Charlie Didn't Mind

Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman, who created the first fretless electric bass guitar in the '60s, came up with the idea of a lightweight metal detector.

"Well, it just came out this month," says Wyman in a telephone interview. "And it's selling well. But it's for beginners that love collecting. It performs at significant levels, and is easy to use. It's affordable, too. It's great for treasure hunting. I've found coins from 1500 BC and discovered old Roman sites. I love collecting and saving all this stuff."

On the subject of saving stuff, how far back do your photos go? (Wyman's photo exhibit runs from April 28 through May 26 at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in La Jolla.)

"I have over 20,000 photographs in my archives. I took pictures of everything."

Did your bandmates get mad that you were photographing everything?

"No. They had cameras, too. Sometimes Mick would say something if I kept taking pictures persistently, like, 'Come on. Knock it off already.' Charlie never minded. Neither did Brian [Jones]."

It's interesting that you saved your photographs and didn't lose them.

"I have diaries, too. It's how I was able to write the books about the band that I did. I would keep everything. I guess I got that from my grandmother. It started with postage stamps. And postcards during the war that I saved....

"When the Rolling Stones were playing places, I was always taking pictures. In the hotels, backstage, at airports, out airplane windows, on trains, buses, wherever I was. I would read or take photos. At one point in the '60s, we were given movie cameras, the standard eights [millimeter film]. We were shooting each other. I still have mine."

Is there a subject you prefer to shoot?

"Wildlife, views of places, mists... Galleries, though, can only exhibit around 40 photos. They want portraits of celebrities. I'm pulled two ways. You want them to sell. If it's a landscape, maybe a hotel would buy one or two, but that's it. People are more into the celebrity photos.

"I had a big show in San Francisco that actually had 140 of my photos. I had a period of time -- for three months, in the early '80s -- where I was in Hawaii, Fiji, and Australia taking pictures. I went to Japan. I was the first Stone in '82 to be allowed in. Until 1990, they didn't let us go. I was allowed in and I took photos. I have a great shot of children in kimonos. But people don't want to show those because they just don't sell. Someone might buy one for their office, but...people are more interested in the celebrities."

When Annie Liebovitz's recent exhibit was displayed in Balboa Park, she had more landscapes, and people were surprised by that.

"She has taken a lot of pictures of the Stones. And when she was shooting us, I was often taking pictures of her as she took pictures of us."

Did you get tired of taking pictures of rock stars and concert footage?

"No, because I never really could! I've gotten some of John Lee Hooker, the Who, Elton, the Police, but because of my celebrity status, I can't just go stand in the front row taking pictures; I have to go to the side of the stage. And unless the guy looks my way, I wouldn't have a good shot. It's the same reason I can't go out and take a lot of photos. I get mobbed on the streets. I usually go out at dawn to take photos."

Did it bother you that none of your photos ever became a Rolling Stones album cover?

"That would've never worked because how would I have been in the picture? That's the same problem with me taking any pictures of the band; I would've never been in the shots."

How have digital cameras changed things?

"I've never gotten one. My wife offered me one for my birthday, so I might get one soon.... I like the 35 millimeter that I use. And some of the older cameras I use as well. You might want it to look a certain way. It's the same with recording music; sometimes you want to use older equipment for a warmer sound."

I have to ask you one last question... Have you ever snorted a relative?

"What? No. I've never snorted anything."

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