Not fade away: The Rolling Stones 50 years on
Paul Bignell talks to the bassist who opted out
Paul Bignell is an Assistant News Editor at The Independent. He has previously been the acting News Editor of the i Paper, a home news reporter for The Independent for one year and a reporter for the Independent on Sunday for six years.
Sunday 08 July 2012
When the sweaty young art school blues rockers swaggered off the stage after their first ever gig, they were already convinced they were destined for stardom. But at least one critic in London's Marquee Club was equally certain: they had no future.
His assessment, delivered directly to the band, was blunt: "You lot are not going anywhere." History doesn't record what happened to him, but they went on to prove him wrong. They were the Rolling Stones.
The Stones will get together in London this Thursday to celebrate 50 years of not only proving the critics wrong but also of being one of the biggest bands in music history.
Last night, Dick Taylor, 68, the bass player on the band's debut on 12 July 1962, recalled the band's lively blues set: "I'd love to say it was obvious we would go on to world domination, but that wasn't the case. We knew we made a good noise and some of the audience really liked it."
Taking their name from a Muddy Waters song – "Rollin' Stone", they stormed through 18 blues covers, from Chuck Berry's "Baby, What's Wrong?" to "Big Boss Man!" by Jimmy Reed.
For months before the gig, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger had been catching the train from their homes in Dartford, Kent, to London, where they nurtured dreams of forming a blues band.
They began rehearsing along with Brian Jones, pianist Ian Stewart, as well as Taylor and drummer Tony Chapman at The Bricklayer's Arms pub in Soho. The band got lucky on that fateful July night as the Marquee Club's usual house band – Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated – had a BBC radio gig.
Today, with a combined age of 262, the weather-beaten line-up of the Stones contrasts starkly with the youthful faces who shuffled on to that tiny stage in central London. There was barely room for their equipment and certainly none for Jagger's now-famous flailing dance moves.
For the Stones, it was the beginning. For Taylor, it was the beginning of the end of his time in the band: he left to study art. "I only played with them for a few more gigs because I went off to college. I also wanted to play guitar rather than bass. I felt four strings were a bit limiting.
"Later, I formed The Pretty Things. I still tour with them and we probably do more gigs than the Stones do."
When not on tour, he lives quietly and teaches guitar near his home on the Isle of Wight. And he has no regrets despite the massive disparity between his gig fees and the millions the Stones' machine churns out each time they tour. Industry insiders believe next year's planned tour could break revenue records. It could well be their last, with doubts hanging over Richards's health, particularly since he suffered a head injury during a holiday in Fiji in 2006.
"I don't envy them," said Taylor. "They live their life in a goldfish bowl. I often speak to their manager who says she can't understand why people think they're these strange men. They're just normal blokes."
Normal blokes who have forgotten their former compadre, it seems. He confirmed ruefully that he is not invited to this week's celebrations.
Almost famous: Other members of bands who fell by the wayside
Pete Best The former drummer with The Beatles who, after two years and four days, was unceremoniously sacked by the manager, Brian Epstein.
Henry Padovani Asked to join The Police by drummer Stewart Copeland, the Corsican guitarist's abilities fell short of singer and bassist Sting's expectations. He hired Andy Summers, who, not willing to share, promptly sacked Padovani.
Eric Stefani A founding member of the US ska-punk band No Doubt, Stefani – brother of the group's singer, Gwen – chose to leave just before they hit the big time, to be an animator on The Simpsons.
Andy Nicholson As the Arctic Monkeys' bassist, Nicholson, took time out in 2006 to recover from "fatigue" – only to find himself permanently substituted by the band's "substitute" bassist. Ouch.
Dennis Stratton The biggest rock cliché of all time was used for the departure of Iron Maiden's guitarist, in 1980, just before they hit the big time: "Musical differences". Stratton can be found playing in pubs in Essex.
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