The phone rang at Bermondsey, The Rolling Stones’ rehearsal studio in South London. Ian Stewart of the Stones loved The Small Faces, couldn’t get enough of them really, and set them up here. Actually, they were the ex-Small Faces. After a number one album in the UK, lead singer Steve Marriott had bolted and the remaining members, Kenny Jones, Ronnie Lane, and Ian McLagan had reached out to their pal Ronnie Wood for help. Trying to find their way they’d made camp here, drinking the nights away while jamming with their new guitarist, who had just stepped out for a smoke. They sounded rough and wonderful, sort of a poor man’s Stones, if you will. They just needed a singer. Woody’s pal Rod Stewart was at Bermondsey as well, on the upper floor, lying on the floor in a listening room, refusing to come down. Strange bird that Rod.
Brrrinnnggg! Brrrinnnggg! Brrrinnnggg!
“Anyone going to get that?” Jones wondered aloud.
“Alright, I will,” huffed Lane. He laid down his bass, almost toppling the half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels by his chair. He bent over and steadied the wavering bottle, wobbling as much as Lane himself. Neither fell down. That settled, Ronnie went to pick up the receiver.
“‘Ello, who is it?”
“Is Ronnie there?”
“This is Ronnie, who’s this?” he answered, slightly slurring.
“Ronnie, it’s Mick. Listen, we were just thinking whether you would you want to join our happy family?”
“Mick, who?” thinking it was Jagger, but willing to take the piss out of that nonce.
“Jagger, Mick Jagger.” A bit miffed now, not used to be addressed with such obvious derision. Maybe Keith was wrong about this bloke.
“Hmm, tempting mate, tempting. Well we are working here, trying our hand at a few numbers, but, the Stones, well, there’s nothin’ bigger than that, is there?
Jagger laughed. “I suppose not, I suppose not. So, you’ll mull it over?”
“I think I would fancy that, sure. Better birds, better drugs, right?”
“True for sure. Well, let’s get together with Keith and discuss this further.”
"Fine, fine. So, tell me then, why is Bill leaving the band?”
“Bill?” Jagger asked, now confused. “Bill Wyman?”
“Of course Bill Wyman, you prat. If I’m coming on as the new bass player it’s obvious that the old bass player would be gone, am I right?”
A long silence. “Is this Ronnie Wood?”
“Nah, you twit, it’s Ronnie Lane. You want Woody?”
“Umm yes, actually, I was wondering if Woody would want to join the Stones to replace Brian. We’re going to give him the sack. Is Woody there?”
“No, no, Ronnie is not here. Ronnie would not like to join The Rolling Stones. He is quite happy where he is, thank you very much.”
"Can you tell him I called?” asked Mick, suddenly quite unsure of himself.
“Oh, of course darling, of course. I’d be happy to mention that you rang.”
“Thanks Ronnie Lane. Frightfully sorry about the misunderstanding.”
Lane put down the receiver and rejoined his mates, still playing around with Dylan’s “The Wicked Messenger.”
“Who was it?” wondered McLagan.
“Nobody, wrong number I think,” answered Lane.
Just then, Wood walked back in. “How’s everyone doing? Did I miss anything interesting?”
“Not really, Woody, not really,” said Lane. “Ready to play with us a bit more?”
Wood turned to the drums. “Hey Jonesy, why don’t you go upstairs and get Rod to come down and have a go at singing with us?”
Kenney headed up to retrieve Rod and when they returned, the band kicked into gear. They hacked away at old chestnuts, mostly, “Memphis,” “Twistin’ the Night Away,” that sort. Around 4 AM, Ian Stewart burst in.
“Ronnie, Ronnie Lane. What did you say to Mick?”
Lane gave Stu a “Who me?” look, utterly unfazed.
Woody, confused, looked towards Lane. “Can I ask Mick who?’
"You’re a right bastard, you are, Lainie. You didn’t tell him, heh?” Stu said disgustedly.
Turning to Wood, Ian told him straight out that the Stones were looking for a new guitar player, that Brian Jones was not much longer in the group and that Mick had called tonight to ask if Woody would be interested. “And that cunt,” he pointed at Lane, plucking his bass, grinning widely, “took the call, tonight, and said he would tell you.”
“Fuuuccck!” Wood unstrapped his guitar as quickly as he could and got up to leave. He laid down his axe, careful not to upend the half-empty bottle of Mateus wine by his chair.
“You better hurry mate. Mick’s pretty sore,” Stu warned.
Woody started to walk just a bit faster. Turning back to Lane he had one last thing to say.
"Hey Lainie, sod off you little shit. I quit.”
Brian Jones was fired by The Rolling Stones in June ’69. Looking for a replacement on guitar, Mick Jagger called Ronnie Wood, ex-Jeff Beck Group bassist, presently working as lead guitarist with the former Small Faces. Instead, Ronnie Lane, bassist for the group, picked up. Mick asked if Woody would consider joining The Stones. Lane told Jagger that Wood was “quite happy” where he was, at the beginning of what would become The Faces. Lane never did give Wood the message that Jagger called. Instead, The Stones hired Mick Taylor of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Five years later, Taylor left and Ronnie Wood began touring with The Rolling Stones, officially joining them in February ’76.
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