By Brian Ives
Most people know Ronnie Wood as the perpetually grinning guitarist of the Rolling Stones who has been with the band since 1976. Some remember his era as the “Keith” to Rod Stewart‘s “Mick” in the Faces, the band he was with from 1969 through 1975. And, before that, he and Stewart got their big breaks in the Jeff Beck Group. But in the beginning, he was a member of a garage rock band called the Birds (not to be confused with the American band the Byrds).
That is the phase of his career that he focuses on in his upcoming book, How Can It Be? A Rock & Roll Diary by Ronnie Wood. The text reprints his 1965 diary in which he documents his time as a Bird—most pages also include current annotations by Wood.
Radio.com spoke with about this project and while it doesn’t look like the Birds will ever fly again, he had hopeful news for Faces fans and great news for Rolling Stones fans.
Radio.com: How did you find your diary from 1965?
Ronnie Wood: It was found by my dear brothers, God bless them, who are no longer with us, in my dearly departed mother’s belongings along with some treasured drawings of mine from that time. It was quite interesting for me to re-read this stuff, stuff that I’d forgotten about. My manager flipped out and said, “People would love to read about you as a 17-year old.”
There are a bunch of your sketches in the book. Is there a book of your early drawings in the works as well?
I’m including more sketches from that time to pad the book out, but it could be a taste of things to come.
Your style has developed a lot since then. What do you think when you look back at your old drawings now?
I like them. That’s what I was like back then. You learn and you change your style, but I’m still very proud of my early work. I used to be a lot more detailed and more photographic in my drawing.
Sometimes I can’t remember what I did last week, but I remember things that I did at age 17 perfectly. Is that your experience?
Lots of it I remembered perfectly. But some of the stuff I wrote was, “Great night last night: [got] sick twice!” I was new to the alcohol then. [laughs] I can’t believe that I wrote down what I did, nearly every day.
A lot of people you wrote about are legends and still making music today. It must have been a great scene.
I always had great respect for my fellow guitarists. Like Eric Clapton…but we shared the same girlfriend; that would be my first wife Chrissy. He and I always had this thing with girls, we had the same thing with Patti Harrison and Clapton—whatever. [laughs] But he was in the Yardbirds, who had a hit record. Everyone who I was hanging with at the time had a hit record. Pete Townshend as well. Jeff Beck, also with the Yardbirds then. They all had a certain amount of success. The Birds never had a hit record, but there was an amazing camaraderie among my contemporaries that kind of comes across in the book. Mitch Mitchell, the drummer from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, would stay over at my parents’ house. So would Keith Moon of the Who.