Flashback: The Rolling Stones (Briefly) Reunite With Bill Wyman in 2012
On Monday, the Rolling Stones announced U.S. dates for their 2019 No Filter tour. The news followed months of rumors, fueled in no small part by the Stones themselves plastering their iconic tongue logo at stadiums all over America. Unlike the marathon tours of the past, this one is hitting a mere 13 markets. When your drummer is going to celebrate his 78th birthday on the road, it’s best to not push things too hard.
The Stones have hit the road every year since coming back together in 2012 after a five-year break. Their comeback began very tentatively in October of 2012 with a pair of warmup shows in France followed by two concerts at London’s 02 Arena, one gig in Brooklyn and another in Newark. The group was celebrating its 50th anniversary and decided to invite former guitarist Mick Taylor and former bassist Bill Wyman to guest with them. It was either a rare moment of sentimentality or an attempt to justify their exorbitant ticket prices, but either way this was a very big deal for Stones fans. Taylor played with the group at a 1981 show in Kansas City, but they hadn’t shared a stage with Wyman since his final gig with the band in 1990.
Wyman was initially very excited about the chance to play with his old buddies, but reality set in when he got to rehearsals. “I was under the impression I was going to get really involved,” he told the Huffington Post in 2013, “but when it came to it, they only wanted me to do two songs, which was very disappointing.” He came out for the first time on November 25th, 2012 at the 02 Arena in London for “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (but I Like It)” and “Honky Tonk Women.” Four nights later, he did the same two songs with them at the same venue. Check out video of it right here.
“They wouldn’t let me do any more,” he told the BBC in 2013. “I think maybe they were punishing me for leaving. I thought I’d be playing a lot more. They said, ‘We only want two numbers.’ They wouldn’t even tell me what songs they were to the last minute. I said, ‘I haven’t done a soundcheck or anything.’ They were like, ‘You know ’em. You know ’em.'”
Mick Taylor was only allowed to come out for “Midnight Rambler,” but when they went to America for the New York and New Jersey shows, he was willing to come with them. Wyman was not going to be so compliant. “It would have been a two week trip,” he told the BBC in 2013. “I said, ‘Two songs? No thanks.’ It’s very difficult to go back and re-live something. School reunions. Old girlfriends. It really doesn’t work. That worked briefly. It was fun to do, but it was short and sweet.”
Mick Taylor stayed on the road with them throughout 2013 and 2014 and they slowly allowed him to come out for a few more songs a night, including “Sway,” “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and the nightly finale of “Satisfaction.” Bill Wyman, however, has not made a single appearance since those two London shows and likely never will again. “It was a one-off,” he said. “Five minutes. OK, never again. No regrets, we’re still great friends.”
A couple years later, however, Wyman tested that friendship when he spoke to Clash Music and complained about a plaque that went up at Dartford Rail Station where a chance encounter between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards led to their partnership in the Rolling Stones. He felt it glossed over the fact that Brian Jones started the group and invited Mick and Keith into it. “It’s so wrong, and I hate stuff like that, where people try to rewrite history for themselves,” he said. “It’s so wrong. I was thinking of getting a couple of heavies and going down there and just ripping it off, and getting back on the train back to London. I’ve really been thinking about the possibility of doing it, because it’s so wrong.”
Wyman’s threat to personally rip down the plaque, however facetious, didn’t sit will with Mick and Keith. “Mick just the other day came up to me and says, ‘Do you believe this shit, man?,'” Richards told Esquire. “Bill was a quirky, funny old fucker, but why he should make some kind of public ‘do about it. I think Mick sent a note saying — because Bill comes from a town called Penge — ‘Bill, if a plaque went up in Penge station that said you were the founding member of the Rolling Stones, do you think we’d complain?’ But Bill — oh, we love him dearly, and he was a hell of a bass player. We didn’t tell him to leave.”
There doesn’t seem to be much ill will at the moment, but don’t expect Wyman to be coming out to play with the Stones at any of their 2019 gigs. But at least the plaque still stands at the Dartford Rail Station. Wyman and his heavies haven’t come to tear it down, at least not yet.
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