“I just had this whole other life I wanted to live”: Bill Wyman reflects on why he walked away from the Rolling Stones

The bassist departed the rock giants in 1991.

Bill Wyman performing onstage

Credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

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At their peak, The Rolling Stones ruled the rock world – and, with their 2023 comeback record Hackney Diamonds topping charts around the world, it’s clear they still do.

That’s why, when Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman told his bandmates he wanted to quit the band in 1991, nobody believed him.

“I left in 1991 but [the band] would not believe me,” Wyman reveals in a new interview with The Mirror. “They refused to accept I had left. It was not until 1993, when they were starting to get together to tour in 1994, when they said, ‘You have actually now left, haven’t you?’ And I said, ‘I left two years ago.’”

Many musicians would kill for a chance to play with the Stones – but Wyman says he grew tired of the rockstar lifestyle after 30 years of touring. “I just had enough,” he explains. “It was half my life and I thought, ‘I have got other things I want to do.’”

Wyman dreamt of a simpler life: “I wanted to do archaeology, write books, have photo exhibitions and play charity cricket,” he says. “I used to read about ancient cultures while I was on the road and take photos as well. I just had this whole other life I wanted to live.”

While Wyman ended his hiatus to play bass on Hackney Diamonds track Live By The Sword, he has reportedly been living a calm life over the last 33 years. He’s particularly fond of collecting, his collections ranging from Rupert Bear annuals, to music hall posters, to Roman coins.

Collecting stamps is certainly a far cry from his rock ‘n’ roll heyday, but Wyman finds joy in his ever-growing collections. “I don’t like throwing things away,” he says.

The love of collecting stems from his experience growing up. “During the war we did not have presents, but we had Rupert Bear annuals which we all shared,” he says. “I used to read them to the younger ones. And then I started to collect them as I was crazy about them. It was ­something that stuck with me.”

He’s even hoarded gear from his Rolling Stones years. “I’ve an archive of the Stones too,” he adds. “I’ve got a library that I created of everything that has happened to me. I wanted to keep an archive of the Stones to show my son I was once in a band.”

Despite helping on the latest Stones record, Wyman wont be joining the band on their current stadium tour. Although he wont be performing alongside his bandmates, he is still haunted by dreams of touring to this day.

“The weird thing is, ever since I’ve left, up until the present day, I still dream I’m on tour,” he laughs. “Like we are in a dressing room or we are in a hotel. I still dream those dreams and I dream of other friends like David Bowie. They are all very nice but very confusing.”

While the rest of the team are rocking onstage, fans can experience Bill Wyman’s quiet life through his novels. Wyman’s most recent book, Billy in the Wars, is out now.


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