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(Credit: Jonn Leffmann)

Music

How Ronnie Wood wrote a Rolling Stones classic before he joined the band

@TylerGolsen

When Ronnie Wood joined The Rolling Stones in 1975, it wasn’t like he was a struggling unknown guitarist that happened to join the world’s biggest rock and roll band. Quite the contrary, in fact. Wood had established himself in the London blues scene in the mid-1960s as a teenager, hooked up with the first incarnation of the Jeff Beck Group, and was brought in along with singer Rod Stewart when the Small Faces transformed into the Faces.

It was with the latter group that Wood began to really make a name for himself. On the band’s final album Ooh La La, Wood was the lead singer on the title track, giving him added visibility within the band. As Rod Stewart began to experience success outside the Faces, Wood called up a number of his friends in the English rock scene to assist him on his solo debut, cheekily titled I’ve Got My Own Album To Do. One of Wood’s closest friends was Keith Richards, as the two shared a predilection towards blues, drugs, and humour. Richards would play on the album, as would then-current Stones guitarist Mick Taylor.

During one of the sessions for I’ve Got My Own Album To Do at Wood’s house, there was an eclectic group of musicians gathered to and out and maybe even possibly lay down some music. This included Wood’s bandmate in the Faces, drummer Kenney Jones, along with American bass guitarist Willie Weeks. David Bowie was there as well, having come along with Stones singer Mick Jagger. Jagger and Wood began discussing the classic form of rock and roll music, along with some of the negative press that the Stones were getting at the time, and a jam quickly sprung up after the central phrase of ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It)’ was concocted.

“The idea of the song has to do with our public persona at the time,” Jagger explained in 1993. “I was getting a bit tired of people having a go, all that, ‘oh, it’s not as good as their last one’ business. The single sleeve had a picture of me with a pen digging into me as if it were a sword. It was a lighthearted, anti-journalistic sort of thing”.

Richards overdubbed some guitar parts onto the final mix, but otherwise, the basic track only features Jagger on vocals. It’s not clear how much of the song Wood actually wrote because the official credit went to Jagger/Richards, but Wood got an “inspired by” credit on the It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll. Quibbling over songwriting credits wasn’t Wood’s concern, but it did become one for Taylor, who had helped compose a number of songs on the album without getting proper credit.

As legend has it, after the release of It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll, Wood was sitting in between Taylor and Jagger at a party when Taylor leaned over to Jagger and announced that he was leaving the band. Wood and Jagger were shocked, considering that the Stones already had studio time booked for their next recording sessions, and Taylor simply got up and left. Slightly dumbfounded, Jagger asked Wood if he would consider joining the band. Wood declined, citing his dedication to the Faces, but offered to help out with the sessions and joined the band on their 1975 American tour as an auxiliary musician.

Black and Blue was recorded with a number of different guitar players, including former Small Faces guitarist Steve Marriott, American guitarists Harvey Mandel Wayne Perkins, and Humble Pie guitarist Peter Frampton, along with Wood. Jagger preferred that the band stay British, with Marriott and Frampton not quite gelling with the group. That left Wood, whose decision to join the Stones on tour caused friction within the Faces. When faced with a decision, Wood decided to side with the Stones, and officially joined the band in late 1975.