PHILADELPHIA — We were instructed by his people not to ask any questions about the Rolling Stones or Sally Humphreys, his new, younger-by-three-decades girlfriend. But hey, those subjects were not why Ronnie Wood agreed to chat us up in the first place.|
Instead, the veteran guitarist, who was recently inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the British rock band Faces, called to gab about a recent set at the Golden Nugget Atlantic City.
The show was notable for a couple of reasons: It was not part of a tour, but a one-off performance by a guy who seldom goes out on his own. In fact, the Nugget show was his first solo gig in the U.S.
And considering his 37-year tenure as a member of the Rolling Stones (thereby making him the royalist of rock royalty), one would expect him to plug in his guitar at the Borgata or Revel, which these days all but have the Atlantic City monopoly on cooler-than-cool musical bookings. But Woody, as he is known far and wide, played the Golden Nugget because he was asked to by pals.
"Some good friends of ours (including casino owner Tilman Fertitta) operate the place," explained Wood, in a voice burnished by decades of cigarettes and whiskey (think an intelligible Keith Richards). Wood has been bunking in the penthouse of a luxe Manhattan hotel while promoting his paintings (check out his work at ronniewood.com), so geography wasn't an issue.
"They said, 'While you're doing your artwork, how about playing Golden Nugget?' I (figured), why not? If I like it, maybe I'll play (the Golden Nugget) in Vegas, too. I'm just putting my toe in the water."
According to Wood, who first appeared on the rock-music radar as guitar hero Jeff Beck's bassist on the latter's 1968 album "Beck-Ola" (which featured vocals by Wood's future Faces teammate Rod Stewart), his repertoire featured a "potpourri" of numbers representing the various stages of his career. He mentioned by name the Faces signature "Stay With Me," a couple of relatively obscure Stone's numbers — "Black Limousine" and "Pretty Beat Up" — and the thrilling cover of Bob Dylan's "Seven Days" from his underrated 1979 LP, "Gimme Some Neck."
As unexpected as Wood's Nugget show was, there are those who would argue it is even more surprising that Wood is still around in 2012 to play there. Although Richards was always celebrated as the Rolling Stones' partier-in-chief, Wood's decades-long battles with drink and drugs have been well-chronicled. He's been sober for roughly two years.
"It's been great," he enthused. "Every day is full of adventure. There were things I used to think of while using (drugs) as threats. Now I can focus on them." The only drawback to living the straight-and-narrow life is a lack of adequate time to engage everything that comes his way.
"I've hardly had three hours off since I straightened up," he lamented. "There's not enough hours in the day."
The reason the Stones' plans for this, their 50th anniversary year, were declared out-of-bounds for the interview stems from a dustup that began recently. It seems Mick Jagger got his knickers in a knot after Wood was quoted in the media saying the band was heading into the recording studio.
Earlier this week, Wood told Billboard magazine: "I heard from Jagger; he's going, 'What the hell?! We don't know anything yet!' And I said, 'You know what (the media) are like. I just expressed my personal view; I would love to go into the studio.' Then they took it all wrong."
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