The Bill Wyman Documentary

“The Quiet One”:

I thought it was me.

I have a hard time watching television alone. If Felice is there with me it’s no problem, but if it’s just me in front of the screen my mind drifts and I usually turn it off. I’d been trying to watch the third episode of “The Chair.” RottenTomatoes numbers are not that good, but buzz is very loud. Ignore it. Jay Duplass is always great. Ditto Sandra Oh. But the show is just too stupid and unbelievable. The tone at times is nearly slapstick. And some of the characters are two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. There is a series here somewhere, but this isn’t it. I stopped the episode twice before punting, but I had a sneaking suspicion it might be me.

Until I pulled up “The Quiet One” on Hulu.

We live in a world too often disconnected from the customer. These “auteurs” make their movies which play at film festivals for attention and deals and then they’re released to theatres and reviewed in the major papers and…do you really expect me to get in my car and drive and then sit through the trailers to watch not even ninety minutes of film for twenty dollars? It’s a bad proposition. But by time these movies finally hit the flat screen, there’s so much else to watch and I oftentimes don’t get to them, if I even remember them.

So I course through the platforms’ offerings on a regular basis, I want to get a feel for what’s offered. And on Hulu I noticed these documentaries that had gotten good reviews that, like I said above, I’d never go to the theatre to see. Like “The Donut King.” But I rarely watch movies, I find series so much more satisfying. But with Felice out of town I decided to delve into “The Quiet One” for a few minutes before I shut down the flat screen and got back to my book.

I was riveted.

“The Quiet One” is the complete opposite of the traditional music documentary, which is all about fame and hell a’blazin. People living a life unlike yours who got rich and had opportunities and who garnered not only fame, but wealth. “The Quiet One” is quiet. Its focus is Bill Wyman the man, it’s his story, as a person, as opposed to a rock star. And it wasn’t done on the cheap. And it does not start off dramatically, but there was no way I was going to turn it off.

You see Bill Wyman is from a different generation. Nearly all of the English rock stars, the British Invasion, were born during the war, in the early forties, but Bill was born in 1936. He remembers the bombing of London. He talks about it, was affected by it. And his father disdained him so he hung with his appreciative grandmother and did well in school until…

Well, I don’t want to tell you too much, because there are some surprises here. Some bad situations and bad choices, but Wyman soldiers on. Not like a hippie with an upbeat disposition, but a denizen of the lower working class whose attitude is that if you don’t look out for yourself, no one else will.

He joins the armed forces.

He changes his name.

He gets married and has a child.

And he starts playing the bass.

Now if you know your Stones history, you know that Bill Wyman slept with more women than any other member of the band. And that he is the archivist, he’s got a copy of almost everything. One would believe that’s a result of his fame, but the truth is he was a collector as a kid, his aforementioned grandma got him into it. And so much of the material is from said archives, but the filmmakers don’t hammer you with it. There’s no Geraldo Rivera Al Capone’s Vault hype. But you do see Bill in front of his computer, going through his assets quietly, and this is the complete opposite image of the rollicking rock star.

So Bill is in the Stones, but he’s somewhat removed. He’s not busy chatting everybody up, but he’s fully capable of talking. He let the others lead, he was just playing bass. How good was he? Let’s just leave it as good enough. Then again, Bill says his philosophy was not to shine, not to dance on the bottom, not to play lead on the bass, but to create a foundation, along with the drums of Charlie Watts.

And all the history is here, with none of it being belabored.

There’s insight into Brian Jones.

And there are tales of exile in France, the supposed debauched year when “Exile On Main Street” was made.

Bill didn’t live in that mansion where they recorded, Keith did, and they only cut the record there because otherwise Keith wouldn’t show up.

And while in France, Wyman hangs with famous artists, like Marc Chagall. That’s right, while some of the band were shooting up, Bill was taking advantage of the cultural perks of being in the country across the channel.

Bill’s not drugging, he’s hardly even drinking. It’s like he’s in a completely different band, having a completely different experience.

Although the mania is chronicled. As is the music. You watch “The Quiet One” and you see the starting Stones as blues purists, unlike anybody else in the landscape at that time, not dressed in suits, dangerous because they would not conform, they were doing it their own way.

And then Bill quits.

You can’t understand it until you see this film. He wanted to have a life! He’d missed it being in the band, on the road. He wanted to stop and smell the roses before it was too late. He was sick of waiting for seven years for Mick and Keith to make up and work, and after the Steel Wheels tour he gives notice.

He catalogs his possessions. Then he starts to play. He leverages his fame to create groups of other great players. He plays music for the love of it more than the fame, money and acclamation.

“The Quiet One” is a great film that you should seek out and watch. It’ll have you thinking, it’ll stick with you.

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