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Bill Wyman

+ {Willie And The Poor Boys} + {Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings}

The old man of The ROLLING STONES (although who isn’t nowadays), bassist Bill (born William George Perks, 24th October 1936, Lewisham in London) was several years the senior from the rest of his gritty crew when he took the place of PRETTY THINGS-bound Dick Taylor in the summer of ’62. So not quite an original member of the Stones, but there from the start of their tenacious recording schedule (and debut 45 `Come On’ in ’63) right up until his departure after thirty years early in 1993; his first band incidentally was The Cliftons.
Regarded by many ROLLING STONES disciples as the pump to drummer CHARLIE WATTS’ piston, the chemistry was there to see as the rhythmic partnership plodded regardless behind Messrs Jagger, Richards and the ill-fated Brian Jones. The greatest rock’n’roll band in the world (for the 60s and early part of the 70s at least!), it was a hard task indeed to break the Jagger-Richards songwriting stronghold, but many Stones aficionados will know that the first solely-penned platter Bill was responsible for was a minor 1967 hit flip `In Another Land’ (b/w of the Stones’ `The Lantern’), taken from the group’s `Beggars Banquet’ LP.
Always regarded as the elder statesman of the group – although Keef was ageing faster than most – WYMAN broke ranks from the “It’s Only Rock’n’Roll” circus to deliver a couple of interim solo pop-rock LPs. The star-studded MONKEY GRIP (1974) {*5} was as effective and diverse as one bassist could get, his compositions boosted by appearances of DR. JOHN, LOWELL GEORGE and LEON RUSSELL. If simple tunes played nice ’n’ easy was one’s bag, then the playful `White Lightnin’’ (not a cover) and the ROBERT WYATT-esque `I’ll Pull You Thro’’ might’ve sunk your boat. Follow-up STONE ALONE (1976) {*2} stretched faux-rock beyond all reality at a time when everybody jumped on either the disco bandwagon or the pastiche ragtime-jazz swing.
When Bill returned to The ROLLING STONES, the ructions had been tamed somewhat with the departure of MICK TAYLOR and the introduction of one-time FACES stalwart RONNIE WOOD; however the appropriately-titled `Black And Blue’ (1976) was certainly not the critical comeback they’d expected. But anyway, the show was back on the road.
Squeezed between two soundtracks (GREEN ICE (1981) {*4} and the shelved `Digital Dreams’, BILL WYMAN was now into his third studio album proper, the self-titled BILL WYMAN (1982) {*6} probably his most focused, while blending a cocktail of oddball rock and typically tropical songs like surprise hit `(Si, Si) Je Suis Un Rock Star’; the bassman would further his blues CV by recording live-jam albums with long-time influences BUDDY GUY and JUNIOR WELLS.
While Jagger and Richards were sorting out their musical differences in between recording schedules and the former’s indulgent solo career, WYMAN, WATTS and three buddies, Geraint Watkins, Mickey Gee and former AMEN CORNER and solo crooner ANDY FAIRWEATHER-LOW re-formed the ashes from an earlier retro-roots/R&B revue, WILLIE AND THE POOR BOYS. In 1985, their eponymous WILLIE AND THE POOR BOYS {*6} set was fashioned on 50s be-bop-a-lula rock’n’roll, all but two songs (Gee’s `Revenue Man’ and WYMAN/Fairweather-Low’s `Poor Boy Boogie’) silver threads and golden nuggets from a bygone age. Several years on, the quintet revived and revamped another dozen ditties by way of 1992 live set TEAR IT UP (1994) {*5}.
While cross-Atlantic fans of “Stone Alone” WYMAN had to be content with costly imports of Japanese-only fourth solo album, STUFF (1992) {*4}, they’d be much more concerned when he announced his impending departure from Britain’s best.
Whether he wanted to write his autobiography or it was the media attention brought by his marriage (and subsequent split in spring ’91 and divorce in ’93) to 18-year-old model Mandy Smith, no one really cared after a while, even when his 29-year-old son Stephen (from his first marriage in 1959) engaged Mandy’s mum. Bill was soon happily married (April ’93) to Suzanne Accosta, helping bring up three subsequent daughters between two houses in Suffolk and the south of France.
Blues had always been WYMAN’s mistress in part, and sourcing material (some he’d compile in Various Artists-style on a couple of `Blues Odyssey’ soundtrack films/albums), the bassist founded BILL WYMAN’S RHYTHM KINGS alongside long-time buddy and musical accomplice/co-songsmith Terry Taylor. From 1997’s STRUTTIN’ OUR STUFF {*5} – featuring guest members GEORGIE FAME, ALBERT LEE, ERIC CLAPTON and PETER FRAMPTON on a handful of choice covers – to a purple patch in the mid-00s via albums JUST FOR A THRILL (2004) {*5} and LIVE (IN BERLIN) (2005) {*5}, one could see Bill and the boys (and the soulful lass Beverley Skeete) having fun and taking the load of their long and illustrious careers.
Returning with a solo album after 33 years fronting his other projects, the wily old WYMAN (aged 78!) managed to secure a deal at twilight imprint Proper Records for the laconic set, BACK TO BASICS (2015) {*4}. Sounding as if he’d been listening to JJ CALE tracks day and night, lonesome Bill revised a handful of tracks from earlier discs, namely `Stuff (Can’t Get Enough)’, `I’ll Pull You Through’ and mmm… `Seventeen’, while everything else (including `What & How & If & When & Why’) seemed well past their sell-by-date or just too nostalgic and un-rock’n’roll.
© MC Strong/MCS Dec2011-Jun2015

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