Ronnie Wood is a celebrated guitarist best known for his work as a bass guitarist and songwriter with The Jeff Beck group, vocalist and guitarist for The Faces and – finally – landing his dream job playing guitar and singing with The Rolling Stones (his favorite band). Ronnie Wood is a known figure in the world of rock and roll but is a very underappreciated songwriter and guitarist. Cry a river for Ronnie, right? Who cares? I do!
I am a huge fan of The Faces but I can’t stand Rod Stewart. I love Rod’s voice and I gotta admit he is quite a showman, as well as quite a striking man during his day. But Rod Stewart’s voice, showmanship and looks are his best talents – although apparently he is quite a footballer as well. The only band that could ever give Stewart any credibility in my opinion was The Faces. The family tree behind The Faces is the remnants of another English band called The Small Faces. The Small Faces were the premier mid 60s mod rock band, consisting of the great Steve Marriott (vocals and guitar), Ronnie Lane (bass and vocals), Kenny Jones (drums) and Ian McLagan (keyboards and vocals). The biggest hit The Small Faces ever had in America was the psychedelic laden song “Itchicoo Park”. However they had many more under their belts in England with songs like “All Or Nothing” and “Tin Solider” – required listening for sure. The Small Faces had sooooo much talent it is remarkable to me that, although they remain well respected as a footnote in rock history, they were never as big as the Beatles or The Who. This is a fookin mystery to me. How? Why? If you have not heard them and you are into rock music, get to stepping on listening some Small Faces records.
So one day in 1969 the amazing vocalist Steve Marriott decides that “his” band The Small Faces were not heading in the musical direction he was interested in and officially quit. Marriott also released a final single – “The Universal” – under the Small Faces name and never told the rest of the band until they heard it on the radio. Marriott’s exit was a real dick move and his band-mates – friends mind you: Jones, Lane and McLagan – were left in the lerch. Marriott saw front men like Roger Daltry (the Who) and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) playing “heavy” music with big guitar sounds and crashing drums, recognized himself as vocalist of the highest caliber, a very talented guitar player, a blues shouter and harmonica player and figured why the fuck are these guys skyrocketing and my group is stalled in the charts and never broke the American charts? Maybe it’s time for a change? Listen to The Small Faces song called “Song of a Baker” and you can tell which direction he was headed as apposed to “Itchicoo Park”. The great Steve Marriott went on to form the amazing hard rock band Humble Pie with a very young Peter Frampton. We can talk about Humble Pie another time. I love The Pie!
Incidentally, Marriott could have easily fronted Zeppelin – no disrespect to Mr. Plant.
So now we get on to Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart. The Jeff Beck Group were best known for recording their version of the Willie Dixon song “I Ain’t Superstitious” and their raw, exciting talent as a live band. The Group consisted Jeff Beck (guitars), Rod Stewart (lead vocalist), Ronnie Wood (bass guitar) and Aynsley Dunbar (Drums). In short, the Jeff Beck group splintered in 1969; this left Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart as free agents. As luck would have it Ronnie Wood was contacted by a mutual acquaintance that the Small Faces rhythm section (Jones, Lane, McLagan) were rehearsing at a warehouse space that was owned and used by The Rolling Stones and advised Wood to come sit in on guitar. Wood was aware of The Small Faces as a talented group, had crossed paths with them at parties, gigs and such so he went down to check it out and it clicked! They all agreed they wanted a lead singer and Ronnie suggested Rod Stewart. Guess what? Stewart got the job.
The Faces story is one of it’s own because they were simply one of the greatest live rock bands ever, defiantly in the top ten for my taste. The Faces by 1974 were huge band, released four great records and were a premier live attraction the hit song “Stay With Me” launched the band in America and gave it’s members some much deserved accolades as individual talents plus they were all earning some good money to boot. However the band was on constant eggshells because Rod Stewart was also releasing records as a solo performer in parallel with him being in The Faces and his solo career was staggering the momentum that The Faces were making. Basically a break up involving egos was coming to a head at some point it was just a matter of when? This is when Ronnie Wood decided to start making his own solo album as sort of friendly fuck you to Stewart and to utilize his musical entourage, home studio dubbed “The Wick” in London and finally getting a chance to record some of his own songs. The title of the record was to be called Ronnie Wood “Got My Own Album To Do”.
