Jo Wood: ‘Nobody has any freedom any more. We’re all being censored’

Jo Wood: 'I've loved my adventure. I'm still on it'
Jo Wood: 'I've loved my adventure. I'm still on it' - Heathcliff O'Malley
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Jo Wood has a sign hanging up in the kitchen: “Glam-ma,” it says. “A glamorous woman with grandchildren who is too young and fabulous to be called Grandma.” It feels appropriate. At 69, the model, entrepreneur and former Mrs Ronnie Wood has 10 grandchildren, to whom she seems devoted – when we speak, a gaggle of grandsons is about to arrive for the weekend – but she also remains much the quintessential rock’n’roll WAG: charming, entertaining and occasionally eccentric company, with long blonde hair and a camera-ready pose. (Ever the model, she changes from a black top into a colourful print for the shoot.)

She bought the property, a converted farmhouse not far from the Grand Union Canal outside Northampton, towards the end of 2019, lured away from her home on Gloucester Crescent, in Primrose Hill, by the prospect of the good life. When she moved in, the property was austere and white; she quickly set about putting her own stamp on it: there are car-boot sale jumbled stacks of crockery, a deep copper sink, two large pictures of Marilyn Monroe on the walls.

After decades on the road with the Rolling Stones, Wood took to a healthier lifestyle with a convert’s zeal. In 2005 she launched Jo Wood Organics, a range of fragrance, bath and bodycare, made with virtuous all-natural ingredients. An off-grid home in the country was a logical next step. The pandemic, which began a few months after she moved in, provided the perfect excuse to hunker down.

Today she grows her own fruit and veg, albeit with “oh yes, lots” of help, draws her water from a borehole, gets electricity from her solar panels, sweats in her wood-fired sauna and cools off in the pond-pool she has dug out of the gentle hillside that slopes down from the property. Apart from WiFi, she is more or less self-sufficient. In the zombie apocalypse, says she will be fine.

“The kids came here, and it was like we were free,” she says, remembering those heady Covid days. “We had such a brilliant summer, mainly because there were no chemtrails in the sky.”

Wood as a 16-year-old model, in 1972
Wood as a 16-year-old model, in 1972 - Mirrorpix

The mention of chemtrails, the conspiracist belief that aeroplanes’ contrails of water vapour are in fact chemical or biological agents being sprayed by the government, is the first indication Wood gives that she has grown a few kooky beliefs along with the carrots. But there is certainly something very smart and zeitgeisty about her entrepreneurial ideas.

Her latest project is Longevity, a capsule supplement, “a powerful blend of health-boosting botanicals”, designed to promote longevity, made with a blend of lions mane, turkey tail and reishi mushrooms – made by her son Jamie – as well as maca powder, he shou wu and astragalus root.

The inspiration came from her own routine. “I make a coffee every morning, and I was adding maca powder, then I started adding he shou wu. I kept saying to Jamie I’d like to do a powder for people to add to the coffee. He makes mushroom pills, so he said why don’t we mix the two? It covers all aspects of health.”

“I’m going to live forever,” she adds. “That’s the plan. I certainly want to make sure to live to an old age because I want to see what’s going to happen with my grandchildren. I want to see all that. I’ve always wanted to live a long life because my dad died at 57 and my brother died at 61. I’ve got to live for them.

“And I’ve got to see what happens to the world,” she adds. “We’ve all got to stand up and come together. I can’t imagine the life the globalists want us to have. I worry about freedom of speech, freedom of choice. They’re governing everything that we see. Nobody has any freedom any more. We’re all being censored. I can’t put something on Instagram that’s slightly controversial; they just block it.” Instagram blocks it? “I don’t know who’s blocking it, but they will. It’s incredible. My grandad fought for our freedoms. I feel for the children. I’ve lived a life I felt was free. I worry about my grandchildren, but there again, they won’t know any different. It’s awful.”

With ex-husband Ronnie Wood at a party in Harrods, London in 2007
With ex-husband Ronnie Wood at a party in Harrods, London in 2007 - Getty

What’s changed? “It’s the globalists and the digitisation that they want to happen. It’s above the governments. It’s the WEF [World Economic Forum], the WHO [World Health Organisation]. I’m very much against us being controlled by the WHO. Our governments should be the ones to say something. Apparently they’ve been planning this for years, the New World Order. They want us to be like China. Klaus [Schwab]... Bill Gates funds it all. I shouldn’t get into the political stuff…”

Needless to say, she did not get vaccinated. “I’m an organic girl, I wouldn’t do that,” she says. “I couldn’t work out why we would be forced to get something when I didn’t feel like I needed it. Why would they do that? Why would they vaccinate children when children’s immunity is so strong… When you look back on it, it’s insanity, and we all fell for it.”

She feels things all the more keenly because her younger brother, Paul, died with Covid aged 61 near the start of the pandemic (her sister Lize was hospitalised). “I miss him terribly,” she says. “But he always said ‘I’m not gonna live long, Jo’. He was right!”

