I have been listening to The Rolling Stones in one form or another since I can remember. They would always play on the “Oldies” or “Classic Rock” radio stations as I was growing up, and I always appreciated their songs before I had any real discernible taste in music. As I got older and started getting into other things like punk or “alternative” music, I began to appreciate the Stones more. The Rolling Stones had a punk ethos before punk existed. They were uncompromising and did whatever the hell they wanted.
As much of a fan of The Rolling Stones as I am, I’ve never known too, too much about any of the members’ personal histories. Of course I know about Mick Jagger’s dalliances with the likes of Marianne Faithful and many, many more women, as well as doing the soundtrack to Kenneth Anger’s Invocation of My Demon Brother (because I used to turn the film up to top volume to annoy the hell out of people who were in the video store I worked past closing). I also knew about Keith Richards’ brief relationship with Ronnie Spector and his legendary drug and alcohol habits. Charlie Watts was typical without incident, at least to my knowledge. Poor Brian Jones and his untimely death I, unfortunately, know too much about. But, Bill Wyman is the member of the Stones I knew least about, only really known about his short marriage to Mandy Smith, where she was 18, and he was 52.
“…the most stoic of The Stones…his bass lines laid the groundwork for some legendary songs…”
The Quiet One, written and directed by Oliver Murray, changed that for me. Wyman was seen as the most stoic of The Stones (though one could argue that Watts could also fit in this category), often referred to as “Stoneface” because of his stage presence when compared to that of Jones, Richards, and especially Jagger. However, his bass lines laid the groundwork for some legendary songs, and it can be argued that The Rolling Stones wouldn’t be who they are if it weren’t for Wyman.
In The Quiet One, we learn all about Wyman’s life from his birth, until now. The cool thing about this film is that instead of the normal talking heads and formulaic path of the typical biographical documentary, we are shown photos and films from Wyman’s personal archive, which is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen. Bill collected…well…everything. He has cameras, figurines, stamps, and basically all the paraphernalia from his years of touring with The Stones.
His story is told mostly in voice-over by him and his colleagues, including Charlie Watts, Eric Clapton, Bob Geldof, Andrew Loog Oldham, and more. We see several home movies of The Stones on tour, and through the items in Wyman’s archive, we see how they evolved into a small Blues band from London to the biggest band in the world aside from/along with The Beatles.
“…instead of the normal talking heads and formulaic path of the typical biographical documentary, we are shown photos and films from Wyman’s personal archive.”
It’s only towards the end of the movie that we see Bill in his current life as a father and family man with his wife, Susanne Acosta. He still plays music in Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings. He also obsessively archives, scanning photos and movies onto the computer for posterity, arguably his second biggest achievement. I would love to have kept track of everything that’s happened in my life since I was a child, but circumstances and lack of fortitude have kept that from happening. Wyman captured an entire era and is still taking photos and making memories.
The film does touch on some of the more scandalous moments of Wyman’s life, including the super-short marriage to Smith, and his admission that in lieu of the drug and drinking issues the rest of the Stones (except for Watts) had, he was most likely a sex addict. It’s good to see that he finally settled down, at a much older age than most, but that’s what being a rock star means for a lot of people (men especially). It also talks about his son and two daughters, his love for art and blues music and the incredible things he’s been able to do over the course of his life.
I enjoyed finding out more about Wyman and The Rolling Stones. They are legends for a reason. I do sort of wish that Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, and Ron Wood would have participated in some capacity, rather than just being in archival footage, but that’s not something that could really be helped, I’m sure. The film is wholly entertaining for fans of The Rolling Stones and of rock docs in general. You will almost certainly leave knowing more about the band and the man behind the bass than you did going in.
The Quiet One (2019) Written and Directed by Oliver Murray. Starring Bill Wyman, Suzanne Acosta, Tony Chapman, Eric Clapton, Bob Geldof, Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger, Glyn Johns, Brian Jones, Andrew Loog Oldham, Gered Mankowitz, Frank Mead, Terry O’Neill, Keith Richards, Mick Taylor, Muddy Waters, Charlie Watts, Mary Wilson, Ron Wood.
7 out of 10 stars