Guitarist, multi-instrumentalist & occasional co-songwriter
for the Rolling Stones 1975-present
Born June 1, 1947 in Hillingdon,
Sun in Gemini, Moon in Scorpio
(click here for Woody's astrological profile)
When Ronnie came in it was obvious to us within 10 minutes that he had the heart to go tell the rest of us to fuck off. That's Ronnie. But within a matter of half an hour everybody loved him.
In some ways it's much easier for me to work with Woody (than Mick Taylor). He loons about and isn't as introspective as Taylor. Woody has made the band seem more human. I don't want the audience to be in awe, just to have a good time.
Ronnie walked in and played and it was just the atmosphere between the two of us. We burn. I knew what he was capable of and what we could get out of him... We went on a feeling and he's still there, so we must have been right.
Woody has become an in-between for Keith to relate to everybody else. And a bridge between Mick and Keith, which they've recently needed. Woody is a little catalyst in the middle. He keeps everybody cheerful.
Perhaps if times don't make it possible for Jagger and Richards to communicate man to man, I can convey to either what the other is thinking. Without putting in a negative slant. And HELP. That's all it is really. I might be with Mick and he'll say, I can't take this any farther 'cause I don't know how Keith feels about it. Maybe he's somewhere in the world where Mick can't get through to him. I can say, Well, I know for a fact that he likes THIS but he won't go for THAT. It gives him a guide. I mean, they don't take my word for gospel. I'm just - not "middle-man" but - diplomatic liaison officer. It's entirely necessary. Otherwise communications would break right down. People go through phases, don't they, where they might say, Oh, I don't want to see him. The saturation of being next to each other all the time can sometimes get on their nerves a bit.
(The restrictions onstage are) extremely to the forefront of my thinking as I'm playing. For example, where I lay back is very important. Otherwise I can blow the whole song. That's the same with every individual member, even the leading members of the band. Like Keith's intros - sometimes you'll get a big of bang 'n' crash. Mick looks at me like, What the fuck is that? And Keith's like, Talk amongst yourselves for a minute, and I'll try that again. Keith can get away with that. If it was me who fucked up an intro, I'd have the whole Stones world down on me (laughs). But that's all right. You have to be responsible for what you can and cannot do. It's a fine line, and I love that. That's what keeps us so fresh... The only way I can really fuck up is by being too loud. That is a sore point with Keith and Mick. I'd get my guitar wrapped 'round my head by Keith.
One of the first times I bumped into Mick and Charlie was at Hyde Park (1969), when Brian had died and they were doing a concert. I was walking around the perimeter, and Charlie and Mick came across the road in front of me. We said Hi. And they said, We'll see you soon. I said, Yeah, sooner than you think! Thinking one day I was gonna be in that band. Yeah.
He's sort of taking over Brian Jones' old job, which was just to flit around from instrument to instrument and pick out the necessary thing.
If you leave Ronnie with an instrument for a day, he will be able to play something on it; whether it's a trumpet, a saxophone or an accordion - he'll get something out of it. He is better than Brian was at playing slide guitar, and also the laptop steel, which is a bloody hard instrument to play, having to work those pedals with your feet. And now he plays a sitar guitar on Paint It Black. Ronnie loves playing all those instruments, which is a great asset for the Stones.
Ronnie is a very diverse guy. He can play loads of instruments, he's very talented. He's very much like Brian Jones in as much as he can pick up any instrument and play it within a little while. But he's got the concentration of a gnat, so he doesn't get inside what he's doing really. He's like Done that bit, I'm off. It's his biggest failing. It's something he likes about himself, but he can't concentrate on anything.
I miss the songwriting. I'm credited for songs with the Stones: Everything's Turning to Gold, Dance Pt. 1, Black Limousine. But it's a futile thing, because they've got songs stacked up on the back burner. I'll throw suggestions in, but they'll go, Sorry, mate, we've got these hundred ahead of you at the moment.
I think he's getting too much like Keith. And one Keith's enough. To have a Keith in the band is great, but to have a Keith AND a Keith Mark II gets a little strange for me. Musically, he's fine. But it's like Keith and the shadow, in a way. Woody wasn't quite like that when he joined.
I'm always confident, but this time I'm even more confident because I'm looking at life through a straight viewpoint now. T(he club gig in Toronto) was my first gig the other night (August 16) that I'd done straight, and it was a real eye-opener. I noticed the lack of anxiousness, having to have another drink before I go on to bury the butterflies. And I was noticing things in the audience for a change, instead of just blindly playing away. I'm still struggling after six months, but I just take it a day at a time. None of us is getting any younger, and I thought, I've had a damn good innings at burning the candle at both ends, I'll just try doing what's good for me and seeing what a natural high is like. It's unbeatable really, if you can hold it down. It takes a lot of courage and commitment.
I try to control my drinking. My therapists are with me on tour... (E)ach day is a new fight. But in the end you give up, you can only capitulate. I've lost the fight... This addiction is much stronger than me. That's why I have a strong team around me, caring for me.
(Ronnie's) OK now. I think he fell in love with rehab. Ronnie... I've known him as stoned out of his brain as you can imagine a man can get. And I've known him straight sober. And quite honestly, there's very little difference. Although I must say there's a bit more focus on him now. Ronnie, unlike me, tends to overdo a thing. Me, I just do it. But right now he's OK. I think being straight will suit him... for a while.
I tell Ronnie, I can't tell the difference between if you're pissed out of your brain or straight as an arrow. He's the same guy. But Ronnie never got off the last tour. He kept on after we finished the last show. On the road it's all right, because you burn off a lot of the stuff you do onstage. But when you get home and you're not in touch with your environment, your family - he didn't stop. He realized he had to do it. It was his decision. When I found out about it, he was already in the spin dryer. Ronnie has always had a light heart. That's his front. But there is a deeper guy in there. I know the feeling. I probably wouldn't have gotten into heroin if it hadn't been a way for me to protect myself... Mick does it his way. Ronnie does it his way.
(Keith)'s different to Ronnie. It's hard for Ronnie. He has a nervous energy. If he's talking to you or playing guitar, he's fine. But he can't do that all day long. When he puts the guitar down, that's when he wants a cigarette or a drink.
Even though I wasn't on Exile On Main Street, I know it inside out. I teach the band more about those songs than they know. They'll go, How does that middle bit go? I have had the songs in my head for so long - I know what's happening next in each one.
Ronnie... is an incredible people person. He's really a warm guy.
He's a very likable person. He's not grown-up. He doesn't need to be. He's not at all sensible, Ronnie. It's not his role. He's a maniac.