Bill Wyman Discusses Ronnie Wood’s Bass Playing
Former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman compared his approach to that of his onetime bandmate Ronnie Wood, and revealed how they used to laugh about the differences. Wyman, who quit the band in 1992, is the subject of a new documentary movie, The Quiet One, which is in theaters now.
Asked if he still found it difficult to listen to songs with “busy” bass lines, Wyman told Variety, “Yeah, Ronnie Wood’s like that. When Ronnie used to sit in for me, if I had the flu or something, he’d do something on a Stones song, and then when I’d come in feeling better, he’d say, ‘Have a listen to my bass line,’ and I used to say, ‘Ronnie, that’s not bass playing — you’re playing guitar again! There’s no bottom in the song.’ We would laugh about it.”
He added that he didn’t regard himself as an “incredible” bassist. “I’m very efficient and I do my job very well and I’m not noticed, and that’s the way it should be,” he argued, adding that Stones drummer Charlie Watts had a similar approach. “Charlie has the smallest drum kit of any rock star. … And he’s so widely admired by every other drummer. And I’ve seen drummers with 40-, 50-piece drum kits – they’re ridiculous. But Charlie just plays very basic and very simple on the simplest kit. He sounds good on it, and that’s the way I was … I hope!”
As an illustration of his basic attitude to his instrument, Wyman recalled being interviewed by Rush counterpart Geddy Lee for his book about basses. “He was nice. We had a good old chat and we enjoyed it,” he said. “But he’s all technical, talking about certain bass guitars and their serial numbers and all these amplifiers, and I know none of that. I just play bass and I play through an amplifier. I don’t care what kind of amplifier it is, as long as it sounds proper. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an Ampeg or a Vox or a Boogie. If it plays right, that’s all I need. And that’s what was confusing him! He thought it was quite amusing, actually.”
The Quiet One is so titled because Wyman had a reputation for not getting involved in Stones interviews – but he said it wasn't a deliberate move.
“Interviewers used to say to me later, when I did solo records and worked in other projects, ‘Why didn’t you ever speak when you were in the Stones?’ And I said, ‘Well, no one ever asked me.’ They always went straight to Mick [Jagger] or to Brian [Jones], or later to Keith [Richards]. Charlie and I never got questioned at press conferences and all that. We just had a cup of tea and talked about where we were going on holidays.”