© By David Elliott, 1999
Last year, I reviewed STRUTTINÕ OUR STUFF, Bill WymanÕs debut on Velvel Records. Bill Wyman is a founding member of what has been called: ÔThe greatest Rock ÔNÕ Roll band in the WorldÕ - The Rolling Stones.
In last yearÕs review I meantioned that he had recorded 60 tracks, all of which had not been released yet. After the success of that first album we now have the opportunity to listen to: ANYWAY THE WIND BLOWS, the second album in the three part series, which will be in record stores starting February 23rd.
This past week, Bill and I spoke, and here is the first installment in a two part series, of what we talked about.
- part one -
David: I reviewed your first record for Velvel, and I thought it was a marvelous thing. Velvel told me that you were doing three records, and the second one is now coming out. The first one was kind of bluesy, and this oneÕs a little more jazzy, I think.
Bill: The first one was basically based around the 50Õs to the seventies, (give or take the odd track,) but that was the main feel of it, and the main feel of this, is the 30Õs to early 50Õs. This is much more bluesy, the other one was slightly poppier, for lack of a better word, though it wasnÕt commercially pop. This one is more jazzy-bluesey, and the third one is planned to be much more early blues, going back even to the twenties, maybe. The whole idea of this was just to cover that whole spectrum between the 20Õs and the 70Õs.
David: ThereÕs a quotation of yours [from the first album] I want to read to you: ÒEvery word came from the heart, and they believed every word they sang.Ó Does that sound familiar to you?
Bill: Yes. I was talking about the blues, then, wasnÕt I?
David: Yes. The first album had a nice feel, and you seem to be enjoying a lot of the music youÕre doing now.
David: My sons are in a band, and theyÕve taught me that there are your great technical players, and some that are great ÔfeelingÕ people. On some of your music it sounds like youÕre going more for a feel than just technical perfection.
Bill: Oh, absolutely. ThatÕs been my role always. As a bass player IÕve always thought that was more important than how many notes you play. I think itÕs how many notes you donÕt play that gets you where you want to be. Its the holes you leave in the track for other people to fill in, or that make it much more interesting than covering it with bass solos, and IÕve never been that way. IÕve always admired the bass players that play very simply and basically, and... IÕve always played like that, and I think thatÕs the way a bass player should be. They should leave all the spaces for other people. YÕknow - youÕre just part of the rhythm. As long as youÕre staying with the drums and you link the drums and everybody else together, which is quite hard at some times. ItÕs not as easy as people think, ÔWell, you know heÕs only got four strings, it must be easier than a guitarÕ but itÕs got nothing to do with that - you know. YouÕve got to link that basic drum rhythm with the melodies, and whatever else is going on there, and if you can achieve that in the simplest form, then you can leave lots of room for everybody else to do their things. And I do it even moreso on this music than I did in rock, because I try to emulate what an upright bass player would play. IÕm still playing on a bass guitar, but IÕm sounding more like an upright bass on this stuff, I think. Some people were fooled into thinking there actually was an upright bass on some of the tracks. But itÕs a different technique again, I have to sort of rethink, and play in a very different way than I played R&B, Rock, and Blues, of course.
David: I noticed that you were making Green Ice, some film Music?
Bill: Well, I had.
David: Can we expect more film music from you?
Bill: Well, IÕve got so many projects going, as I have done since I left the band inÕ93, that itÕs quite hard to fit any more in, actually! IÕve got three restaurants going; IÕm working on this trilogy; IÕve got four books in the pipeline - just had one released on my photos of Marc Chagall, the artist - that just came out this week.
David: That brings me to my next question, actually. You know, a lot of people think of Bill Wyman, the ex-Stone, and now heÕs doing a lot of
wonderful older blues stuff, and yet, I think you have more facets in the gem you are becoming, than just a rock person.
