Charlie was their irreplaceable darling

Of the many tributes paid to Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts over the past few days, by far the most poignant has to be from Keith Richards, who posted on social media just a photo of his friend’s sparse drum kit with a sign hanging from one of the stands saying simply “CLOSED”.

After more than 58 years of touring and recording, this may finally be the thing that calls a halt to the Stones juggernaut.

When it was announced that Charlie would miss a US tour the band was already committed to, due to a “medical procedure” it was obvious that there was more to this that meets the eye. Proceeding with a series of dates that would have cost millions in lawsuits to back out of at such a late stage was going to be bad enough and will be even harder now, but to continue beyond that without their iconic drummer is surely unthinkable.

Watching him play could be disconcerting. He developed a style quite some way into his career with the Stones where rather than playing a straight four on the hi-hat he would hold off when hitting the snare. It’s a technique he didn’t use when playing in jazz bands, it looked downright strange and didn’t match up with the solid beat holding down the loose guitars of Keith and Ronnie.

There’s so much more to the Stones’ success and longevity than a charismatic frontman and seemingly indestructible guitarist (if it was as simple as that their solo efforts wouldn’t have been such abject failures) and the key was Charlie, the jazz drummer in a blues band.

Because beyond being human metronomes, jazz drummers swing.

Charlie had absolutely no time for the mechanics of stardom, but by virtue of being in the second most famous band of all time for almost 60 years, a star he was regardless, although unlike any other afforded that epithet because his perception of his job – play drums, end of – fell far short of how his bandmates and other musicians regarded him.

Charlie was the glue that held them together.

While the vast majority of how the band functioned was left in the hands of Mick Jagger, stage designs for Stones tours had to pass the Charlie test. He would look at a proposal and immediately tell Jagger what would and what wouldn’t work then have instant recall on whether is instructions from a previous meeting had been carried out.

He was quite possibly the only person in the world that Jagger was prepared to defer to because he trusted his friend’s judgement implicitly.

On the rare occasions he spoke to the media, it was worth listening to because he would be direct, brutally honest and fearless in expressing his opinion.

Beyond his dress sense (he owned over 200 designer suits, some dating back 40 years) there is but one legendary Charlie story from 1984, told originally by Keith but confirmed years later by the man himself.

Mick and Keith returned drunk to their hotel in Amsterdam in the early hours and Jagger insisted on calling Charlie’s room, despite Richards warning him that it probably wasn’t a good idea.

Regardless, Mick called the room, saying just three words before the phone was put down at the other end: “Where’s my drummer?”

Twenty minutes later there’s a knock on the door and when Jagger opens it there stands Watts, suited and booted. He catches the lippy one with a right hook and says: “Never call me your drummer again. I am not your effing drummer, YOU’RE my effing singer!”

Then he turns around, goes back to bed and the matter is never discussed again.

Charlie described Keith as the heart of the Stones, but I think even the until now indestructible Richards may find this loss one blow too many.

……………………………….

I really have become the archetypical grumpy old man (although anyone that knows me would argue I’ve been there for years).

But something is happening at home that has made the red mist descend.

Someone who regularly walks his dog past my house keeps putting their bag of poo in my dustbin. It stinks and I’m not having it.

So there is now a message on the lid that reads: “Attention dog walker, this private dustbin is not a receptacle for your pet’s sh*t. STOP IT!”

Too much? You know, I really don’t think so and when I catch him in the act (which I will eventually) the offending bag of business will be returned to him.

At velocity.

Stupid TV quiz answers of the week.

Tipping Point

Q: The Volga flows from Russia into which inland body of water

Fist contestant A: The Nile?

Second contestant A: The Red Sea?

Two words come to mind beginning with F and ending in sake.

The Chase:

Q: Alfred Lord Tennyson is buried in which part of Westminster Abbey?

A: The back

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Edward Case

Columnist