After years of rumors maintaining that his departure was imminent, it appears that bassist Bill Wyman has officially left the Rolling Stones. His exit marks the first change in the Stones’ lineup since guitarist Ron Wood replaced Mick Taylor in 1975 and breaks up the fabled Wyman-Charlie Watts rhythm section, which has powered the world’s most famous band for thirty years.
Though Wyman himself has not yet made any statement confirming or denying such a decision, Mick Jagger sounded definitive when he announced the move in a December 3rd interview with MTV Europe.
“Bill has decided he doesn’t want to carry on,” said Jagger. “For whatever reasons — you’d have to ask him why. I don’t think it will really faze us too much. We’ll miss Bill, but we’ll get someone good.”
“A rhythm-section change in a band is a heavy-duty number,” added Keith Richards, “so we’ve got to find the right cat. It’s totally up to Bill. If he doesn’t want to do it, it’s his decision. I don’t want a reluctant guy on the road.”
Jagger and Richards would not expand on their MTV remarks, and fellow Stones Watts and Wood did not return phone calls or offer any comments.
The oldest Stone, at fifty-six, Wyman joined the band in 1962, when he replaced original bassist Dick Taylor. Over the last several years, however, there had been widespread speculation that he wanted to leave the group because he was tired of touring.
He refused to sign the six-year, $44 million recording contract the Stones inked with Virgin Records in 1991. “I think Bill’s kind of had enough of it all, really,” Jagger said at the time. “I guess he just doesn’t want to do any more.”
In recent interviews promoting his solo album Main Offender, Richards had hinted that a decision regarding Wyman’s involvement with the band was impending, since the Stones plan to begin work on a new album within the next few months.
“We’ve gotta get into that,” Richards told Rolling Stone in November. “I’m going over to London to have a word with him.” But Richards also told one reporter that he, Jagger and Watts were really the “absolutely irreducible core” of the Stones and that as long as they stayed together, the band would press on.
Last fall, Wyman released a solo album, Stuff, in Japan only. Just days before Jagger’s announcement, the bassist — renowned for his womanizing as well as his stoic stage presence — reached a divorce settlement with his wife, twenty-two-year-old Mandy Smith.
“We are looking for a new bass player,” Jagger told MTV, casually ending one of rock & roll’s greatest alliances. With a grin, he added that viewers should feel free to apply for the job “if you think you fit the bill.”
This is a story from the January 21, 1993 issue of Rolling Stone.