You gotta love a guy who’d give Mick Jagger a puck in the gob.

I don’t know much about drumming, but I know what I like. And Charlie Watts had plenty of it. He was a kind of anti-Mick who just plunked down behind his minimalist kit and did his maximalist thing, without a lick of showboating.

But at least once he came unplugged. From Rolling Stone:

For all of his low-key skill behind the kit, Watts seemed well aware that he was an irreplaceable element of the Stones’ sound. As one famous story from the band’s heyday goes, Jagger once phoned Watts’ hotel room in the midst of an all-night party, asking, “Where’s my drummer?” Watts reportedly got up, shaved, dressed in a suit, put on a tie and freshly shined shoes, descended the stairs, and punched Jagger in the face, saying, “Don’t ever call me your drummer again. You’re my fucking singer!”

Ho ho ho. When I read that I immediately wondered whether Roddy Doyle had poached the bit for his novella “The Commitments,” in which the full-of-himself singer Deco Cuffe tells an audience,  “I hope yis like me group.” Drummer Billy Mooney takes exception — “It’s not your fuckin’ group,” he says — and after another miscue in which Deco botches his bandmates’ introductions Billy flogs the frontman with a drumstick and subsequently quits The Commitments.

It’s left to Billy’s replacement, Mickah Wallace, to punch Deco’s lights out.

So fair play to Charlie Watts. Total pro. Stuck it out with the Rolling Stones for a half-century. And as far as I know, he only clocked Mick once.

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25 Responses to “Satisfaction”

  1. mike w. Says:

    He only had to clock Mick once. Message sent. Message received.

    Drummers i’ve known have very little patience for BS, especially from frontmen.

    R.I.P. Charlie.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Who would want to mess with a drummer? They’re working out with the sticks back there. Guns for days. They hit you with something, it’s gonna hurt.

      I’m ashamed to admit that it took Charlie’s departure to get me revisiting old Stones tunes. I was a big fan early on (“Big Hits: High Tide and Green Grass”), then lost interest sometime after “Sticky Fingers.” Peeked back in for “Some Girls,” then went away again.

  2. Herb from Michigan Says:

    Charlie preferred jazz and it was a miracle he could hang with the Stones all those years. But when they hand you piles of greenbacks it’s easy to keep Rolling. He was by all standards an excellent skins man and someday we’ll hear some outtakes of his efforts that didn’t make the albums we kept playing until we burned out on them. At least I was. But like POG I’ll pull out some tunes tonight as a tribute to CW and try and listen harder to his playing and push Mick and Keith into the background.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I like jazz myself. Grew up on big band (Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman), had a casual interest in fusion (Chick Corea, Spyro Gyra, The Crusaders, Grover Washington Jr.), and then started listening to Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, etc.

      But now and then you gots to crank up some rock ’n’ roll and jump around like a great big bunny.

    • B Lester Says:

      Every jazz player has a day job, Charlie’s just happened to be rock music. Occupation: Jazz Musician is rarely a lucrative career. Even the great jazz bass player James Jamerson had that day job creating the best R&B basslines in history for Motown. I never get tired of listening to him.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        True dat. You’ll even hear a little Sonny Rollins on some Rolling Stones numbers. A man must earn.

        • B Lester Says:

          I dabble in strings. In the past, foolish drunk people even paid to hear me play and sing.

          Listen to any Supremes or Marvin Gaye and concentrate on the bass. Marvelous stuff. John Entwhistle of the Who wanted to be Jamerson in the worst way, but he had no jazz chops (or imagination). Entwhistle was just real busy with his basslines for the sake of being busy. Stuff sucked.

  3. Libby Says:

    Very sad news. Took a trip down memory lane with the music videos, photos and features. There is so much to see and hear. Many familiar photos but also so many performances and lesser known photos to enjoy. What a talent. The last photo of Charlie is with his wife and the greyhound rescue they adopted. Very pleasing to Herself I imagine.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      If I remember right, Charlie was already a working musician before Mick and the gang drafted him into the Stones. He had some time on the job. Maybe that’s why he always looked like the elder statesman, clocked in, laying down the beat, doing his bit, but maybe daydreaming just a bit about clocking out and going back to the things he really enjoyed.

      • Libby Says:

        He was able to pursue jazz projects including touring with his eponymous Orchestra, Quintet and Tentet and various collaborations. I knew of some of these over the years but learned even more, now, after his death.

  4. Pat O’Brien Says:

    Was it just me, or did Mr. watts look frustrated trying to find whatever beat the rest were chasing. Maybe it was the video, but that truly terrible. And Jagger and Keith were all over the place, never in the groove. They ruined their own song.

    • Shawn Says:

      I’m no musician but yes it appeared and sounded like the flash boys out front were having a tough time with rhythm. It made me realize who the heart of a band is.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      That was from a 2006 show at NYC’s Beacon Theatre, part of their “A Bigger Bang” tour. Martin Scorsese used it in his 2008 film “Shine a Light.”

      If the lads were that ragged 15 years ago, y’gotta wonder what the show’s like now.

      Still, if they still want to play, and if the people want to pay, more power to their arms. My chops are thin indeed, slouching around backstage at a few Nitty Gritty Dirt Band shows, occasionally helping the roadies drag some kit in from the truck.

