The Rolling Stones had a reputation for wild behavior in their earlier days. Guitarist Ronnie Wood lived some of it when he joined the band in 1975. He helped write a Stones hit before coming on board, and he also lived through some wild times in the 1960s. Wood survived a violent attack years before his Stones stint that gave new meaning to their his song “Street Fighting Man.”
The Rolling Stones emerged during a heated time among England’s young music fans
The United States had east coast vs. west coast rap in the mid- to late-1990s, with fans committing allegiance to one side or the other. Three decades earlier, England had the mods vs. the rockers.
Post-war English youth comprised both groups, but they saw themselves at odds. The sharp-dressed, scooter-driving mods and the jeans-and-leather rockers considered the other side rivals. The mods favored The Who as their band of choice. Rockers listened to groups like the emerging Rolling Stones, who released their first album in 1964.
Fans took sides, and the musicians were caught in the middle. As Wood writes in his autobiography Ronnie, he formed friendships (and/or played) with Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Jeff Beck, and Who guitarist Pete Townshend. The mods vs. rockers rivalry reached its peak with a massive seaside melee in 1964, writes the BBC.
Wood saw the brutal rivalry first-hand and was lucky to survive a violent encounter that Beck helped instigate.
Ronnie Wood survived a violent attack years before he joined The Rolling Stones
The musicians might not have cared about mods vs. rockers, but the fans did, and they didn’t necessarily leave the bands out of it. As he writes in Ronnie, Wood was in the thick of one violent attack, no thanks to a loud-mouthed Beck.
While dining at the Blue Boar, a roadside diner popular with touring musicians, Beck antagonized a group of rockers armed with bats, clubs, and tire irons, who quickly swarmed Wood, Beck, and the rest of their party as they tried to leave:
“So we dropped our food and raced out of the café, heading straight for the car. Our driver that night was a delicate woman and by no means a getaway driver. The rockers came after us. Jeff got behind the wheel and revved up, the woman slid in the passenger side, and when I saw the back window open, I leapt straight through it, head first. Those guys in leather got to the car and started banging on it, so Jeff threw the car into reverse, which pinned one of the rockers against the petrol pumps, then put the car in forward gear and pinned another rocker against the wall. These guys were furious now and were still climbing and hammering on the car as we skidded out of there.”Ronnie Wood describes the violent attack he survived in the 1960s
Wood and Beck were likely carrying only their guitars (and Beck and big mouth). The gang outside the diner was armed with clubs and bats. Considering they were outmanned and outgunned, Wood was lucky to survive the violent attack with a little help from Beck’s aggressive driving skills.
Wood lived long enough to get the call to join the Stones
It’s not hard to imagine a bloodthirsty gang armed with implements of destruction and antagonized by Beck going ballistic on Wood if they got their hands on him. He was lucky to survive the violent attack and still be able to use his hands to play guitar.
Wood found modest local success with his first band, The Birds, then hooked up with the Jeff Beck Group and The Faces. When The Rolling Stones came calling, though, he left the latter group to join the band he long held in high regard.
Wood admired and appreciated Keith Richards’ role in the Stones. The chance to join the band was nearly a no-brainer. From Richards’ perspective, replacing Mick Taylor with Wood was one of the easiest decisions The Rolling Stones ever made.
The Rolling Stones created a lasting hit with “Street Fighting Man,” but it was Ronnie Wood who lived through a violent attack before hooking up with the Stones.