Stones Guitarist's Ex-Spouse Was the Wife of the Party
It's Only Rock 'n' Roll: 30 Years Married to a Rolling Stone
By Jo Wood
It Books, 333 pp., $26.
There are enough tomes by the ex-wives, ex-girlfriends, and ex-lovers of rock stars form their own subgenre of music books. And it's with good reason you rarely ever see one by a current squeeze -- as the Ex Books are part biography, witness to history, score-settling, and "I-wasn't-just-a-groupie" ethos.
Wood spent 30 years as the girlfriend, then wife of Rolling Stone Ron Wood and mother to their three children, so she's certainly put in the time to fill a book. Though she was unceremoniously dumped by the guitarist for a Russian teenager and then a series of Young Things.
But what wild times Jo Wood had.
In fact, the former fashion model was such a devoted partier both at home and on Stones tours, that she was the only female member of the camp's appropriately named "Hardcore" group. She was drinking, coking, acid-taking, and -- eventually -- freebasing just as much as the boys until much later, when motherhood and boredom worked to settle her down.
But as she details exotic trips and tours that would take she and Ron away for weeks -- as well as house and hotel parties that could last for days -- I found myself thinking "God, what about her four kids?" (Jo also had a son from a previous marriage.)
Then I caught myself: was that thought sexist? Why would I mentally chastise the wife of a rock star (who, let's face it, had decisions and opportunities most people can't fathom) and not the musician himself? (And Wood himself wins no Father of the Year awards.) Let's just say, thank God they had a nanny.
Those looking for insight in the personalities or music of the Stones -- or anecdotes -- will go away wanting. Mick, Charlie, and Bill make only fleeting appearances, and Keith Richards gets just a little more ink -- overwhelmingly positive as a friend of the Woods, coming across as a fun-loving, caring guy.
Surprisingly, the titular person without whom the book wouldn't exist comes off as something of a cardboard character, all laddish behavior fueled by liquor and lechery (when they first meet at a party, Ron Wood is mime-humping his future wife). Jo offers little insight into the character or inner tickings of the man she spent decades with and followed around the globe, often lapsing into a series of "We did this...then we did this" narrative.
When groupies and younger women throw themselves at Ron -- and he does not turn away -- Jo adopts a "kill 'em with kindness" approach, though his affairs are barely hidden. Through it all, Ron remains a hardcore alcoholic going through the binge-rehab-binge cycle. Jo estimates that during their entire time together, the longest time he ever remained sober was six weeks.
There are some amusing celebrity cameos. John Belushi, who had the hots for Jo, calls up and tells her he's masturbating to thoughts of her. After one particularly wild party ends with Christopher Reeve passed out on the Woods' couch and clutching a bottle of booze, one of the children finds him the next morning and nervously wails "Mom...you killed Superman!"
Toward the end of their relationship -- when, after Jo's 50th birthday party, the laughingly hypocritical Ron mopingly tells her "I never thought I'd be with a 50 year-old-woman" -- his affair with the Russian teenager is basically out in the open with disappearances, sexy texts, hotel assignations, and an laughable excuse that she is "just a drinking buddy." But Jo goes all pie-eyed, not really wanting to know about it or getting it. It's horribly naïve at least, and unconvincing at worst.
It's Only Rock 'n' Roll is a must-read for the Stones fan, but in a more general sense seems rather insubstantial. Today, Jo Wood works alternately as a restaurateur, interior designer, and is trying to revive her line of organic beauty products. She also appeared on the British version of Dancing with the Stars.