birds’ or McLagan’s Small Faces, eventually one is left wondering how so many musicians could have been so repeatedly duped, drunk and broke. It was a different time and the ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ lexicon of business was being written by kids that grew up with nothing, found success, fame and money, and had no idea how to manage it.

Eventually Ron Wood joins as a bass player with former Yardbird guitarist Jeff Beck along with Mickey Waller (drums) and Rod Stewart in the now legendary Jeff Beck Group. While history shows it was studio musicians Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones that sought out then unknown Robert Plant and John Henry Bonham to form Led Zeppelin, Wood’s book spins the lore that Manager Peter Grant first approached Wood to form, ‘The New Yardbirds’ band with Plant and Bonham. Obviously that doesn’t make sense since Plant and Bonham were plucked from obscurity by Page but it makes for good reading. Life with Peter Grant proved unbearable for Wood and, according to his perspective, he rung up Small Faces bass player Ronnie Lane who’s band had just lost Steve Marriott to Peter Frampton to form Humble Pie. Wood’s account pretty much mirror’s McLagan’s as a super shy Rod Stewart eventually relents, joins the band, renames themselves ‘The Faces’ and for the next eight year’s becomes one of the best “rock n’ roll” bands most people never heard of. After the Stones release the seminal album, ‘Its Only Rock n’ Roll’ then guitar player Mick Taylor leaves the band whereupon Jagger “borrows” Wood for a world tour creating resentment among The Faces and in 1975 The Faces split up and Wood becomes a member of the Rolling Stones. Like many, I think of Wood as “the new guy” in the band although the reality is that from 1963 to 1975, twelve years, Mick and Keith had three guitar players (Dick Taylor, Brian Jones and Mick Taylor) but for the last 32 years Ron Wood has been the steadfast anchor to Keith’s engine.

Oh but the drugs. Make no mistake, like McLagan, Wood’s book is awash of tales regarding drugs and alcohol. By the later half of the book the use of “blow,” “freebase,” “smack,” and Guiness becomes overbearing and, with much irony, Wood is told to clean up or he’d be kicked out of the Stones for drug abuse just before the ’40 Licks Tour.’ Wood winds down the book with clarity, something lacking in most of the book, as he struggles to right his ship and recover from bankruptcy during the ‘90’s not once but three times. At one point he seems to indicate a freebasing habit during his Los Angles years of nearly $70,000 over six weeks and that such abuse went on for five years or a $2,000,000 habit. I can recall reading Musician Magazine in the late 80’s when Keith Richards expressed shock and concern about Wood’s current consumption. The famed Woody Woodpecker of rock notes that he drew strength in his struggle towards sobriety from his wife’s Jo own effort as well as from Stones drummer Charlie Watts who simply decided one day to end his dependence on heroin and alcohol after falling down his stairs at home.

Throughout his book Wood makes reference to two cages in his life; one being the gilded trap members of the band find themselves in when the show goes on the road. There is money, luxury and fame at the cost of loneliness and the inability to do regultar things like walk down the street. The other reference regards a phrase Keith uses when on stage just before the curtain goes up and, “the cage is open.” This is a pretty well written book that is thin on specifics but long on debauchery. Wood finally gives an interesting glimpse into the Stone’s dark period from ’81 to ’89 when the band had essentially broken up due to Jagger and Richards infighting. ‘Ronnie’ would make a terrific Christmas gift for baby boomer Stones fanatics as well as other classic rock fans. Long a prized pursuit of collectors and bootleggers, Wood also recently released a live double CD set of his solo band, ‘The New Barbarians’ (named by Neil Young) which included Keith Richards, Ian McLagan, Stanley Clark (bass) and Jospeh ‘Zigaboo’ Modeliste (Meters, Neville Brothers) on the drums along with Bobby Keys on saxophone. The album is titled, ‘Buried Alive’ and is a barely adequate recording of a sloppy band playing in Maryland.

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