Ronnie Wood has claimed it took him 17 years to ask the Rolling Stones for a pay rise – and they’d begun to think he’d never ask at all.
In a mainly light-hearted interview, Wood, who joined the band in 1975, has also recalled how his first decade passed incredibly quickly, and how he and Keith Richards used to ask Eric Clapton to decide who was the better guitarist.
Asked if he still feels like the “new kid” in the Stones, Wood tells the Guardian: “It’s only 40-odd years! I did my apprenticeship, 17 years, before I got a raise – before I even thought about money. I was like, ‘Do you think I should get a bit more?’ And they were like, ‘Yeah, well, we thought you’d never ask. Those who don’t ask, don’t want, mate.”
He accepts that he’d been “sidetracked” by his years of excess with Richards. “Oh yeah, 10 years went by like that. It’s always good with Keith, great fun. We have that standing argument – which is the better player?
“We have to call Eric Clapton and he says, ‘Neither of you are. I’m better than both of you.’ We all still get together and every time we meet up it’s like no time has gone by. And yet there are so many stories to fill in. So many adventures.”
He describes his recent cancer battle as “his latest adventure” and adds: “I smoked heavily for 50 years and I thought, ‘There’s got to be some price to pay.’ I hadn’t had a chest X-ray for 16 years, and when I did, sure enough, there was a big shadow on my ling. I thought, ‘Fucking hell!’
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“I definitely went in there with a positive attitude. I thought, ‘Right, I’ve got cancer. Let’s get it out.’ I cam out the next week and I was back in the studio. You’re not supposed to get better that quickly.
“A lot of it was celebration in the fact that I was still alive, that it hadn’t spread. There was so much gratitude in the air.”
Looking back on his years of excess, Wood reflects: “Both with the drugs and the drink, luckily I had a cut-out point that would rescue me. In the midst of the oblivion I’d suddenly think, ‘One more of those and it’s all going to be over.’ You had to be continually on your guard.”
Asked if he’d live life all over again the same way, he replies: “I was going to say, ‘Without the smoking’ – but when I was growing up, everyone smoked!”
Wood recently published his coffee-table book Ronnie Wood: Artist, featuring his illustrations of bandmates, friends and relatives. A book about the Rolling Stones’ media appearances in the 1960s is published next month.