Bill Wyman: Satisfaction Guaranteed (Relix Revisited)
Dickinson also said, in reference to The Stones’ many keyboardists, that “Stu [Ian Stuart] was the one, Stu was their keyboardist—but Nicky Hopkins did the best playing of his career with the Stones.”
Nicky Hopkins. Absolutely. That’s why I always use really good quality keyboard players in my band. Really important. I mean, I got Chris Stainton at the moment and he’s been with the band two years. And he’s phenomenal in the studio, but he’s astounding on the stage, and he also diverts to organ. Nicky could do that as well. Nicky could play anything.
In fact, there’s a lovely quote about Nicky and Stu. Stu came into the studio in the early ‘70s with the first Delaney and Bonnie album, and he says you gotta listen to this. The other guys hadn’t got in there; it was me and Nicky there. And he put it on and he played a couple of tracks and said, “What do you think of that Nicky?” And Nicky walked down to the studio and he played the song throughout, instantly. Note for note, changes, breaks, everything. And Stu turned around to me and said, “That’s what I don’t like about Nicky.” I mean he was a genius, genius.
In fact, I’m still in touch, and they’ve sent me a whole bunch of CDs, his people, saying these are things that Nicky put together on his own at home and I wonder if you could think about putting some out if you could think there’s a way of doing it. So, I’m kind of going through them at the moment. He was a wonderful player. So I’m very fortunate to have people like Georgie Fame, people like that and Dave Hartley and Chris Stainton and piano players and organ players like that in my band, both live and in the studio. It’s a very important part of playing roots music because on most roots music there’s piano playing. I mean, piano was a major thing in the ‘20s and ‘30s, with stride piano and boogie-woogie coming in the ‘30s and ‘40s. It’s always been there and a lot of the great players were piano players, like Fats Waller, people like that, so it’s a very important instrument in the music I do right now. Also much in the Stones, it was always in the background.
Just for a Thrill sounded very New Orleans to me.
Yeah, certain tracks. We tried to cover… well this band covers eight, nine styles of music, both onstage and in the studio. We do jump music like Louis Jordan, stuff like that, we do boogie-woogie and we do blues, jazz, soul, rock, gospel. We even touch on skiffle and the early rock and roll, rockabilly. We do a whole mixture of stuff and it astounds people because they don’t expect it because the usually go to see a band that plays one style of music. And after they have played three hits and they go on to the more mundane songs it gets a bit boring because it’s samey, samey, samey. This band’s got so much variety in it, and that’s the joy I get out of it. I wouldn’t do it otherwise.
It’s not a career move for me. It’s just something I really love to do apart from the other projects I do, which is like writing books. I’m on my fifth book now that comes out next month. I’ve got two more books on the back burner, which one comes out next year and the other one comes out just before Christmas. I do archaeology, I do photography, I’ve got three little children growing up. Three little girls of ten, nine and six. I’ve got tons of hobbies, I do charity things. I never stop working, you know, but I love every minute of it. And this is just part of the great life I’m having now and I’ve had since I left the band. And it’s all been very successful, luckily. The only think I don’t do, you see, is fly.
Yes, I read that.
And that is the problem with touring America, because the only two times I’ve been to America since 1989 is to launch two books. My history of blues music, the Blues Odyssey, and Rolling with the Stones, and I was obliged contractually to do it. So, while I was over there I thought I’d do a little tour and that’s how that happened. But, you know, unfortunately I’ve had offers from Japan and Australia and everywhere for this band to go you know, and I just haven’t taken them up, because I don’t want to be a touring band, it’s not what I want to do. I want to be at home with my family and do my other things. So it’s just a great diversion. It’s part of my life, but it’s a very enjoyable part and so far it’s been very successful, particularly in Europe.
I’m curious as to who you think is one of the more overlooked blues artists that had a major impact?
Oh god, there’s a lot of them because in the early days they were hardly recorded. They used to send those field recorders out and just a guy would do six songs and then they’d come back the following year and he was gone, they’d never found him again. So you’ve got these wonderful six songs from some obscure artist that no one’s ever heard of. But they’re great, there’s a lot of those.
One of the very early people that impressed me was the guy that made the first blues record ever, and that was in 1934 I think it was or ‘32, Papa Charlie Jackson who came out of Vaudeville and medicine shows and he played a banjo in guitar tuning and he played with all the greats, all the great singers of the time and a lot of his songs came down. “All I Want is a Spoonful,” you know, and you get that coming through Howlin’ Wolf and many other people much earlier. But there’s an awful lot of great piano players that just did half a dozen tracks and they’re lost forever. It’s a shame. We tried to bring those people to be noticed in the book. We didn’t just focus on the greats.
But I think of all the greats, I think the one that’s less appreciated than all of them for some reason, although he’s had a lot of covers from other more popular artists, is Jimmy Reed, who I adore. Even though he was always drunk. But that’s part of the job (laughing). But no one’s, if you talk about blues you talk about Muddy and BB King and Freddie King and all the other kings and the Collins’ and Elmore James and of course Robert Johnson, but hardly anybody talks about Jimmy Reed. And, I mean, when the Stones started and I began with them and then Charlie came, half of our set was Jimmy Reed songs, in those days, “Take Out Dome Insurance,” etc, etc. You know, “Big Boss Man,” and they were great songs and helped Brian and Mick to learn harmonica and then we moved on of course to Little Walter and people like that, but Jimmy Reed was always a big influence on us.
You seem to have been able to call most of the shots in your life and that you were always able to do what you wanted. Has anything eluded you?
That’s a hard one. Find something amazing archaeology-wise. I’ve found lots of very interesting things over the years and spent time with museum people and all that sort of stuff which has been very nice, but I’ve never found anything amazingly incredible. It would be rather nice. It’s like, if you collect things, just to find the one thing that’s missing in your collection, whatever it might be you collect, whether it’s coins or whether it’s rare records or films or something. You know, it’s the one that eludes you. And, uh, it’s probably that. But, I’m very content actually.
What culture would it be?
A Bronze Age or a Roman. I’ve got a lot of Roman things actually. Saxony is really interesting, pre-Viking middle ages after the Romans between about 600 and 1000. It’s quite, you don’t find a lot of Saxon things and they’re absolutely beautiful; they made fantastic things and it would be rather lovely to find something Saxon, special. I’ve found a few coins and things like that but just to find something really special.
Beth Hart shares the opening track from her latest album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, live at Relix.
Jamie Lidell sets up in the Relix boiler room and delivers a tune from his 2005 album Multiply
Duane Trucks is happy to announce his new project, King Lincoln. Watch them perform “Coffee” live and acoustic at Relix’s Online-Video Coordinator’s loft in Williamsburg.
Here’s another song from Crystal Bowersox’s new record All That For This, live at Relix.
WYATT share a song in the famed Relix boiler room.
Goodnight, Texas share a song from their latest studio album, A Long Life of Living, live at Relix.
Warren Haynes performs a solo, acoustic version of “Railroad Boy” and explains how he adapted the traditional Celtic song for Gov’t Mule, backstage at the Hangout Music Festival.
Australia’s Alpine recently made their NYC debut at the Relix office with this song from their new album A is for Alpine.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
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