The Dark Side of Rolling Stones Bassist Bill Wyman's 2nd Marriage
Despite quitting the band in 1992, Bill Wyman will forever be remembered as the stoic bassist in the Rolling Stones. Shortly before parting ways with the rock ‘n’ roll group, Wyman also ended a marriage that had a definite dark side. What was so strange about the bass player’s second marriage?
A brief history of the Rolling Stones
In the early 1950s, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were schoolmates at Maypole County Primary School in Dartford, England, around 20 miles southeast of London. In nearby Cheltenham, a lad named Brian Jones was ditching classes and making babies with teenage girls. In fact, he’d fathered two children and skipped town before he turned 16, according to a fan site called Therollingstones.
A decade later, Jagger and Richards re-met through mutual friend Dick Taylor and were delighted to discover they shared an appreciation of American Blues music. Taylor and Jagger had a small combo, Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys.
After Richards wound up expelled from Dartmouth Technical School, he eagerly accepted the chance to jam with the band. Not long after, Jones, who’d learned to play guitar in the meantime, returned to the London area where he met and jammed with Alexis Korner and a couple of drummers named Tony Chapman and Charlie Watts.
Jams and rejected demos ensued, and the lineup changed more than once. However, in 1962, the Rolling Stones played their first show at the Marquee Club. Another band on the local circuit, the Squires, featured a bassist named Bill Wyman. A few short months later, Wyman left the Squires, joined the Stones, and began the history of the world’s longest surviving rock ‘n’ band.
All about Bill
No Treble describes Wyman’s bass playing and innate primal energy as the “secret sauce” that held the Rolling Stones’ rhythm section together. Unlike many bassists who deliver a deliberate groove, Wyman provided malleable, reactionary, root-riding riffs that stayed beneath the surface while locking in with drummer Charlie Watts.
During his three decades with the Rolling Stones, Wyman was known for his emotionless face and solid, unpretentious bass skills. According to The Guardian, Wyman was known for his disinterest in drugs and bedding the most women. Apparently, he was already married with a child when he joined the Rolling Stones made no difference. As he revealed in his 2016 book, Stone Alone:
“I fared much better than the others in the girl department. In 1965, we sat down one evening in a hotel and worked that out. Since the band had started two years earlier, I’d had 278 girls, Brian (Jones) 130, Mick (Jagger) about thirty, Keith (Richards) six, and Charlie (Watts) none.”
With all his philandering, it’s no wonder that Wyman’s first marriage went belly-up. It was his second marriage that made headlines. According to Ultimate Classic Rock, a then-47-year-old Wyman first laid eyes on Mandy Smith, the underage girl who’d become wife number two, when she was 13 years old.
What in the world was Wyman thinking?
The relationship between Wyman and Smith remained a carefully guarded secret for two years. Once word got out, the unnatural and illegal pairing that began in 1984 became the scandal of the decade, says the Daily Mail. Smith’s mother, who supposedly condoned her daughter’s sexual relationship with a man 34 years her senior, was portrayed as a fame-hungry parent who had no problem exploiting her own child for social gain.
Despite their enormous age gap and Wyman’s notorious womanizing, the 52-year-old Stones bassist and 18-year-old Smith exchanged wedding vows on June 2, 1989. It didn’t take long for the whole relationship to go sideways, and the couple divorced in 1991. After the split, Wyman told the Daily Mail, “I was really stupid to ever think it could possibly work. She was too young. I felt she had to go out and see life for a bit.”
Wyman’s biographer, Lesley-Ann Jones, told Media Entertainment Arts World Wide that she regrets knowing “a grown man who was having sex with a child” and doing nothing about it.
“He was, in those days, my friend. His girlfriend was under the age of consent. The law on this in the UK is clear: ‘If an individual over 18 engages in sexual activity with a person under 16, he or she can be charged with a criminal offense, which may result in a 14-year prison sentence.”
In a weird twist to an already twisted tale, Wyman’s 30-year-old son, Stephen, married Smith’s 46-year-old social-climbing mother shortly after the bassist’s divorce was finalized, explains Audacy.
In a 1994 interview with London-based writer Susan de Muth, Mandy Smith revealed that she still had nauseating nightmares about her time with Wyman, whom she remembered as manipulative, abusive, and demeaning. She also told de Muth that she was angry at Wyman because, at the time they met, he was “surely old enough to know right from wrong and not to take advantage of a teenager’s naive love.”
According to The Scotsman, Smith admitted complicity in her underage affair with Wyman, noting that if it happened in 2010, Wyman would have gone to jail. She also said, “I think the age of consent should be raised to 18 at a minimum and some girls aren’t even ready then. People will find that odd coming from me. But I think I do know what I’m talking about here. You are still a child, even at 16.”
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