As I was walking out the door to go to my first rock concert decades ago, my father interrogated me about my attire (for the record, a button-down Oxford cloth shirt and a pair of Levi’s.). He asked why, if I was going to a concert, was I not wearing a jacket and tie? When I told him that no one would be dressed like that, he assured me that “the Jefferson Airplanes will all be wearing jackets and ties.” (For the record, they were not.)
The life of a rock demigod is not an easy one. Sure, there’s the money. And the fame. And the adulation. And the sex. And the drugs. But take those away and you might as well be a columnist.
And if the life of a rock demigod is not easy, what then of the life of a retired rock demigod? That’s a tough one to answer, because not many of them actually make it to the “retired” stage.
Some of them – notably Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd – make it to the “retired (if you know what I mean)” stage, due in large to their genius, their vision, and their being completely mental.
Plenty of them make it to the “late” stage – and oddly, some stars’ stature has actually improved posthumously – but you can count on one hand those who have actually decided to turn their back on the spotlight, put away the coke spoon, and spend the remainder of their years clipping coupons.
One such rocker is Bill Wyman. Wyman once played bass guitar for an English combo called the Rolling Stones (perhaps you’ve heard of them; they were all the rage back when the surface of the earth was still cooling). The Stones – as their fans were wont to call them – were second in popularity only to Paul McCartney’s pre-Wings backup band, the Beatles.
Wyman voluntarily left the Stones in 1992 and decamped to France, where he now spends his days puttering around the chateau, dusting his solid gold Rolls-Royces and polishing his diamond-studded guitar picks. I guess a man can take only so much fame, fortune, and casual sex. Frankly, I don’t know how he hung on for as long as he did.
But do you know what Wyman does today to make ends meet? He sells metal detectors.
How’s that for a letdown? One of the true godfathers of rock, rich as Croesus (maybe richer, as I don’t think Croesus ever had a hit record) – and now he’s selling metal detectors.
Don’t know what a metal detector is? Ever been to a park and seen an old dude wearing a cardigan and Hush Puppies and a VFW cap, walking slowly and waving one of those things that look like a WWII mine-sweeper, and nearly having a coronary every time he finds a tab top? That’s a metal detector. And Bill Wyman sells ’em.
According to his website, Bill is quite the treasure hunter himself. Apparently not content with merely being a relic, he’s taken up searching for them, as well.
I’m happy for Bill. He’s alive – which can’t be said for all of his original band mates. And you never see him in the news, checking into rehab, or divorcing yet anther wife, or getting into a drunken fistfight with a flight attendant. So there’s that.
But still – metal detectors? Back in 1965, Mick Jagger couldn’t get no satisfaction; don’t know if he ever did – but if he ever needs help finding his car keys, he should call Bill.