The Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood Shares Byrds Lawsuit, Keith Moon Stories From New Book 'How Can It Be?'
Besides helping give Rolling Stones fans plenty to hear during the group's Zip Code tour -- which launched Sunday, May 24 -- the legendary rock band's guitarist Ronnie Wood is giving them something to read, too.
Wood has just published How Can It Be? A Rock & Roll Diary, a lavish recreation of a journal he kept -- with both prose and sketches -- during 1965, when he was playing in a band called The Birds (which actually sued The Byrds when the American group visited Britain during 1965). Recreated by high-end British publisher Genesis Publications, How Can It Be? shows us Wood's burgeoning career at 17, with almost "Zelig"-like connections to rock'n'roll royalty such as Eric Clapton, The Who, Jeff Beck and many others.
Wood tells Billboard that the book is one of three diaries he recently unearthed from his families archives.
"My brothers, God rest their souls, must've put them in my mum's collection before she died, in the old bedroom cupboard, and somehow they've handed down to me," Wood says. "I used to keep these books diligently. I'd we writing things down and working almost every night of the week, so it's great to just find these little treasures."
Among How Can It Be?'s tales is how Wood's Birds failed their audition with the BBC on the same day The Who passed theirs.
"They had failed every time until they did 'I Can't Explain,'" Wood recalls. "When they had that hit record they had to be allowed on the radio. We didn't have a hit, so they could turn us down. In those days it was all men in white coats and this terrible, narrow-minded sort of committee where as soon as you plug the amp in or hit the drum it was like you failed immediately 'cause you were too loud for the airwaves. So we were used to not passing our BBC audition."
Wood did, however, strike up a warm relationship with The Who, to the point where he felt uncomfortable with the seemingly dangerous prospect of bringing Keith Moon home as a houseguest.
"I had early advanced taste in maniacs," Wood notes with a laugh. "My mum used to think (Moon) was the greatest gentleman ever 'cause he'd make her a cup of tea; 'Mrs. Wood, can I get you a brandy to go with your tea?' And then he'd be wrecking the hotel just up the road. But he was a proper gentleman to my mum."
As for that Byrds lawsuit, Wood recalls that the Birds' manager "embarrassed us, really, because he said, 'I've got a great idea. I'm gonna issue them with a writ and sue them for stealing your name!' And we were like, 'Oh no, how can you do that?' And sure enough, it was on the front page of the Melody Maker that week. I met Jim (aka Roger) McGuinn a few years back and I reminded him of when they first came to England and he said, 'Yeah man, we got sued as soon as we got off the plane.' And I said, 'Do you know who it was? It was me!' and he went, 'You bastard!'"
With the deluxe edition of How Can It Be? sold out, Wood says there are plans to publish a mainstream version of the book this fall, and the diaries from 1964 and 1966 may also come out at some point.
"We'll see how this one does," Wood says. "With Genesis in the room now they're all going, 'Yeah! What a good idea!' so we'll see."
All three diaries, he adds, are part and parcel of his eventually journey into the Stones' lineup the following decade.
"It's a gradual development through the hard labor of getting into the band that I always wanted to be in," Wood explains. "This group the Birds was just the first stepping stone to being in the Stones, which I got to via the Jeff Beck Group, via the Faces and Rod Stewart. Then to end up where I wanted to be is quite a great thing."
The Stones launched the Zip Code Tour on May 24 in San Diego and will play 15 dates from then to July 15 at the Festival D'ete de Quebec in Quebec City. The group is putting out a deluxe reissues of 1971's Sticky Fingers album on June 9, as well as The Marquee -- Live in 1971 CD/DVD package on June 23 and a 12-inch vinyl version of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" on July 12 to mark its 50th anniversary.