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Music

Five essential Ronnie Wood guitar licks

Ronnie Wood has been a part of The Rolling Stones for so long, that he’s beginning to look like a hybrid of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. But there’s more to the guitarist’s resume than playing the tunes Mick Taylor and Brian Jones helped to spearhead, as is evident from this list.

Indeed, he had already proven himself with The Faces, a rock outfit that was formed from the ashes of Small Faces. He recommended that they hire Rod Stewart, a precocious blues vocalist who channelled the smouldering qualities Sam Cooke helped to bring to the forefront. He sounded like Roachford before there was Andrew Roachford.

And Wood had a collection of guitar hooks that made him a versatile musician of great acclaim and repute. His barrelling hooks made the band sound exhilarating on record and animal onstage. The Faces were one of the strongest bands of their generation, and Wood was an integral part of their success.

His bouffant hair, and general sense of bonhomie and good-natured fun made him appear tidy and strong in the eyes of the public. But it’s his hooks that provided him with a long-standing legend.

Five essential Ronnie Wood guitar licks:

5. Rod Stewart – ‘Maggie May’

Wood might be best known for playing second fiddle (or guitar, in this instance) to Keith Richards in The Rolling Stones, but his work with Rod Stewart shows a musician who can adeptly front a band entirely on his own. Indeed, he played all the guitars and bass on ‘Maggie May’, the song that became Stewart’s finest hour as a vocalist. “I do love to return to it,” Wood exclaimed, “Then it makes me appreciate how I work with Keith, because he establishes the riff and I play around it. Funnily enough Mick Taylor is just about to arrive here. He’s another ancient former weaver that I’ve grown up with and always respected. He’s one of the best guitar players I’ve ever met. We’ll talk musically through our guitars together, no doubt.”

But Wood’s a strong guitar player himself, as is clear from the jangly, pastoral riff that centres ‘Maggie May’, bolstered by a pastoral blues riff that sandwiches the tune under one tidy package. During the instrumental section, Wood lets the acoustic down, to play the electric guitar, and does so very nicely too.

4. The Faces – ‘Stay With Me’

Now, this is Wood’s signature riff. It’s been 50 years, and he’s still struggled to match the intensity and the passion of the pulsating hook on this fiery rocker. The riff can be heard on A Nod’s As Good As a Wink… to a Blind Horse, an album that features such yearning tunes as ‘Debris’, and such fiery fodder as ‘You’re So Rude’. The album features some of Stewart’s most impassioned vocals, and features some of Ronnie Lane‘s most insightful lyrics, but most importantly, it features some of Wood’s most riveting guitar hooks.

Laced with melody and menace, the tune doubles as both a metal stomper and a gyrating, sensual rocker, but the tune is also notable for boasting a seductive vocal melody from Stewart, who was fronting The Faces while simultaneously steering a solo career.

3. The Rolling Stones – ‘Beast of Burden’

On the subject of guitar-weaving, this yearning tune features some of the most polished displays in the band’s canon. The tune is almost entirely written by Keith Richards alone, the recording features an engaging countermelody, which is presented with gently brushed presentation, deeply interested in soaking the backdrop with a collection of chirping guitar arpeggios. Playing off another musician isn’t as easy as it may appear, especially when both guitarists have a style of their own. But the mutual compatibility comes showcases a stirring sense of respect, brimming with possibility and potential, pleasantly giving the tender backdrop a sense of vibrancy.

It’s done with great sensitivity to the yearning vocal in question. Mick Jagger brings out another level of sensibility, such as it was in the world of passion and persuasion in the band’s otherwise rock heavy orbit. The song is laced with possibility and presentation, deeming it a welcome respite to the canon of strikingly produced songs that comes from a place of tremendous commitment and compassion.

2. Ronnie Wood – ‘What You Gotta Go A Thing Like That For’

The one Wood solo song to make the list is also one of the more recent to make the listing in question, and the song features one of Wood’s strongest vocal lines. But the songs weren’t decided based on the importance of the vocal deliveries, but on how the guitar hooks centre the tune in question. The song is bolstered by a bouncy, barrelling hook that sounds like a rhythm part, but quickly envelopes into something grander and more reverent of the genre that excited him as a prosperous, burgeoning musician on the London banks.

Wood maintains a healthy body of work that stands with the best of the solo albums issued by The Rolling Stones, and this track holds a haunting guitar hook that plays in the background, punctuating the vocal melody, making this yearning song one of the more vulnerable and yearning in his career. He’s no Jagger, and certainly no Stewart, but he doesn’t have to be when his guitar soars so richly.

1. Imelda May – ‘Just One Kiss’

Imelda May’s 2021 album is among her best work yet, and that’s partially because she had the help of a member of The Faces and The Rolling Stones for muscle. “Everybody knows that Ronnie’s great,” she told Far Out. “You hear him, and you know he’s a great guy, and a great character, and if you’re not mad about Ronnie, then I don’t know if we can be friends. He’s one of those: he’s just brilliant. I don’t know anyone who’s not mad about him. But when we’re in the studio, and he starts playing that solo, a lot of studios see amazing people come in and out all the time. It’s not unusual. I can tell you that the whole place stopped when he starts playing. Just ‘WOOAH!’”

The song is cemented by Wood’s turbo-charged hook, but it’s also notable because it features Noel Gallagher on supporting vocal, making it one of the more arresting duets yet issued by a member of Oasis. The song features Gallagher’s sultry vocal at its most immediate and carnal, creating a lustful dialogue that is rich with possibility and “will they, won’t they” friction. It’s a very sexy song.