If she is more health conscious today, she was not always. For most of her life, Jo Wood was the epitome of the rock and roll wife, a woman who could go toe to toe with some of the greatest hellraisers in the history of music. She was born Josephine Karslake in 1955, the eldest of four children to Michael, who made architectural models, and Rachel, who made dolls and sold Avon cosmetics. Jo grew up in Essex and started modelling in her teens. By 18 she had eloped to Las Vegas with her first husband, Peter Greene, and was soon pregnant with her first child, Jamie.

“My grandson is now the same age I was when I was pregnant with his father,” she says, somewhat incredulous. “I went on holiday with my first husband-to-be and he said ‘Come on doll, let’s get married’. My parents were so upset. When I look back at it now, they must have been so disappointed. Then I left Peter at 20 and at 22 I met Ronnie.”

With Ronnie Wood, Marianne Faithfull, Kate Moss and Anita Pallenberg at a party in 1999
With Ronnie Wood, Marianne Faithfull, Kate Moss and Anita Pallenberg at a party in 1999 - Getty

The night they met, at a party in west London in September 1977, Ronnie whipped out a copy of the Stones’ Black and Blue and asked if she knew who he was. She didn’t, but she was charmed anyway. She made up that she worked in Woolworths; the next day he waited outside the shop to finish her supposed shift. The two began a romance that would last three decades, a whirlwind of booze, drugs and rock and roll. Keeping up with peak Keith Richards, as the music journalist Nick Kent wrote, was like doing battle with something out of Greek mythology. Graveyards around the world are full of people who tried and failed. Ronnie and Jo’s life saw them briefly imprisoned in St Maarten, in the West Indies. During one particularly chemical period in 1980, Ronnie and Jo were freebasing cocaine in Los Angeles, with a rotating cast of celebrity guests including Sly Stone, John Belushi, Tony Curtis and David Crosby from Crosby Stills and Nash.

Not having an addictive personality helped Wood avoid the worst outcomes from that lifestyle. “I could drink all night, suffer the next day and not touch a drop for a few days,” she says. “I never had a problem with it. I used to smoke a joint every evening and then one day I thought ‘No, I don’t want this any more’ and stopped. I’m lucky like that.”

Jo and Ronnie got married in 1985 and had two children, Leah and Tyrone, born in 1978 and 1983, as well as Jamie and Jesse, Ronnie’s son from an earlier marriage to model Krissy Findlay. Leah is an artist; Tyrone a conservationist. Jesse is married to the TV and radio presenter Fearne Cotton.

Jo and Ronnie celebrate their marriage in 1985, with Charlie Watts, left, and Keith Richards
Jo and Ronnie celebrate their marriage in 1985, with Charlie Watts, left, and Keith Richards - Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive

Jo’s conversion to organic food came in 1991, when she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease – erroneously, as it turned out she had a perforated appendix instead. “I laid in hospital and said to myself ‘from now on, I will be an organic girl’.” She stuck to her guns, helping to keep Ronnie on a healthy diet in the Stones tours in the Nineties and Noughties. “Jamie said he left home because he couldn’t stand the word ‘organic’ any more. Keith said ‘the trouble with you, darling, is that you’re addicted to organic food.’ The newfound love of organic food led to an interest in plastics and chemicals in cosmetics, which led to Jo Wood Organics. “I try to avoid plastics as much as possible,” she says. “I’m lucky that I drink my own water, but [plastics] are all around us.”

She and Ronnie stayed together until 2008, when Ronnie left her for a 19-year-old Russian cocktail waitress, Katia Ivanova. Jo filed for divorce, which was granted in 2009. Despite the difficulties of the divorce, they have remained friends. In 2012 Ronnie married again, to theatre producer Sally Humphreys, 46, with whom he has twins Alice and Gracie, born in 2016.

“I always wanted to make sure I got on with him,” she says. “Forgiveness is very important, because you free yourself from the other person. After I forgave him, I thought ‘he’s the father of my children’ – they weren’t talking to him at the time – and I said ‘it’s very important you talk to your father’. Now when I see him it’s like putting an old pair of slippers on.”

Does he appreciate this magnanimous approach? “I don’t know if he even thinks of things like that,” she laughs. “But we get on well.”

Ronnie and Jo Wood with their children in 1983: from left, Jamie, Tyrone, Jesse and Leah
Ronnie and Jo Wood with their children in 1983: from left, Jamie, Tyrone, Jesse and Leah - Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive

Speaking of longevity and zombie apocalypses, the Stones are on tour again, having released a new album, Hackney Diamonds, last year. Leah is on tour with her father and her daughter, Maggie, 14. “She said to me, ‘Mum, it’s so different from what it used to be,’” Wood says. “I mean partly that’s because they are all 80. But It’s never going to be wild and crazy like we used to live. Now it’s all planned. Before it was spontaneous. It won’t be like that again. It’s a business now. We were free then. We used to stay up all night and then Keith would insist on going for a walk when everyone was going to work. Those sorts of things don’t happen now. Nobody had a camera, so we were free to walk around. It was cool.” Could the Rolling Stones even happen today? “I don’t think that will happen again. Are there young bands that are wild and crazy? I don’t know. Everything’s so controlled.”

The Stones’ survival against the odds – with the exception of Charlie Watts, who died aged 80 in 2021, reportedly of cancer – implies that there might be ways to stick around that don’t involve capsules full of herbs. “Isn’t it amazing,” Wood says. “I’m so chuffed. Mick’s running around like he’s 25.” What’s the secret of their resilience?

“I’ve thought about it a lot but I think it’s the vibrations of the music,” she says. “I wonder if it’s that. There’s so many old blues players who are still alive, too. Who would have thought Keith [Richards] would still be on stage at 80? Not him! I find that fascinating! She remains good friends with Richards and his wife, Patti.” It probably helps that they are all but sober these days.

“Keith even stopped smoking,” Wood says, with the tone of someone who has witnessed a miracle. “He likes the odd drink. But Ronnie won’t touch [alcohol]. Because he doesn’t have an off switch. It was the same with his dad. It was in the family. The only way for him to be fine is not to drink at all.”

Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on stage in Houston in April during the current Rolling Stones' Hackney Diamonds tour
Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on stage in Houston in April during the current Rolling Stones' Hackney Diamonds tour - Amy Harris/Invision

Wood says she has always been honest with her family about her wild life. She says her grandchildren have called her “Gangster Granny” since she confessed to smoking grass and taking cocaine. “At least it’s not ‘boring Granny’,” she says. Her consumption is confined to the odd drink now and then, but says she hasn’t had a joint since 2004, when Richards got her to “twist one up” in Claridge’s. “He said, ‘Go on, Jo, you used to roll the best joints’,” she recalls. “But it was so strong that afterwards I got lost in the hotel.”

Wood’s children have not always had an easy relationship with their parents’ celebrity and the wildness of the lifestyle. Earlier this year, Leah criticised the term “nepo baby”, arguing that it was “bullying” and that she had forged her own path. Is it easier to be a grandchild of a Stone than a child?

“For sure,” she says. “Because they’re that much removed from it.” One of her grandsons, Leo, 18, is a champion amateur boxer; tipped for great things with Team GB although she says he just missed out on the Olympics. Jo credits herself with getting him into the sport, having taken him to a bout when he was a boy. “It was in Miami, just after I got divorced. He sat in the corner and he was mesmerised by it all.”

Meanwhile her granddaughter Maggie, 14, has been tipped as the “next Kate Moss”, by no less an authority than Sarah Doukas, the founder of Storm Management, who scouted Moss as a teenager. Wood is keen to get her started modelling but says Leah is holding out.

“My daughter won’t allow her to until she’s 16,” she says. “I wasn’t very happy about it. I said ‘Come on Leah, she’s going to end up doing it anyway’. But Leah said ‘No, mum, she’s my daughter’.” So far, none of the 10 grandchildren have yet revealed any Rolling Stone tendencies.

“I don’t think they would ever be able to compete with their grandfather,” she says. “Ronnie has – I shouldn’t talk about Ronnie so much, really – a great gift. I always knew that. He could pick up any instrument and play it. It’s just something he has.”

Wood says her grandchildren have called her 'Gangster Granny'
Wood says her grandchildren have called her 'Gangster Granny' - John Lawrence

As for her own parenting, she says she has no regrets, despite the routine chaos of much of their lives. “I just gave my kids lots of love,” she says. “I know I was a bit crazy at the beginning, when they were very young. I said to them not so long ago, ‘I’m sorry I was putting you to bed reeking of Jack Daniels’. Leah looked at me and said. ‘I don’t remember that’. It had been playing on my mind for years. I would put them to bed with a drink in one hand and a fag in the other. They didn’t notice.

“As long as you love them, I think they can forgive you anything. Jamie will say, ‘I used to hate it when you’d still been up from the night before. I always tried to get to bed before they woke up. I’d leave Ronnie to be up all night. He didn’t mind, somehow.”

We are interrupted by a lampshade spontaneously falling off its fixings. Ghosts, I suggest. “No, I had the ghost clearers in,” she says, matter of factly. “I did a programme last year, Help, My House is Haunted. Apparently it was haunted, although I hadn’t noticed. I was fine with them.”

Ghosts are not the only non-human beings to preoccupy her. Alongside her Organics range and the new longevity supplements, Wood is pondering doing another series of her podcast, Alien Nation, in which she has interviewed an intriguing range of celebrities, so far including Robbie Williams, Pixie Geldof and David Icke, about their encounters with UFOs. She has been interested in the topic since the Nineties, when she had her own experience on tour in Recife, in Brazil. “I saw a great UFO,” she says. “It was fantastic. Ronnie said, ‘Jo, there’s something weird out here’, so I went outside and there was this thing over the sea, a light shining over the water. Then it lifted up and shot off at high speed across the sky. There’s got to be something out there. We can’t be the only beings in the universe.”

At last she excuses herself: she has to pop to the shops, she says, to get some organic food for her grandsons that “doesn’t look like organic food”. Chemtrails, grandchildren, mushroom pills, the New World Order: all in a day’s work for the Glam-ma.

“I’ve loved my adventure,” she says. “I’m still on it.”

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