2006 Castle CD Reissue Notes:
Issued in February 1976, STONE ALONE was BILL WYMAN's second solo album. As per usual Bill had worked with a star-studded session band, the contributors this time around including Van Morrison, Joe Walsh, Dr John, Ron Wood, Al Kooper, Nicky Hopkins, Jim Keltner, etc. This special Expanded Edition comes with six bonus tracks, including two rare single mixes previously unavailable on CD.
The Bill Wyman solo collection
In mid-1974, the debut BILL WYMAN album, Monkey Grip, had been issued to something approaching critical acclaim. The first solo LP by a member of The Stones, Monkey Grip had sold extremely respectably, reaching the UK Top 40 and the US Top 100. However, the demands of the day job meant that the bassist wasn't in a position to build on it's success; instead, he returned to the ranks to promote the latest Stones' album, It's Only Rock'n'RolI.
Bolstered by the arrival of new guitarist Ronnie Wood, The Stones then began to work in typically desultory fashion on their next LP, Black And Blue. From the beginning of June 1975, however, their energies were concentrated on a gargantuan tour of North America that took in 45 shows, 26 cities and 21 US states, before eventually concluding in the second week of August with a gig at the Rich Stadium in Buffalo, New York. During the tour, two compilation albums were issued to capitalise on the band's high profile. Made In The Shade assembled their strongest recordings during the first half of the Seventies, while the Decca collection Metamorphosis (a Top 10 album in America, incidentally, though it didn't sell so well over here) consisted of various hitherto unreleased off-cuts from the early days, including 'Downtown Suzie', which became only the second Bill Wyman song to feature on a Stones album ('In Another Land' had appeared on the band's spaced-out Psychedelic offering, Their Satanic Majesties Request, back in 1967).
At the end of the tour, The Stones splintered for a much needed break. However, a couple of them continued to work. While Mick Jagger recorded in Toronto with a view to a (subsequently aborted) solo venture, Bill took the opportunity to start work on what would be his second album, which he gave a working title of Hold It, Don't Eat It. Staying in LA with engineer Gary Kjellgren, on 25 August the pair flew to San Francisco, where they oversaw sessions at the Record Plant Studios in Sausalito. One or two of the musicians involved - principally, Dallas Taylor and Leon Russell - had also played on Monkey Grip, but they were joined by drummer Jim Keltner, the Tower Of Power horns section, Sly Stone, Van Morrison and Joe Walsh, who was about to be unveiled as the new Eagles guitarist. Over the following week, this ad hoc band cut a demo of 'Countrified Girl' and masters of 'I'm Gonna Move' (presumably an early title for 'What's The Point'), 'Every Sixty Seconds' and a Van Morrison song, 'Joyous Sound'.
By 3rd September, Wyman was back in LA, where he was invited by Keith Moon to Peter Sellers's birthday party. In front of such guests as Peter Cook, Tony Curtis, Marty Feldman, Henry Mancini and Hugh Hefner, Bill jammed wrth Moon, fellow Stone Ronnie Wood, Elton John's drummer Nigel Olsson, Joe Cocker, David Bowie, Danny Kortchmar, Jesse Ed Davis and Bobby Keys. "It was hopeless", Bill now admits, "We couldn't get one song together between us."
Following another all-star jam with Ronnie Wood, Al Kooper, Van Morrison and others, Bill returned to the studio on 15th September to continue work on his solo album. Alternating between his French home and LA, he would eventually finish work on the album in mid-November. By then, sessions had involved a cast of thousands - well, quite a few, anyway. The stellar support cast included a few notable survivors from the Monkey Grip sessions, including Dr. John, Dallas Taylor and Danny Kortchmar, and they were joined on this occasion by a couple of Pointer sisters, Joe Walsh, Al Kooper and Ronnie 'I've got my own album to do' Wood. With the benefit of hindsight, however, the most significant name to feature in the credits list was that of another, rather lower profile guitarist. Formerly a member of Tucky Buzzard, an early 70s British Rock band whom Bill had managed and produced, Terry Taylor would go on to become Wyman's right-hand man over the coming years, a trusted confidante as well as the bassist's main musical foil. "It's important for me to have someone to bounce off, because I never had that before", Bill later admitted to Record Collector editor Peter Doggett. "I never had any help. I didn't have Andrew Oldham behind me, like Mick and Keith did. I was always left on my own to write and produce, so I had to learn the hard way."
Before the end of the year, the projected title of Hold It, Don't Eat It had gone by the wayside - as Bill explained in his book Rolling With The Stones. "In eany December 1975, I did a photo session with Bill King in a New York studio for my new album cover. My working title was Hold It, Don't Eat It, but I dreamt a different title the night before the album was finalised. I remember thinking in the dream, 'Oh God, the record company printed it up wrong', because the title was Stone Alone, I woke up and decided the alternative actually fitted perfectly."
