Picking up from Part One of our interview, music legend Bill Wyman addresses the material he chooses for the Rhythm Kings, his approach to playing bass, and some of his perceived technical limitations.
When you talk about music from different eras or cultures, you’re referring to experiences that you perhaps personally haven’t experienced. For example, you may have a country song that’s talking about going back to the farm.
I’d love to do George Jones songs, for instance, but I don’t have a singer that could do that. Fine, but we can do Ray Charles songs. We can do Sam Cooke or Jackie Wilson or people like that. We can do Chuck Berry. We can do all the early blues singers, some of the early R&B singers. But there are a lot of things we can’t do, obviously.
Are there songs that you shy away from because the experience being described is a bit too personal or something that you can’t quite relate to?
It’s usually down to whether we can do something with a particular song as good, if not better, than the original and still retain the spirit of the original. That is the most important thing for me. To retain the spirit that the first song, the original song, was created. That’s why I do just one, two, three takes because otherwise I think it becomes too mechanical after that. But there are certain songs that [we] just cannot do; like Bo Diddley songs, which I’d love to do. The Stones were able to do it with Brian Jones — he managed to do that tremolo effect. We did them beautifully in the early days. But when Brian went, the Stones never attempted a Bo Diddley song after that. And so there are certain things we cannot do, but there’s not many, I’ll tell you.
I’ve been very impressed.
We couldn’t do a Satchmo song. We could do an Ethel Waters song. We can do a Billie Holiday song. We can do Fats Waller.
To summarize, it’s more a matter of the sound and the feel rather than the specific lyrics. Is that correct?
I think you’re on the wrong way there a bit. How can I put it? I did a number which was very, very difficult to do. It’s called “Hole In My Soul” and it was done by a guy called Sascha Burland, a jazz musician in a big band. But he did it as a single in the late 1950’s. “Hole In My Soul” is a bit kind of like an early Mose Allison sort of style, but much more jazzy. It’s got lots of breaks and time differences. I didn’t know whether we could ever do it, but I asked Georgie Fame who is a burning genius, “Do you think you could do this?” And we did it. But it’s so different from anything else we would dare to go for.