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Bill Wyman Solo: It's Me, Such As I Am

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"What happened in the beginning, when we were touring the States and I decided to do the album, was that everyone – including the Stones – was saying, 'Well, you'd better get a producer in to help you finish the songs, then get a top producer like Richard Perry' – none of which exactly boosted my confidence. Then they said, 'Get in some top session guys who'll sell the album, and who's going to do the singing?' It was awful, I felt it slipping away from me.

"Mind you, I can understand their attitude because I'd never sung, and only done a bit of amateur producing with that Tucky Buzzard thing and John Walker, both of which taught me a lot but weren't very successful. You see, the way the Stones work is almost a tradition. Keith and Mick have the final say, which is fair because it's their song we're playing. The rest of us put up suggestions but we don't freak out if they're ignored. I think that's the way it has to be if you want to stay together. With four or five egos battling it out you can't last. Look at Ray Davies and the Kinks, Townshend and the Who. I can remember touring in the early days with the Yardbirds backing us. They had Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, who at the time had to be two of the best guitarists. But every night it was a battle of egos, getting louder and louder. It ruined the music and was horrible to hear. That's what happens if you don't have people who're willing to back down.

"So altogether I had a lot to get over. I was terrified of sitting at the piano or picking up a guitar and saying, 'Fellers, this is what we're doing tonight.' I haven't the guts for that, so instead I made these demos on a little B&O deck, seven-and-a-half i.p.s. and with some sort of overtracking. But without being able to play drums and being only reasonable on guitar and piano, you can imagine they were pretty rough. I used, to wait until the old lady had gone shopping before singing, and then used to sing too softly so that I'd be in a low key."

For backings, Wyman used vocalists Betty Wright, husband-wife duo Gwen and George McCrae and the Bonnaroo Horn Section of Dr. John and Allen Toussaint fame. "Incredible to work with, those horns, you could never get players like that in England. The sheer professionalism, knowing how to blend for their sound, how to tune up in five seconds. They'd walk in, know exactly where to stand around this one mike and be ready to go." Only occasionally did the sessions threaten to turn into a superjam, something Wyman is allergic to. "One time word got around and a whole bunch of people came in," recalled Wyman, "and it turned into one of those L.A. scenes. Jay Winding, son of Kai Winding the trombonist, was on organ. Excellent player – and there was whassisname Perkins . . . Wayne, that's it . . . on bass, me on electric and about four other guitarists. It was insane, out of control and we didn't use it. I didn't mind though, because it's a great compliment when those people drop in. Like Leon, who's already done his sessions, asked if he could come along the next night. I told him we already had a pianist, but he said he'd come anyway. He even offered to do some singing, if I didn't want to. Well, it's better than 'Nice session, man,' and you never see them again.

"With this record, I had to work with people I trusted. That was one of the conditions to get over my insecurity. I know over the years I've slipped further and further back out of the limelight, which makes life a little free, of course, with me and Charlie being fourth choice for interviews. But it would be wrong to think that I did the album to get more famous. I know this is going to sound like a cliche, but I think I have something to say which can't be said through the Stones. My thing, my feelings about certain types of music, that element of happiness and fun, doesn't fit our style. It wasn't all so serious for the first three or four years together, and that goes for most of the bands. The difference now is the difference between playing the local youth club and Carnegie Hall. It's such a production now, and you feel responsible for all those people you need around you, and sort of trapped against going too far off the beaten track. How often do people come out of a concert these days feeling like dancing in the street like they did when Bill Haley first played?"

This story is from the June 6th, 1974 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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