Aug 242021

I’ve made my share of Charlie Watts jokes around here, including one running theme that I honestly think I may be right about, but learning just now that Charlie Watts has died at 80 is sad. He gets credit for my core sense of a rock ‘n roll beat: the 4-on-the-floor beat driving “Satisfaction,” the song I feel best lives up to the objectives of rock ‘n roll.

Charlie gets credit for contributing to possibly the smoothest, snakiest groove in rock ‘n roll, on “Under My Thumb.” As with so many legendary Stones grooves, it’s a team effort. There’s no showy performance in his repertoire that dominates a particular Stones song. In fact, I’m not even sure there’s a legendary fill to cite, since Jimmy Miller plays those excellent fills at the end of the choruses on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

The beat that I think most typifies the greatness of Charlie Watts – and a beat that even I wouldn’t suspect was played by some other drummer in my most trolling moments – is “Beast of Burden.” It is the beat that appears when you look up “in the pocket” in the dictionary. It’s another team effort, as everyone is locked in. Charlie must have had a lot to do with keeping that lot locked in.


  9 Responses to “RIP Charlie Watts”

  1. NO! We lose another of the original GREATs. That is sad for sure.

  2. And denied us the poetic justice of Charlie “The most Polite Man in Show Business”* being the LMS in the Stones.

    *Stanley Booth said something like this in his first Stones book.


  4. BigSteve

    I already thought the Stones should have canceled those tour dates when Charlie couldn’t make it. And I LIKE Steve Jordan. But now I reeeally think they should call it quits.

  5. 2000 Man

    I’m pretty bummed about Charlie. I think the band knew this was coming and Charlie had some input to whether or not the tour went on. I don’t have any issues with the tour going on, but I’m out for sure now. They weren’t playing Cleveland and it was unlikely I was going to Pittsburgh or Detroit because the shows are on Mondays, but I was thinking about it. I think the change of the second guitarist wasn’t a problem for me, because I’ve liked all three. When Bill quit, Ronnie had been there for a long time and while the sound changed a little, it wasn’t drastic and Darryl Jones seems content to play in a style similar to Wyman’s on the old songs, and on the newer songs it’s different, but it’s still good. Steve Jordan is a great drummer and he was fantastic in Keith’s band (although on the Live at the Palladium album it sounds like every time he hits his snare he shoots a gun instead), I think with Darryl Jones and Steve Jordan things will sound good, but they won’t sound like The Stones.

    I’ve joked with people that I was born in January of 62, and The Stones’ first show was July of that year and that I had to suffer through very dark times before there was a Rolling Stones. Those times are back, sort of. I’m sure we’ll still see archival releases and concerts but it’s a drag that there won’t be a session like the one Blue and Lonesome came out of ever again. I don’t expect another Beggars Banquet out of them, but I’d have been thrilled to see something like Blue and Lonesome 2 or even them playing Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley songs. But without Charlie, it just won’t sound quite right. It’s not a better world without The Rolling Stones.

  6. Happiness Stan

    Geo, what a lovely article, thanks for posting it. I was gutted when I heard. I only saw the Stones once, on the last tour with Bill Wyman, after that it didn’t feel like the Stones any more, and now it really won’t. I expect Mick and Keef will carry on, it’s what drives them and keeps then going.

    I found Charlie’s home address online ten years ago and sent him a letter and a couple of photos. He sent them back signed the next day. A great drummer and a true gent.

  7. I just saw that Lee Perry passed away at 85. I prefer the more extreme dubby Reggae stuff, and The Upsetters Super Ape is particularly great. I never saw him even though he’s been showing up in club listings every year or two, but I was always worried about the possibility of it being one of those weird half-appearance, half-performance things with no real band. Life’s short, so I probably should have sucked it up and just taken a chance. It would have at least been interesting.

  8. Happiness Stan

    I was planning to see Lee Perry a few weeks into lockdown, he was due to play not far from us. A friend saw him about a year earlier and said he was disappointed, so it would have been more to pay respects to a unique character and truly original artist than through any expectation of a great night out. I imagine even on the best night the band would do most of the lifting since reliability and predictability must have been something of an issue most of the time.

    I was surprised the obituaries I read, apart from burning down Black Ark, largely skated around the level of his eccentricity, although I particularly enjoyed his line about moving to Switzerland because he was part elf and needed to live in the cold.

    I’ve only really dipped tenuously onto his ouevre, but I really love Train to Doomsville with Dub Syndicate, here

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