      In his 2017 standup “Too Real,” Marc Maron recounts catching the Stones in San Diego. Maron’s a guitarist, and a Stones fan, and I got a giggle out of his concerns, observations and conclusions. If you haven’t seen it, it’s on Netflix; definitely one of his best. Here’s a transcript.

      • SAO' Says:

        I am 100% Marc Maron. You give me Stones tickets, my first thought would be, effing parking!

      • SAO' Says:

        I’ve seen the RS exactly once, somewhere around ’88-89, and my version would be a lot like Maron’s. Except for the age thing. Back then, 40 was old, so they were already living on time. But it wasn’t the first and foremost thing anyone thought about.

        But we did about the same thing. Logistics. Logistics was the biggest thing on our minds. Both getting there and getting home.

        I was living just outside Stuttgart, and the show was in Munich. The Olympic Stadium. Europe, before the internet. How’d we get tickets? We went to the post office, the Bundespost, and filled out some onion-skinned form. Had to look up the show in this big book of events for the entire year, find the code, put the code in, and pay for the most expensive tickets. Four weeks later, they’d tell us what tickets we actually got, and refund us the difference, but we had to trust them on that. Got a letter in the mail a month later, telling us to bring our original receipt back and claim out tickets.

        No refunds, and we didn’t even know if we’d be in the field or deployed or something that weekend. So we were tossing maybe $75 each, times I think eight of us, into the hopper and hoping it didn’t turn out to be a shredder.

        How was the show? I guess it was good. We played a bunch of CDs in the car for the four hour drive there, and played them again on the drive back home. So musically, it’s all a blur. I’m thinking the recorded versions convinced us that the live version must have been pretty good. And maybe a few dozen back seat Hofbraus helped as well.

        One of my buddies had a German girlfriend, so we trusted her to get us on the right train to and from the stadium. Getting there wasn’t a big deal. We left early, walked around the stadium, took in the sights. But it was my first experience with a the public transit system in Germany, so I was taking it all in. Mostly just amazed at how the whole thing worked on the honor system. You bought the right ticket based on what zone you were leaving, what zone you were going to, but then no one ever checked it. You could totally buy the cheapest ticket, and no one would know, but no one ever did that, because, Germany, there’s a right way to do everything, and no one wants to be the jerk that ruins the system for everyone else.

        But getting back to the hotel after the show … ended at like 11:55, and the last train was at 12:00, and around 80,000 of my closest friends all packed onto that train at the exact same time. Remember what I said about the honor system? Well, the exception that proves the rule is, they all knew that actually buying a ticket would waste time and maybe the folks at the end of the line would miss out, so the collective solution was, everyone push and shove and we’ll all get on together. And somehow it worked.

        Weird thing about the German metro … leaving the city, the train might have 20 cars. But once you got into the burbs, the trains would split up. And the announcer would yell, “First ten trains are continuing to Udellgrudelbach, and the next ten trains are going to Obergrudelldorf, and the last ten are staying at the station.” Or was it, last ten, middle ten, then first ten? Are the first trains staying or going? Was it Obergrudelldorf or Ubergrudellburgh? So we all look at Billie, our interpreter for the night, and she’s like, I don’t know, he said it so fast, I got no idea. At the last second, we were standing there, in between trains #10 and #11, trying to decide which one to get on, and we just jumped into the one whose doors were shutting first.

        The story only gets longer and weirder after that, but I’ll spare you for now, or maybe make you wait until the book comes out. Point being, we all thought the show rocked, but some part of my brain was already looking for things to complain about. If I could go back 30 years, I’d tell me, boy, you have no idea …

        • carl duellman Says:

          was that the ‘steel wheels’ tour? i saw that one at tampa stadium. living color opened the show. it was good from what i remember. we stopped at popeye’s fried chicken near the stadium for a snack on the way home and we were serenaded by an old black guy singing for change. he was pretty good.

          we saw a lot of shows at tampa stadium. the who, pink floyd u2. we saw boston at the sun dome. and of course john prine and the cowboy junkies at a theatre in clearwater.

          • SAO' Says:

            Steel Wheels was the album, and the European leg was called the Urban Jungle tour.

            Wikipedia tells me it was June 2 or 3, 1990, and the opening band was the Scottish band Gun. Zero recollection of them.

  5. SAO' Says:

    If I recall correctly, the kid who played Deco Cuffe in the movie would later snub the rest of the band when reunion tours came up. Life imitating art, as it were.

    I think he was 17 or 18 when they made that movie … damn kid had some pipes, can’t deny that.

  6. Pat O’Brien Says:

    A similar drummer in style to Charlie Watts was Al Jackson, the drummer for Star Record’s session band, Booker T and the MGs. Gee wonder who the guitar and bass players are playing this groove?

  7. carl duellman Says:

    there was a period from the late 60’s to the early 70’s when the stones were golden and i think ‘exile on main street’ is the best album ever. mick taylor was their guitarist then after brian jones died. before and after this period i think they were just an ok band.

  8. Dale Says:

    Charlie Watts always seemed to be a businessman – he had a businessman’s mien. The RS was a job, and a very lucrative one. He was never brash onstage or off-stage. He was a piece of furniture that the band could rest upon concert after concert and record after record. “Where’s my drummer”.

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