Thursday, January 31, 2008

Book Review - Ronnie

On the heels of the Clapton autobiography, I dove right in to “Ronnie,” by Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood. What a contrast.

Where Clapton had a fairly negative childhood experience that led him to have relationship and addiction issues throughout his life, Wood had a really positive, nurturing childhood that led to him having addiction issues his whole life.

And whereas I felt like Clapton got smarter over the course of his life (even though he remained stupid - or at least, addicted - for a really, really long time), Wood made the same damn mistakes again and again – mostly financial. I mean, the guy gets so overstretched financially that he has to ask the Stones for advances of millions of dollars before tours, just to get out of debt.

Self-admittedly, he just can’t say no. So when someone comes to him with a harebrained investment idea – hey, run your own spa, it’ll only cost you 30 million dollars – he takes the bait again and again. It’s actually very frustrating to see him mess up over and over. He’s like the multi-millionaire version of the guy who goes out on the crabbing boat for months, makes tons of money, comes home, spends all of it quickly, and has to go back out again to make more.

The best part of the book for me, actually, is the part before he joins the Stones. His formative years are really entertaining, and you get a good sense for his virtuosity as a musician. The guy really can play anything, given the right amount of time. He has a great attitude as well. Very happy go lucky and generous, (whereas Clapton was always kind of a dick). His stories about how he got started in the early 60s, all the bands he played with, and his time with Rod Stewart and The Faces, are good segments.

Also in contrast to Clapton, I don’t get the sense that he has completely kicked the junk. As with every other rocker in the 70s, there are loads of stories of excess and drugs. Once he joins the Stones, it goes off the charts. He was even a freebase addict for five years in the 80s, but he never says why or how he kicked it. The number of dangerous scumbag drug dealers and enablers that were around his family and especially his kids is pretty shocking and pathetic.

Anyone who follows the Stones knows that the recent Bigger Bang tour was his first tour sober. Meaning, the first time the guy, who is now 60, ever played onstage without a buzz. Mick and Keith actually toyed with not bringing Wood on the tour, he was so bad off - so, he cleaned up. It is amazing that he pulled it off for such a long tour without full relapse, but you also get the impression that he still parties. After reading the Clapton book, I am not sure how well that bodes for his future sobriety.

The other great part about the book is how in depth he goes into his artwork. People may not know this, but Wood has always been a fantastic artist. Given financial discipline, he could make a living off of just his drawings and paintings. His work is excellent – some samples here. He talks about how he got started, and how he sketches his band mates in rehearsal and uses art to fill the plentiful down time on the road.

I’d recommend this book to any Stones fan, as it’s a pretty insightful look into how the band operates – Wood says they travel on tour in a “golden prison” where every luxury is provided, but they don’t have the freedom to actually get out and be in the real world. It’s busses, planes, five star hotel rooms, studios, concerts and repeat – for more than a year at a time. Would drive any lesser man nuts, but obviously they have the passion and with every tour, move into new territory as the world’s biggest and oldest touring band.

And even though he’s still the “new guy,” having just joined the Stones in 1975, I’d say it would be pretty tough to justify a version of the Stones without him. This book gives great insight into the man and his life and times.


Alannah Ryane said...

This was great. Thanks for bringing me to your blog i think part of being a celebrity is that you are an example of living good or bad and when they are honest and share their wisdom it is of benefit to everyone. I am putting a link to your blog on mine..would you mind doing the same?

Bob K said...

Thanks for your note on my Clapton review - I don't know if you saw it, but I ALSO reviewed Ronnie Wood's book and made almost the same comments that you did.

Look for my review of Patti Boyd's book too - maybe you'll feel the same way! :-)

Bob K said...

Thanks for your additional comment on my blog - did you know that the quotes blogger is my daughter?

Isorski said...

Bob K - No, I did not know that. The world is a small, small place. I was looking around for other reviews of Clapton's book and it was a total co-inky-dink! My wife showed me that site weeks ago and today I finally poked around on it. It makes me want to go around Portland "looking" for quotes.

I will link to the site over the weekend. It deserves a proper posting so people will really check it out. Too much.

judakris said...

Thanks for the review on this. Man, as a parent, I'm thinking what a crap shoot! Give your kid a loving environment and they can still be raging addict!

Definitely read Pattie Boyd's autobiography as a nice companion piece to Clapton's. She might have loved him, but she didn't seem to like him very much!

Axe Victim said...

Good review. You should visit my pages more often. I only found you as I was cleaning up a little.

harmolodic said...

The San Francisco Art Exchange regularly has Wood's artwork on display (and for sale), so next time you're in town, you may want to swing by to take a look. Meanwhile, I'm going to have to grab a copy of that book after I finish the one I'm reading on Badfinger. Sounds like a good read!