The musicians on “Got My Own Album To Do” is an all star cast including…. George Harrison (one songwriting credit for “Far East Man”), Keith Richards (guitar, vocals), Mick Jagger (vocals) Rod Stewart (vocals), Ian McLagan (keys, vocals), Willie Weaks (bassist with Donnie Hathaway, David Bowie, Bobby Womack plus 50 more artists) and Andy Numark (studio drummer for Sly Stone, David Bowie, Roxy Music and others) and of course Ronnie Wood (guitar, vocals, songwriting and producer). WOW, right? Ever heard this record “Got My Own Album To Do”? The first time I heard the album I became obsessed with it. It coincided with me actually meeting Ian McLagan at a music fest in Chicago in 2013 (sadly he died a year later) and reading McLagan’s autobiography “All The Rage”, a very good rock book. My over all respect for the music of The Faces, Bobby Womack and The Rolling Stones led me to this record in a big way.
The opening track “I Can Feel The Fire” is a Reggae song sung by Jagger, Richards and Wood and in exchange for Jagger singing on the track Wood gave Jagger the song “It’s Only Rock And Roll”. Fair trade? “I Can Feel The Fire is basically the song “Pressure Drop” by Reggae pioneers Toots And The Maytals with a different chorus but it is a high energy song and it fits nice as an opening track and it’s a happy song. The song “Far East Man” was written by Gorge Harrison and Wood and a remake of the song made it on to George Harrison’s album “Dark Horse”. Other stand out tracks on the album includes “Mystifies Me” which is a really emotional song with an off kilter drum pattern, heavy flange guitar effect and a very sincere, but melancholy message of loving your lover. The band Son Volt on the 1995 album “Trace” also covered the song “Mystifies Me”. The song “Take A Look At A Guy” was a live staple of Ronnie Woods set list when he plays solo gigs and the song was also covered by Izzy Stradlin (Guns and Roses) and The Ju Ju Hounds on 1992 record of the same name (Wood played guitar on it too). “Act Together” is another stand out tune and it is a legit R&B song about a relationship lasting as long as you try to “Act Together” “once in while let’s get our shit together” and work it out because it’s worth it. “Cancel Everything” is also another gem of a song on this record. “Devastate me, no don’t take me, don’t take me the wrong way it wasn’t what I meant. Long wires between us, oceans screen us from understanding everything we want to say, tell me softly over and over again, you can’t speak so clearly I understand, I really do”. It’s a story a long distance romance on the rocks and it is a really soulful song! The last notable song is a cover song titled “If You Got To Make A Fool Out Of Somebody) written by Rudy Clark and popularized by the group Freddie and the Dreamers in 1962, Clark also co-wrote “Good Lovin” a big hit for The Young Rascals. Ronnie’s version features a very drunk Wood and Stewart singing like they are in a pub just not giving a shit and having fun, which is the tone that made The Faces so fun and kind of a cool sloppy, but really show stopping, super bar band (when the Faces were on tour they sometimes actually had a full liquor bar on stage complete with a real bartender to boot).
I don’t want to gloss over some of the other tracks I did not mention on the album because to really know the album it is to really love it but if you focus on some of the notable songs the others kind of flow into place after a few listens. Ronnie Wood’s album record “Got My Own Record To Do” is a lost gem of a record and I thought it fit the bill for The Joup Friday Album. Happy listening. I hope I turned a few of you on?
I dedicate this article to the memory of Ian McLagan (1945-2014)
Sonny Vitkauskas 2/2017
Drummer, Writer, Podcaster, Advocate