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(Credit: Jonn Leffmann)

Music

Ronnie Wood’s 10 best songs outside of The Rolling Stones

@SamWKemp

Ronnie Wood is so much more than The Rolling Stones. His journey to rock stardom began in 1957 when he made his stage debut in Ted Wood’s Original London Skiffle Group. When Skiffle gave way to R&B, he joined pioneering rock outfit The Birds in 1964, cementing himself as one of the most talented young guitarists on the scene.

Alas, the group’s fame was somewhat obscured by the fact their name was reminiscent of both The Yardbirds and American jangle-poppers The Byrds. Amid the media storm caused by a lawsuit handed to the up-and-coming band, The Birds parted ways, leaving Wood to start a new chapter of his career.

First came The Creation, then The Jeff Beck Group. With the latter, Wood was introduced to a little-known vocalist called Rod Stewart. The pair became fast friends and eventually left Beck to form Faces in 1969. At the same time, Steve Marriot was leaving his band Small Faces. The remaining members recruited Wood and Stewart and reinvented themselves

It was with the Faces that Wood crafted some of the greatest tracks of his career. But it didn’t last. Eventually, the members went their separate ways, leaving Wood to start afresh once again. It’s Wood’s ability to remould his playing that has made him such a mainstay of the rock landscape. Here, we’ve bought you his top ten singles outside of his career with The Rolling Stones.

Ronnie Wood’s best songs outside The Rolling Stones:

‘Ooh La La’ – The Faces

My Apologies to Rod Stewart, but thank God he decided not to sing on this stunning number by The Faces. Stewart didn’t care for the track, allowing Wood to deliver a rare vocal performance, the smoke-stained swagger of which really shoots this track into the stratosphere.

Written by Ronnie Wood and Ronnie Lane (so many Ronnies in classic rock), Stewart didn’t think ‘Ooh La La’ was up to his high standards, so he didn’t put a whole heap of effort into his vocal take. Glyn Johns, the group’s producer, suggested Wood’s voice might be more appropriate, and he was right. It was indeed Woods’s vocal take that ended up on the final version of the album.

‘I Can Feel The Fire’ – Ron Wood

Featured on Ronnie Wood’s first solo album, I’ve Got My Own Album To Do, ‘I Can Feel The Fire’ is often regarded as a ‘lost’ Stones record. At the same time, it can be seen to show Wood at his most idiosyncratic and, with its Caribbean inflexions, his most sun-drenched.

The LP is a star-studded affair featuring the likes of Mick Jagger, David Bowie and George Harrison. According to Wood, the title derives from its various contributors nagging him to let them go home after long nights in the studio.

‘You’re On My Mind’ – The Birds

This slice of classic British R&B was The Birds’ first single. Released via Decca in 1964, the track established The Birds as one of the premier acts on the London circuit.

Penned by Wood, ‘You’re On My Mind’ features duelling guitar and harmonica underpinned by a fractured blues progression It was a sure-fire way of getting the crowd moving and sounds astoundingly fresh even today. What a shame the band’s success was halted by something as superficial as their name.

‘Miss Judy’s Farm’ – The Faces

This 1971 single sees Faces echoing the early Guthrian angst of Bob Dylan under the guise of high-octane Mod revelry. Simmering with blues cool, if there’s any Faces song to make you want to stamp your legs and demand another pint, it is surely ‘Miss Judy’s Farm’.

Taken from the group’s definitive LP, A Nod’s As Good As a Wink… to a Blind Horse, the single is one of Wood’s finest anthemic efforts, and thanks to Rod Stewart’s recent solo success with Maggie May, was part of one of the band’s most successful albums worldwide

‘Pool Hall Richard’ – The Faces

Released in 1973, this Wood/Stewart hit was The Faces’ last breath, shooting the group into the top ten before tensions grew too much and its members went their separate ways.

This song bears the scars of those tensions. Even though he’s pictured on the picture sleeve, Ronnie Lane doesn’t feature on either side of the single. Wood was therefore required to play Bass on the A-side, while Tetsu Yamauchi demonstrated his fretwork on the B-side. Lane left shortly after the song was released, and Wood left not long after to become a member of The Rolling Stones.

Plynth (Water Down the Drain) – Jeff Beck Group

If you thought Led Zeppelin were the first to formulate the stadium-shaking blend of blues and heavy rock, think again; the Jeff Beck group beat them to the mark. This 1969 single was written by Wood with help from Rod Stewart and celebrated session pianist Nicky Hopkins, the latter of whom can be heard tinkling the ivories in his familiar honky tonk style during the opening bars.

‘Plynth (Water Down the Drain)’ reveals a group of musicians all playing at the top of their game. As Beck delivers serpentine licks, Wood keeps the track together with choppy rhythms, and Stewart offers up a soaring vocal performance. It’s enough to make jimmy Page weep.

‘Far East Man’ – Ron Wood

The only known co-writing collaboration between George Harrison and Ronnie Wood, ‘Far East Man’ is Perhaps the most fascinating offering from the latter’s solo career. Both Harrison and Wood released their own version of this track in 1974, Wood on I’ve Got My Own Album to Do, and Harrison’s on Dark Horse.

Despite being mostly written by Harrison, I think it’s fair to call this soul-infused gem a Ronnie Wood track, not least because it seems to reaffirm the great friendship between the pair. The track was written around the time Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd left him for his and Woods’s mutual friend Eric Clapton. The session for Wood’s version of the track proved especially significant for Harrison, who found the rhythm section he would during his North American tour with Ravi Shanker.

‘Seven Days’ – Ronnie Wood

With its sauntering central riff and slinking vocals, this version of Bob Dylan’s rare 1976 track ‘Seven Days’ is proof of just how great Ronnie was at reimagining other people’s songs.

The rework is taken from Wood’s third solo album, Gimme Some Neck, released in 1979. The single found success in America, where it peaked at number 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 during a 13-week chart run. The tour Wood organised to support the album convinced him to form the New Barbarians with Keith Richards, Ian McLagan and Bobby Keys, all of whom offered up their services for the LP.

‘Breathe On Me’ – Ron Wood

I’m a firm believer that Wood’s best work was acoustic. This single from his second solo album Now Look (1975) would certainly seem to suggest so. Grounded by solo acoustic guitar, the warm textures of this foggy, melancholic blues number are conjured up by resonant clavinet lines and matters of delicate slide guitar.

Now Look peaked at number 118 on Billboards top 2008 and featured contributions by Mick Taylor, Willie Weeks Andy Newark and Keith Richards, the latter of whom sings backing vocals in this touching lament.

‘Mystifies Me’ – Ron Wood

This woozy track from I’ve got my Own Album To Do, perfectly captures the state of British rock ‘n’ roll in the mid-1970s, painting a picture of perpetually hungover rockers crooning over pints of frothy ale in the backroom of a London club.

With its jangly textures and lyrical guitar lines, this drunken plea also seems to echo early Faces offerings, betraying a degree of nostalgia on Wood’s part. The group actually ended up working ‘I Can Feel the Fire’ and ‘Take a Look at the Guy’ from the same album into their setlist for their 1974 US tours, but it’s Wood’s original version that’s really withstood the test of time.