The underlying tensions within The Rolling Stones have always afforded the group a dangerous edge, and it’s proven treacherous over the years for many in their circle.
Original guitarist and founder Brian Jones was finally ousted from the band in 1969, just one month before his death, after ostracizing himself from its self-elected leaders, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
The Glimmer Twins themselves even fell victim to the ruthless chemistry that bound them together - escaping from under the clouds of heroin addiction that consumed his attentions in the late-’70s, Keith Richards’ attempt to wrestle back control of the Stones in the ’80s led to a serious feud when Jagger launched a solo career in 1985, which threatened the group’s future, and revealed an open wound that would prove difficult to heal through the years.
Even as recent as 2013, the pair displayed the more volatile side of their relationship; Mick was most displeased by Keith’s reference to the singer’s “tiny todger” in his 2010 autobiography, Life, and only agreed to embark on the Stones’ 50th anniversary tour if the guitarist apologised. But, it seems now that even leaving the group doesn’t save you from the snipes of rock ‘n’ rolls greatest songwriting duo.
Bill Wyman formally quit as the Stones’ bass player in 1993 after serving since their 1962 inception. In the years since, he has pursued an active life as an author, photographer and archeologist, while leading his acclaimed blues band, The Rhythm Kings. In 2012, he joined his former bandmates for four dates to perform on their retrospective 50th anniversary tour. Most recently, however, he released his fourth solo album, ‘Back To Basics’, his first in 33 years.
Clash spoke with Bill around the time of its release, and it appears that what he had to say has ruffled the feathers once again of his former allies.
When our conversation turned to his thoughts on the treatment of Brian Jones, Wyman went on to comment on Mick and Keith’s apparent appropriation of his role as founder of the group. “Do you know that in Dartford Railway Station where [Mick and Keith] met, they’ve just put up a plaque now saying they created The Rolling Stones, which is totally out of order,” Bill told us. “Brian Jones created The Rolling Stones, not Mick and Keith. They were invited into his band at later times,’ and they completely ignore it, because they want the accolade for Dartford.”
“But it’s so wrong,” he continued, “and I hate stuff like that, where people try to rewrite history for themselves. 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.”
According to a new interview with Keith Richards for the latest issue of Esquire, ahead of the release of his new solo album, ‘Crosseyed Heart’, word on Bill’s thoughts has reached the Stones camp, and they’re none too happy.
“Mick just the other day came up to me and says, "Do you believe this shit, man? Bill Wyman is complaining about the plaque at Dartford station." I said, "A plaque? I thought we had a statue,” Keith told the magazine’s Scott Raab.
“I know [Bill] took umbrage with that, but I can't understand why,” he goes on. “Bill wasn't there when the band was formed. Ian Stewart formed the band—we gravitated around him. 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.”
Clash has ‘No Expectations’ that all this ‘Doom And Gloom’ will lift soon - after all, what would the Stones be without a bit of friction to liven things up? But we’ve ‘Mixed Emotions’ at having stirred up the hornet’s nest again, so let’s hope the old pals kiss and make up before ‘Too Much Blood’ is spilled.
Words: Simon Harper
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Keith Richards’ ‘Crosseyed Heart’ will be released on September 18th.