Rock

The uncomfortable hit Bill Wyman had without The Rolling Stones

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The longevity and success of The Rolling Stones rest on the collective strength of its members. Over the decades, each member has injected the band with their unique flair and vigor, helping them navigate through ever-shifting musical landscapes. Bill Wyman, the band’s bassist from 1962 to 1993, was an indispensable component of this ensemble.

Like his fellow Stones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Wyman ventured into solo territory. Though he never reached the iconic status of Jagger and Richards, Wyman did leave a mark with his 1981 single, ‘(Si Si) Je Suis un Rock Star’, from his self-titled third album.

This song clinched the 14th spot on the UK Singles Chart, maintaining its position in the top 40 for nine weeks. Interestingly, Wyman penned this track for Ian Dury, a major name in the pub rock scene. When he couldn’t find a taker, Wyman stepped in, lending his voice with a unique “Cockney French” twist.

The song portrays a narrative of a South American woman being wooed to the south of France. Given the lyrics’ context and the backdrop of Wyman’s personal life, the song now feels jarringly out of touch in today’s times.

In the book 50 Licks: Myths and Stories from Half a Century of The Rolling Stones, Wyman reminisces about the hit: “It felt like our first big hit all over again. Each of us—Mick, Keith, Charlie, Ron—struggled with whether we could shine as brightly solo as when we were with the band.” He further added, “I had dabbled with solo projects earlier, primarily for fun and some hands-on experience in production. But this song… everyone felt I should give it a go. I was hesitant, but I eventually gave in.”

While the song is memorable, a deeper dive into Wyman’s life reveals a controversial side. Although not one to excessively indulge in substances like his more infamous bandmates, women were his self-proclaimed “crutch”. In an interview from 1987, he candidly admitted, “This industry can be brutal. We all have our coping mechanisms. For many, it’s drugs or alcohol. For me? It was always women. We’re all a bit mad in this band, aren’t we?”

But it’s the song’s lines, “We could go on the hovercraft / Across the water / They’ll think I’m your dad / And you’re my daughter”, that draw attention to his personal life. Given that Wyman, at 52, tied the knot with 18-year-old Mandy Smith—a relationship that began when she was just 13—the lyrics strike a particularly uneasy chord. The age gap drew criticism and suspicions, but charges were never pressed. Years later, reflecting on their brief marriage, Smith emphasized the need to raise the age of consent. She pointed out, “Even at 16, you’re still a child. I lost that part of my life.”

Wyman himself expressed remorse over his involvement with a young Smith. In the 2019 documentary The Quiet One, he reflects, “I believed she was the one, but the timing was off. She was too young.”

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