Today is the birthday of Bill Wyman (b.1936), the member of the Rolling Stones so hapless and unsung that when he left the group two decades ago after having been a member for nearly 30 years the public scarcely noticed. It’s natural for Jagger and Richards to have higher profiles but Wyman’s Q factor has always seemed to lag also behind that of the long dead Brian Jones, drummer Charlie Watts, relative newcomer Ron Wood and even temp replacement Mick Taylor. He’s a low profile kind of guy. Yet he was a crucial member of that famous “sum greater than its parts” ensemble, and I listen to his inventive and catchy bass lines with pleasure all the time.
Best of all, he wrote this awesome song! “In Another Land” is one of only three songs Wyman wrote for the Rolling Stones (they only recorded two of them), and it’s one of the best ones on the album Their Satanic Majesty’s Request. I’ve always been a big fan of this record. It represents the last gasp of a certain aspect of the group that Brian Jones contributed. After this (and after he shuffled off this moral coil) the band focused on a very narrow patch of aesthetic territory which they do very well…but something has always been missing, and they do go through long periods, decades sometimes now, when they seem to be lying at the bottom of a very deep rut. There’s a whole world of music out there; there are other kinds of sounds to make, and they’ve proven they can make it. But I guess they just don’t wanna.
At any rate, Bill Wyman’s In Another Land is a love song, but filtered through that heavily psychedelic 1967 sensibility, with haunting wind sound effects, harpsichord, tremolo effects, Melotron, the sound of a man snoring, and dream-like imagery evoking castles and wizardry. My high school girlfriend and I liked it so much we considered making it our song…but it was just too weird to be our song. Still I find it very pretty:
To find out more about show business past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
To learn about silent and slapstick comedy please see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc