“Waiting on a Friend”: Lisa Robinson talks with the Rolling Stones’ Bill Wyman on “Radio 1990″

By on July 3, 2017

Radio 1990 — featuring interview segments spliced together with music videos, it was advertised as a 30-minute “rock lifestyle” program and “the fastest show on air” — aired on the USA Network from March 1983 until September 1986, and re-runs were also featured on Friday and Saturday nights on “Night Flight.”

In this episode — which originally aired on July 12, 1984 (which was a Thursday) now streaming over on Night Flight Plus — co-host Lisa Robinson talked exclusively with Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones in between the airing of several mostly-’80s-era videos by the band, including Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s “Waiting on a Friend” and a few others that were directed by Julien Temple.

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“Radio 1990″ was the USA Network’s attempt to also have a show that also featured music videos, just like the popular MTV channel did, and the programming was flexible enough that they also included stand-up comedy and other types of performances on occasion, as well as other types of things that you’d see — like your favorite band’s tour schedules or fashion tips — on their other popular weekend show, “Night Flight.”

“Radio 1990″ was introduced and co-hosted by a Texas-born blue-eyed blonde named Kathryn Kinley, a former theater grad and opera singer, but it was New York’s Lisa Robinson who did most of the major interviews for the show.

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Robinson had been a rock journalist for a few decades by 1984, and she had even been the Rolling Stones’ traveling press liaison on their 1975 tour of the Americas (Annie Leibovitz was the tour photographer), and so it made perfect sense that she’d be the one to interview Wyman because she’d already known him for years.

Robinson had come into the world of rock journalism by first writing for fan magazines and penning several gossip columns, including a gossip/fashion column for Creem magazine that was called “Eleganza.”

By the early ’80s, she also had her own syndicated radio show, “The Inside Track,” and that seems to have been where she always felt the most comfortable, on the inside, getting to know the rock stars personally.

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It’s fairly clear in this Rolling Stone Magazine piece — “Rolling Stones: I Call and Call and Call on Mick; The tale of a Jagger interview that never happened,” published on September 11, 1975, and written by the venerable Dave Marsh — that Robinson really enjoyed becoming one of the Rolling Stones’ intimates on the road, negotiating and scheduling their interviews with members of the music press, and hanging out with them backstage and after-hours while they criss-crossed America on their ’75 tour. She also occasionally becoming part of the Stones’ after-hours story too.

In Howard Hampton’s New York Times review of Robinson’s 2014 memoir, There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll (Riverheard Books), we get the sense from his reading of Robinson’s book that she managed to keep a professional distance (she was married, after all, and Hampton writes that she “wasn’t a partyer”), but she nevertheless got close enough to Wyman that there was something of a personal connection, something more than just rock journalist and rock star.

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In Hampton’s New York Times review he even mentions that Robinson — he writes that she came for the music, adding that she also enjoyed the “warped conviviality of the milieu” but took a pass on the “cocaine hors d’oeuvres.”

Hampton also writes about her: “A dedicated Manhattan girl, she adopted a very laissez-faire, New Orleans attitude to the rock circus — let the good times roll over you and leave the existential-metaphysical-political implications to others.”

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Lisa Robinson and Keith Richards

Robinson — in her own memoir — gets very intimate in her portrayal of Wyman, writing that, “In reviews, Bill Wyman was always described as having the demeanor of a friendly undertaker. He was smart, had a dry sense of humor, but it appeared to me that the rest of the band didn’t really like him very much. Everyone thought he was a very good bass player. But he just didn’t seem to … swing.”

Robinson then adds, “Imagine my surprise years later when I discovered just how much he did swing in the female department; he’d apparently been quite the ladies man for years.”

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Robinson describes Wyman on tour as being content to spend much of his down time videotaping old Laurel & Hardy movies, and says he spent most of his time with his then-wife Astrid and son Stephen, who were accompanying him.

She writes that she often watched the Stones performing while standing in the photographer’s pit — down in front of the stage, between the barricade that separated the stage from the audience — and she’d make faces at Wyman, trying to get him to crack a smile, which she says didn’t always work but sometimes did.

In February of 1984, some seven years after that tour, Robinson was working on “Radio 1990″ and she had talked with Mick Jagger, which we told you about in this earlier blog post, and we suspect that she also interviewed Wyman around the same time, in a separate sit-down situation (she’s wearing a different outfit, that was one of the clues).

However, based on what she writes in her book about Wyman, it seems that she’d already set the tone of the interview years before, and that the two were already longtime friends.

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Lisa Robinson giving Bill Wyman a shoulder massage, as seen in LIFE Magazine

Speaking of friends, one of the videos featured in this “Radio 1990″ episode was the Rolling Stones’ “Waiting on a Friend,” which starts off with Mick Jagger walking up to join his friend Peter Tosh, sitting with him on the steps of a brownstone tenement building with some of Tosh’s fellow Rastafarian pals while he waits on another friend, who arrives shortly, turning out to be none other than Keith Richards.

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The steps (or stoop, if you prefer) that they’re sitting on, by the way, turn out to be in front of a building in the East Village of NYC, located at 98 St. Mark’s Place, which is the exact same tenement that was featured on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti intricate die-cut sleeve album cover, designed by Peter Corriston, as we mentioned in this previous Night Flight post (Corriston designed the covers for the Rolling Stones’ Some Girls and Tattoo You album covers as well).

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The video — directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg — shows Jagger and Tosh and Tosh’s friends chatting as Keef shows up, wearing black and gray clothing accessoried by a hat and scarf, looking cool and dressed for the night.

Jagger looks quite the opposite, in his madras-like long-sleeve shirt, tight white jeans and he’s wearing a floppy hat, like he’s going out for a day of boating somewhere in the Caribbean.

They both shuffle down the street a short ways to join up with the rest of the band — Wyman, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood — at a corner bar, St. Mark’s Bar & Grill, who commemorated the fact that they were the chosen location for the video by selling t-shirts about it for years afterwards.

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In the video, Jagger, mimicking his own dreamy falsetto on the track itself, sings the song to Richards, a ballad of bonhomie with its slow-swirling chorus that everyone loved singing along to at the time.

The lyrics, if you’re listening closely, seem to be the first-person account from a guy fed up with not being able to communicate with the women in his life (they’re categorized as both “gossips” and “whores”), saying that he needs “someone I can cry to / I need to someone to protect” but that someone turns out to be a friend, not a lover (“Making love and breaking hearts / It is a game for youth /But I’m not waiting on a lady, I’m just waiting on a friend”).

If you extrapolate what we’re hearing on the soundtrack with what we’re seeing in the video, it’s Mick singing that he needs Keith to be his friend, someone he can “cry to” and “protect.” Strange.

The video concludes with the Stones setting up for a gig at the back of the bar, where they’re basically ignored by the other patrons.

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The fact that they’re ignored is itself kind of funny, considering that police had to block off the entire St. Marks area in order for the band to shoot their video.

“Waiting on a Friend” was a song that the Stones had originally started working on during their Goat’s Head Soup album sessions, which the band had begun recording in November of 1972 in Kingston, Jamaica’s Dynamic Sound Studios.

At the time, Mick Taylor was the band’s other guitarist, not Wood, and his guitar parts survived the overdubbing sessions in April 1981 when the song was selected by Tattoo You producer Chris Kimsey as a track the Stones could re-work for that album (Taylor, by the way, doesn’t receive credit on the album, although he did eventually receive royalties).

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The track also features Nicky Hopkins’s tinkling treble-key runs on piano, and with producer Jimmy Miller, Mike Carabello and Kasper Winding laying down a clip-clopping percussion instruments in the background which supplement the playing of Charlie Watts on drums.

Even more impressive is the inclusion of legendary saxophone giant Sonny Rollins, who plays solos in the instro break and the outro too, adding to the track’s relaxed jazzy vibe.

“Waiting on a Friend” charted at #13 on Billboard Magazine’s Singles chart in early ’82, but on #50 on the UK Singles Chart (it did score high in the Netherlands, topping out at #9).

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Another video from the “Radio 1990″ special on the Stones is the “She Was Hot” video, which was directed by the legendary filmmaker Julien Temple, who also directed quite a few other videos by the Stones, including “Undercover of the Night” (which we told you about in this post; also featured in another “Radio 1990″ special), in addition to videos for “Too Much Blood,” “Sex Drive,” and “Highwire,” as well as the feature film Stones At The Max.

We’ve written about the work of Julien Temple previously, and mentioned that he also directed the feature films Absolute Beginners, starring David Bowie, and the Sex Pistols’ film The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle.

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One of the more interesting stories about Temple was that he didn’t initally want to work with the Stones on their videos, because he thought by the time the 1980s had rolled around that the Stones had “sold out” (a view shared during the 1980s decade by many of the Stones’ 1960s and ’70s fans too), and since he’d been burned once before, working with the Sex Pistols, only to see them derided later as sell-outs, he didn’t want to go through that again.

Temple is said to have pitched the band a treatment for their “Undercover of the Night” video that he thought they’d hate, believing that they’d hated it that they’d reject him working on the project and they’d move on to someone else.

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As it turned out, they loved Temple’s take on the song’s video, and wanted to move forward with its (spoiler alert) “Keith kills Mick” storyline (in the video, Jagger is murdered by terrorists in Central America).

The video caused quite a lot of concern in England, where it was banned by the BBC’s “Top of the Pops,” who declined to screen it, and another UK video show, “The Tube,” agreed to show it only after it had been edited according to the requirements detailed by the Independent Broadcasting Authority.

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Temple didn’t know why the Brits were making such a fuss about it — it aired in the U.S. without any problems — saying at the time, “The average kid in America has, by the time he gets to twenty-one, seen 65,000 killings on television.”

The Stones not only loved the video, and they loved the end result of it being banned in England, that they brought Temple back again to work on two more videos, including “She Was Hot.”

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The video for “She Was Hot” combines Temple’s sense of humor and interest in prurient love for eroticism, which may be why, once again, it was banned, but this time by America’s MTV network, who rejected not because of the content itself, but for the fact that it featured the band name of a soda pop.

There were also some shots of buttons popping off a bulging male crotch, but they were more concerned with the Coke can.

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Anita Morris

The most memorable thing about the video — which like “Undercover of the Night” was also shot in Mexico City — by far is that it featured sexy, red-headed actress Anita Morris, who is seen tempting each member of the band, who react comically, rolling their eyes and making all kinds of exaggerated gestures that let us know that, indeed, “she was hot.”

Morris also starred as Carol Dodsworth, the mistress to Danny DeVito in the movie Ruthless People, which featured a song, the movie’s title song, in fact, sung by Jagger. She had a long career but a sad ending, dying after a ten year struggle with ovarian cancer, at age fifty, in 1994.

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“She Was Hot” — the second single from their album, Undercover — starts off with a muted-rockabilly guitar and a slap-back echo that wouldn’t have seemed to out-of-place on a Stray Cats album track.

Jagger called the song “a road song,” saying that it was inspired by one of his young conquests whilst out on tour, “on a cold and rainy night.”

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It had been recorded at The Hit Factory in New York City (sometime between May, end of June, all the way up to the beginning of August ’83).

The track features the Stones (Jagger, Richards, Wyman, Watts, Wood) and Ian Stewart on boogie-woogie piano and Chuck Leavell on additional keyboards (yep, that’s Leavell playing those cheesy 80s-era digital synth sounds). The video version includes an extra verse.

Unfortunately, “She Was Hot” — despite all the work that went into it — failed to crack the Top 40 in the U.S. (#44) or in England, making it to #42 in the UK in February 1984.

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Richards would later say that some of the songs the band did in the 1980s — like ‘Undercover of the Night,” and “Emotional Rescue” (the b-side of the “She Was Hot” single — were simply “Mick’s calculations about the market,” adding that the reason the songs don’t hold up well was because he thought his Glimmer Twin “listens to too much bad shit.”

Many of the classic ’80s Stones songs were disappointing not just to some members (if not all) of the Stones themselves, and to a lot of their fans, but to their new label as well, considering that he Stones had signed a new contract, worth $28 million, in 1983.

The contract required the band to record four albums for CBS Records, and gave CBS the repackaging rights to the entire Rolling Stones Records catalog, which includes twelve LPs, starting with 1971’s Sticky Fingers.

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Kathryn Kinley and a later co-host, actor Clayton Prince, on the set of “Radio 1990,” which aired Monday-Friday, 7-7:30pm ET/PT, on the USA Network

In the August 17, 1985, issue of Billboard Magazine, in the “Newsline” section — published a little over a year after this particular episode of “Radio 1990″ — it was announced that the show was going to be lining up performers from the rock ‘n’ roll world to co-host along with Kathryn Kinley, after the earlier and successful August 1985 co-hosting job by Paul Stanley of KISS, who co-hosted “Radio 1990″ for an entire week, followed by a co-hosting stint by Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil.

Future guest co-hosts that were lined up included Pat Benatar, Fred Schneider of the B-52’s, Jon Bon Jovi and Wendy O. Williams, and yes, we’ve got those in our vaults and you’ll be seeing more of those in the future on Night Flight Plus.

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In the same issue, it was announced that Pat Prescott would be moving into the spotlight for Night Flight’s “Take Off” segments, and she was being “upped” from voice-over announcer to on-screen talent.

Her first round of hosting duties was going to commence with an “All American” series of “Take Offs” which were going to be filmed at locales across the U.S. and in September of ’85, Night Flight planned to air the following “Take Off” episodes: “Take Off to Boston,” “Take Off to Southern Rock,” “Take Off to Texas,” and “Take off to California.”

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Watch episodes of Radio 1990 — including this 1984 episode featuring Lisa Robinson’s interview with Bill Wyman — and our “Take Off” segments, they’re all streaming over on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.