Fri, 14 Oct 1994

The Rolling Stones without Wyman

By Riris Irawati

FRANKFURT, Germany (JP): Mid-September, 1994. As the clock ticked its way to midnight, a sight, common in this city of mixed-races, began to surface.

People of various nationalities (almost one-third of Frankfurt's two million inhabitants are foreigners) and from many walks of life could be seen strolling down the main streets.

In some spots, small groups of people gathered leisurely to chat about practically any issue under the sun.

One such group was talking about The Rolling Stones, the legendary British super rock'n'roll band now touring the United States. The Rolling Stones had kicked off its 60-city U.S. tour on Aug. 1 and will not wind up its screaming and hustling promotion of its latest album Voodoo Lounge until Dec. 17.

The group of Frankfurt night owls noted, with sadness, that bassist Bill Wyman is absent from the current Rolling Stones tour and has been replaced by Darryl Jones.

Jones, much younger than Wyman, who was born in London on Oct. 24, 1936, had lent his magnificent talent to other giants in the music industry, including Gordon "Sting" Sumner, formerly of The Police.

The night owls expressed regret that Wyman had decided to stay behind and let the Stones continue its superstardom without him.

However, they also recalled that Wyman has always been different from the rest of the band, which this year celebrates its 32nd anniversary.

While in Chicago, for example, during their U.S. tour back in the early 1970s, Wyman was the only Stones member to stay up until dawn talking with Chester Arthur Burnett, better known to blues-lovers as Howlin' Wolf.

When Mick Jagger and the other boys, who would become the now world-famous Rolling Stones, were growing up in England, they used to play Howlin' Wolf's records and imitate him.

As they began to make a name for themselves, they were not shy about admitting the debt they owned to Howlin' Wolf, whose wonderful recordings for Chess included Moaning in the Moonlight (1964) and The London Sessions (1972).

They acknowledged they had borrowed his singing and guitar style. His sound was virtually essential to their success, especially in hits like Jumpin' Jack Flash, Honky Tonk Woman, Brown Sugar and Tumbling Dice.

But it was only Wyman who made the effort to let Howlin' Wolf know he was not forgotten. He went to the musician's house in Chicago's crumbling South Side ghetto at the end of the Stones three-night-stand, apologizing that Jagger and the others had, as superstars, "other things" to do.

Howlin' Wolf, who was 65 and suffering from a serious kidney problem, brought out an old steel guitar. He and Wyman passed it back and forth, picking, playing and sharing pieces of musical magic with each other until the small hours of the morning.

In all the passing years since the 1970s, Wyman has not changed, or as some of the Frankfurt night owls put it: "We miss Wyman because he has given so much color to The Rolling Stones' music. But then he's always been a different Stone all along."


Music lovers in Jakarta have not paid as much attention to Wyman's absence, like those in Frankfurt have.

Such an attitude is certainly understandable.

Jakarta is not Frankfurt, where most people -- thanks to the demands of Germany's strong trade unions -- don't have any difficulty enjoying their time, free from money-making activities.

Call it an emerging economic power syndrome, but most Jakartans are simply too busy to be bothered by things like the details of a series of concerts by The Rolling Stones, who have dubbed themselves as -- and few dispute it -- the world's greatest rock'n'roll band.

With many private companies employees working more than eight hours a day, most shops open from nine-to-nine and some supermarkets even operating on a 24-hour basis, chances are there won't be too many street corner conversations on contemporary issues.

Therefore, even though the Rolling Stones now have to hit the stage without Wyman, in Jakarta, the difference will hardly be noticed.