Tom Dowd did the final mix, but, at the eleventh hour, there was an unforeseen hitch relating to Van Morrison's involvement, as Bill relates. "Van's a tough guy - a great writer, a great singer, but difficult to deal with. He played on several tracks on Stone Alone, and we sang together on one of his songs, 'Joyous Sound'. Then, after the album was finished - we'd even done the final mixes - I was contacted by Van's lawyers, who told me that I couldn't use any of his performances. Eventually I bargained them down, so that maybe one of his sax solos stayed on there!"
"Three months later, I bumped into Van at some Clapton do at The Savoy, and he said, 'What happened to that album we did together, has it come out?' And I looked at him and said, 'Van, your lawyers stopped me using you. I wiped you off almost everything.' And he went, 'Oh'. He had no answer to that. Weird. What a talent - but he's so uptight."
Issued amidst ever-persistent rumours that Bill was on the verge of leaving The Stones, the 'Joyous Sound'-less Stone Alone eventually appeared at the end of February 1976, just a matter of weeks before the release of Black And Blue. Both projects showed the all-pervasive influence of Disco (a genre built around the kind of sinewy bass lines that Bill could play in his sleep) - indeed, the close-up portrait that graced the sleeve of Stone Alone found him sporting a full glam/disco makeover, with eyeliner, rouge and eye shadow offsetting the garish pink lettering to startling effect.
Perhaps it was down to the lure of a new Stones album around the corner, but neither Stone Alone nor the lead-off single, a typically good-natured romp through the old Gary US Bonds classic 'A Quarter To Three' (which, rather unfortunately, appeared just a week before the latest Stones single, 'Fool To Cry'), found favour with the public despite Bill's customary willingness to promote the album with various British and European radio and TV interviews. In truth, his attempts at covering so much stylistic ground left him open to accusations of jaded Rock star dilettantism, particularly on the closing track, the Louis Armstrong spoof 'No More Foolin'". But much of Stone Alone did work, including the playful country rocker 'What's The Point', that artlessly ebullient 'A Quarter To Three' (the song in which Van Morrison's sax contribution escaped the net, though he also contributed harmonica to 'Every Sixty Seconds') and the sultry 'Peanut Butter Time'. Elsewhere, 'Soul Satisfying' was a loping Reggae number that reflected the Stones' interests in Jamaican rhythms, while the playfully misogynistic 'If You Wanna Be Happy' (like 'Quarter To Three', penned by the Frank Guida/Joseph Royster team) had been a US chart-topper in 1963 for Jimmy Soul. 'Feet', meanwhile, was an agreeably daft Danny Kortchmar song that featured Ronnie Wood on guitar, while long-term Stones associate Nicky Hopkins played keyboards on 'Get It On' and 'Peanut Butter Time'.
NB: included on this special Expanded Edition are four sides which Bill cut a few weeks prior to the 'official' sessions for Stone Alone. On August 1st 1974 he had returned to Criteria Studios, Miami, to work once more with the Albert brothers. Backed by Dallas Taylor, Terry Taylor, Danny Kortchmar and Paul Harris, Bill cut four self-penned songs, 'Back To School Again', 'Can't Put Your Picture Down', 'High Flying Bird' and 'Love Is Such A Wonderful Thing' (on which Hubie Heard replaced Harris). These would remain unheard for more than a quarter of a century, thus making their inclusion herein all the more welcome.
Meanwhile, 'If You Wanna Be Happy' and 'Apache Woman' (possibly the album's standout track, and not entirely dissimilar from the brooding Rock/Blues/Disco crossover sound that The Stones would shortly embrace) also appeared as A-sides, but these would be Bill's last solo releases for a full five years. During that period The Stones would stage something of an artistic renaissance with albums like Some Girls, which included what can now be seen as possibly their last truly convincing single, 'Miss You', heavily indebted to Bill's funky, disco-friendly bass runs.
The relative lack of success of Stone Alone, which, in marked contrast to its predecessor, failed to chart in the UK and barely scraped into the Top 200 in America, may have been a factor as well. "No matter who you are, it doesn't mean that, if you're a name, it'll get played - its usually the reverse", Bill would later claim. "Peopie don't like you to step out of your allotted slot. You're a bass player with a famous band and they don't want you to be anyone else. That tends to be a hindrance, as I discovered with my solo albums. Even Mick found it. He's never had a big success with a solo album, really. And he's spent millions trying!"
Nevertheless, Bill's next solo project was to be a significant commercial and critical success. Si si...
(...continued on the liner notes to the album Bill Wyman, CMRCD 1364)
Big special thanks to Bill Wyman and Terry Taylor. Thanks also to Mike Mastrangelo.
Grateful acknowledgement is also made of Rolling With The Stones, Bill Wyman with Richard Havers, published by Dorling Kindersley, 2002 (ISBN 0 7513 4646 2).
Check out the official Bill Wyman website: www.billwyman.com
(P) (C) 2006 The copyright in these sound recordings is owned by Ripple Records Limited under exclusive license to Sanctuary Records Group Limited sublicensed to Sanctuary Records Group Inc.
Castle Music is a label of Sanctuary Records Group Ltd.
Made in the USA
Compact Disc Digital Audio