Bill: I always have had, though, IÕve always had the interest in astronomy, archaeology and photography and many other subjects of interest, in me, but until I left the band I never really had the time to do them. I was involved in some writing; I was the first one that did solo records, I did some movie score music, and I produced other bands, and things like that, but I did it in a kind of casual way, in my spare time as a sort of hobby in a way, so I couldnÕt really devote honest energy to it, and see it through. It was always done in bits and pieces and spread over long periods of time, sometimes too long. So IÕd start producing a band or something, and a year and a half later the album would be finished instead of three months later, and then you didnÕt like what you did a year and a half ago, Ôcause it sounded a bit old fashioned. There was always those problems, because in between I was doing six month tours of America and various other things: in the studio in Germany, or wherever we might be recording, or Toronto or something, so I could never devote my full time to projects, whereas now, obviously, I can, so I can take on more projects, as well, which is very enjoyable for me, and I can see them through to a sucessful conclusion.
David: I understand youÕre somewhat of a collector of the Stones memorabillia, too.
Bill: Well, I collect everything. IÕve literally got hundreds of Stones albums, and acetates, and white labels, and tape copies and itÕs just too much.
David: You need a warehouse.
Bill: You really do, IÕve got trunks and trunks and trunks. IÕve probably got 30 trunks full of printed matter. You know: documents, and letters and all kinds of stuff, and it just gets too much. I started it off as a little thing- just for my kid, really, he was just nine monthes old when I joined the Stones. I thought, ÔWell, weÕre probably only gonna be in this career for a few months, or a year, or two years, so IÕll keep a few press clippings, (if there are any,) and there were - a few, you know. I kept a sort of ticket and I kept this and that and the other, ( just for him, really,) and it just went on and on and on, and it became a mountain, you know. It wasnÕt my intention, but ever since a child IÕve collected things like coins, postage stamps, cigarette cards, what you call bubble gum cards, I think. Baseball Cards. But they used to be in cigarette packets in England, so theyÕre called cigarette cards, itÕs the same thing, yÕknow. All the great sportsman, all the
great film stars, all the racing cars, all that sort of stuff. IÕve always
collected things like that. IÕve collected autographs of vaudville artists, which we call musical artists, and IÕve got autograph books going back to 1910, of all the great vaudville acts. All that sort of thing. I really like it. I collect very early books on history and archaeology and stuff like that.
David: What geographic areas of archaeology are you interested in?
Bill: Mainly England and the Roman period of Saxons, and such. Pretty much England, because I can do that in England. I can follow it through. I live in a very old house, so I can go into my backyard and dig up things from the 11th century or something. ItÕs quite interesting. So I can do my archaeology in my garden instead of going to the Sudan, or Egypt or something. IÕm not going to find a tomb, but I find midievil silver pennies from the 1300Õs and stuff like that.
David: In your backyard?
Bill: Yeah. My house is 15th Century, and itÕs got a moat around it. ItÕs a 45 manor house from 1480. There was a house from people who used to live on that actual site (of course the original house doesnt exist any more,) from about the 9th century. So ThereÕs a massive history there. I can go inside the moat, and just dig up in the corner of my garden, and IÕve unearthed over a period of a couple of years, 35 walls under the ground of a site that was a house, and buildings. Some of those walls were three foot thick, (wide), and they go down seven feet into the ground. So the local archaelogical people come, and they measure the walls, and they make plans, and they record all that information... If youÕre an archaeologist you usually end up somewhere in the middle east digging a hole in some desert for 30 years and then maybe you find something. I donÕt have that time, you know! [laughs] and not that career, so I have to do it in a part time way, in a casual way, but IÕve found two Roman sites near me where the Romans were living in the second and third centuries. IÕve found 300 Roman coins, and a bracelet... IÕve got about 18 Roman brooches where they used to hold their togas up with, you know theyÕre very pretty things. IÕve found Saxon things, IÕve found Iron Age and Bronze age stuff. IÕve found bits of bronze axes (and thatÕs from two or three thousand years ago,) all around my house, and in the next field and that sort of thing. So I can enjoy a hobby like that, at home.
David: Without having to travel too far.
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Bill: Yes, exactly, as I can, with most of my hobbies - photography, with astronomy, which I follow. IÕve got a little telescope and all that, IÕve got a
couple actually, but theyÕre quite small. But I can go to observatories occaissionally, (I know people), and I can follow it in the media, or on television, or videos or in books, so itÕs very easy to do that stuff from home now.
