Area Resident’s Stylus Counsel: In Praise Of Ronnie’s Bass

Track 194 | Running down the greatest bass hits of one Ronald David Wood.

Recently a musician friend of mine texted me and asked, “When’s the last time you listened to Start Me Up? Like, really listened to it?” He wanted me to focus on the bass track, which he’d been told is rumoured to be played by Ronnie Wood, not Bill Wyman. The bass track is incredible — very mobile and lyrical without being distracting. It manages to have a lick of its own in a song dominated by a main guitar riff.

But is it Woody or Bill? I say it’s Bill. That said, it wasn’t unusual for someone apart from Wyman to handle bass duties on a Rolling Stones song — and I’m talking about before he quit the band in 1993. Heck, doesn’t everyone know Keith Richards is on bass for Sympathy For The Devil? That’s him on Happy, too — and several others. Stones lead guitarist Mick Taylor played bass on some notable tracks as well, like Sway and Tumbling Dice.

Anyway, did you know Ronnie is the bass player on the uber-bass title track Emotional Rescue? It’s true. But what’s also true is that Wood is a better bass player than all of them combined, and has been killing it on bass since 1968.

Woody was the bass player in the power trio + Rod Stewart of The Jeff Beck Group. Their two albums Truth and Beck-Ola are wall-to-wall Wood on bass. He also was the go-to bass player on all Stewart’s solo albums from 1969-’75. Even though Faces had an actual bass player — and a real good one — in Ronnie Lane, Woody still laid down bass tracks on practically all of their records.

Wood did sessions for Donovan too — and for Alvin Lee post-Ten Years After. Heck, he even got on stage with Led Zeppelin for an encore in 1975 — taking over bass duties from John Paul Jones for Communication Breakdown:

When The Crazy World of Arthur Brown had to actually perform on BBC’s Top Gear in April 1968 (rather than just mime like they did on Top Of The Pops) — Wood was brought in as the bass player:

In 1973, former Mamas And The Papas founder John Phillips had just moved to London and was encouraged by Mick Jagger to record a new album, which they would put out on their new Rolling Stones Records label. Thanks to Phillips’ crazy cocaine use, the album never got finished and wasn’t released until just after his death in 2001 as Pay Pack & Follow. Before that, bits had been leaked and circulated as Half-Stoned or simply The Lost Album. The album features contributions from Jagger, Richards, Taylor and future Rolling Stone Wood on bass. The track Zulu Warrior was written by The Glimmer Twins — and you can really tell:

Ronnie was known as quite a good guitarist when he — still a member of The Birds — was approached by Beck to join his group. Problem was, he didn’t own a bass and couldn’t afford one. He convinced a shop to loan him one, which he never returned. Years later, he decided to go in and settle up with them. On those early Jeff beck Group albums he’s playing a Fender Telecaster bass — with a pick —using Rotosound 66 strings, through Marshall 100-watt stacks.

I know Geddy Lee interviewed Wyman for his Big Beautiful Book of Bass, but I suggest he sit down with Woody for his current streaming series Are Bass Players Human Too? — because I think Ronnie’s busy style is way more akin to Dirk’s than anyone with a “quiet one” nickname. Anyway, I got my own playlist to do. Here are the greatest bass hits of Ronald David Wood.


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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.