- end of Part one -
© By David Elliott, 1999
If you read the first installment of this interview last week with Bill Wyman (one of the founding members of the Rolling Stones,) you will recall that his new album, ANYWAY THE WIND BLOWS was just released on Velvel Records . Appearing on the record with Bill are longtime friends Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton, Gary Booker, Paul Carrack, Chris Rea, Martin Taylor, Georgie Fame, Albert Lee, and former Stone, Mick Taylor. And now for the second installment of my interview with Bill Wyman.
Beginning of Part 2
David: Well, Bill - I was curious, youÕve had such a pretty fair life, with pretty much everything the worldÕs had to offer in the way of fame. How are you now? Now that youÕre able to regiment your time better? Are you happier now?
Bill: Oh! A hundred times! IÕve never been happier, I donÕt think, because my life is in a very nice groove now, and I can enjoy everything I want. I can do whatever I want and I have the opportunity. IÕm not stuck in an office job or something, like the average person is. So, I work through the night, always. I never go to bed before three, four or five oÕclock, and IÕve always done that for thirty years or more, (which my wife accepts very nicely, and understands, and doesnÕt make a problem for me). and I just work on whatever suits me at the time, see? So IÕve got at least four books going, and various other things IÕm putting together: a series for television, a history of the blues, which IÕm researching, and putting the scripting together now, and IÕm gonna be comparing for an independent company and then sold to a TV company, so the worldÕs my oyster, in a way, (without being too corney about it). EverythingÕs available. Any project that anybody comes to me with an idea, and I think itÕs interesting, I can can get into it, or I can think of one myself and get into it. Whereas I couldnÕt do that when I was in the band.
David: Because you were always on the road.
Bill: And there was no time! When I was doing solo recordings in the 70Õs and early 80Õs, it was three days in the studio and IÕd be off for two
months, and then IÕd come back and IÕd do ten days somewhere else, in Miami, or somewhere, (because we were in America, so IÕd record in Miami). Then IÕd have to break and fly to Switzerland for a weekÕs business meetings, then weÕd be doing a video in Holland, and then weÕd be back in England, and two weekÕs later, when everybody went on holiday, IÕd go back to Los Angeles and work another two weeks an my album. It was all bits and pieces, and it used to be very frustrating. But it was satisfying in a different way, because I had creative forces within me that I couldnÕt express within the band. I wasnÕt involved in the songwriting, I wasnÕt involved in the producing, the arranging, all that sort of stuff (only on a slight level, as far as the music itself). And there were frustrations there, you know, I had songs, I had ideas, I had ideas about production, which I got rid of by working with other bands, producing other bands, being on other peoplesÕs albums, and doing my own solo stuff, and doing movie music, you see. So you can deal with it, but in a very limited way because of your time.
David: You know the song : 2120 So. Michigan Ave.?
David: That features your playing very well,
Bill: Yes, well I came up with that riff, actually! (chuckle)
David: Oh, really?
Bill: Yes, of course, because itÕs a bass riff. Da-dah, da-dah dah,[he hums it] yeah - and everybody else joins in.
David: WeÕre talking early 60Õs...
Bill: November Ô64.
David: But when you came up with it, in those days, was that your light to shine, so to speak?
Bill: Well, it was when the whole band were participating in the writing of songs, and they were very basic songs, or song ideas, but we shared everything, Ôcause everybody participated, and everybody would throw words at Mick, and he put bits and pieces together, and all that, so the band shared the publishing and the writing of the whole bunch of songs in those days, like Off The Hook, and Play with Fire and all those sort of things, you know - there were always two or three on an album. Then after that Mick and Keith kind of took over, and they wrote everything after that, and there was no outlet for anything; for anybody else, really, apart from being on your instrument.
David: On your new record, we have songs by Bill Wyman: Every Sixty Seconds, Ring My Bell, True Romance, Crazy He Calls Me, and Strutting Our Stuff, if I read the liner notes correctly.
Bill: Yes, thereÕs five, I think. There were six on the first album. IÕve sat down and literally endeavoured to write those songs as a thirties song, instead of trying to write sort of soft rock, or tongue in cheek stuff, which IÕve done before, on solo albums and had some big sucesses and some big failures. So I didnÕt think about the charts or being commercial, or doing all that. I just thought, ÔHow do I write a song that sounds like it was written in the thirtiesÕ. So I listened to the way they did them. I listened to the chords they used. The melody lines, the kind of phrasings they used in the singing, and the slang that they used at the time, and I used all that. And used the instrumentation. You know I told the drummer, Ôthrow away the sticks, youÕre playing brushes. Or play like an upright bass, rhythm guitar - almost acoustic, like Al Casey and Charlie Christian and people like that played in the 30Õs and 40Õs. That junc junc junc junc, kind of block chord stuff, you know, changing all the time. And when we finished it, it sounded like a thirties song! Which was wonderful, because thatÕs what we intended to do. And I found it much easier to do than trying to write pop songs.
We started doing a few gigs, IÕve gotten the band together, which is hard, because theyÕve all got their own careers, but I got them all together, and we did Northern Europe, in October. We had a fantastic tour, a fantastic time; the receptions were wonderful, we sold out everywhere, they wouldnÕt let us leave at the end, it was encore, encore, encore. And IÕm doing the same thing this summer in England because we had such a fantastic reaction to it, which I didnÕt expect.
David: You know, Bill, if youÕd have someone video a couple of the summer shows, and then put something together...
Bill: Well, the VH-1 have asked us to do a live special for them, which they planned to do in January/February, and I said, ÔWhy donÕt you wait till June, when weÕre on the road, and weÕre firing on all cylinders.Õ So thatÕs what weÕre going to do. And so at least there will be the availability to people in America, Japan, Australia, places like that, where weÕre never going to go, that can see how the band is, because itÕs a pretty hot band, IÕll tell you. The first record sold pretty well in Europe - much better than either myself, or the record company expected. This second one is like doubled, and itÕs gone by word of mouth.
David: Exactly. And also people like me are writing it up. And saying, Hey, youÕve got to listen to this.
Bill:And after the first one they start listening more to the second one, and it builds. We got into the professional jazz and blues charts in England, and we got to Number five, with no promotion...
Bill: And we were there for two months, just purely on word of mouth; and people who bought the first one, bought the second one, and so on. ItÕs going very, very well. But there is a market out there.
David: I think itÕs bigger than you know.
Bill: I know, because all that swing thing thatÕs been starting to happen in America, with Brian Setzer, and all.... It should be made available to all the young people.
David: IÕm very excited about this for you, because I hope that it will take you into a different dimension.
Bill: Thank you. Well, I have great people around me, great musicians I can touch on.
David:I heard a story, and I just want you to confirm it. Peter Frampton- Is it true you got him his first job?
Bill: Yes He was thirteen, and heÕs come knockinÕ on my door when he was a little boy, and asked me if I had any old Beatle boots I didnÕt want, and things like that; any old stage clothes. He could play guitar then, and he used to play jazz - he was a very innovative jazz guitarist, and I used him on some demos and stuff when I was producing other bands in the studio over a period of a year, and then he joined a band that was the continuation of my band, that I left when I joined the Stones. It went to other levels, other people joined, people left and it became the Preachers, and he joined that band, and that later became the Herd. Me and Pete go way, way back. I suppose he looks on me like IÕm his uncle or his mentor, or something. But weÕve always had a great rapport. And also Gary Brooker; I knew before the Stones.
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Bill: And now IÕve asked them to join with me on the road. Frampton, people like that, canÕt do this in their career. I can, so they can come over and do it with me.
David: And have fun.
Bill: Yeah! And thatÕs what itÕs like on the road. You know, they come on the road for no money, and we jump in a bus and we go and do gigs and we have fun. And they love it, because itÕs like being back in the beginning in the 60Õs when we all started. When we did it just for the love of the music, and we didnÕt think about fame or fortune, and all that, because it was too pie in the sky for us at that time.
Bill: So weÕre really doing it for the love of the music again, and thatÕs why itÕs so enjoyable when you hear this stuff. You can hear that. You can hear everybodyÕs enjoyinÕ it, havinÕ a good time and playinÕ their butts off, and I think thatÕs why itÕs being received so well.
The second installment of Bill Wyman and the Rhythm Kings Trilogy, entitled ANYWAY THE WIND BLOWS, has established Mr. Wyman as the new King of Swing. The warmth of the production sparkles on every cut of these musical gems.