Another musical notable passing today: Charlie Watts, the quiet, seemingly shy drummer for The Rolling Stones, died from undisclosed ailments in a London hospital. He was 80.
One job for nearly 60 years.
Watts drummed to a different drummer. Not weird (Ringo), or crazy (Keith Moon), Watts kept the beat to a shitload of great songs. My earliest recollection of them is the old Buddy Holly song, “Not Fade Away,” and how these guys were not The Beatles.
In this clip, an example of the way-peculiarities of seeing young and then being old (Keith Richards looks absolutely amazing), and Watts has a moment in the introductions:
In the routine of bands breaking up, the Stones kept the fires going together for decades beyond even being alive. In the first year, the Stones were the exception to the clean of the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, etc., but in June 1965 they became part of the top tier with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” and echoed through that summer.
Just out of the 10th-grade, I immediately felt a musical ‘all-right‘ every time I heard Keith Richards’ opening riff on the radio, which carries through the entire song:
I wonder how the Stones will function now. They’re supposedly getting ready to tour later this year, though, Watts had already given notice he would not be joining his bandmates, due to health problems. Again not specified; he had recovered from throat cancer in 2004. However, a long-time member gone for good — can the band operate the same?
From the obituary at the Guardian this afternoon:
Watts’s career with the Stones ran from the cramped clubs of Britain’s early-1960s blues boom to the international stadium tours that became their metier. Through it all, he seemed determined to be as self-effacing as anybody could be as a member of perhaps the world’s most high-profile rock band.
Nonetheless, the group fully understood his value to them.
Keith Richards, in particular, often acknowledged how fundamental Watts was to the Stones’ sound, perhaps not least because he was prepared to make space for the churning rhythmic drive of his guitar.
The crisp economy of Watts’s drumming, both swinging and muscular, was remarkable for its absence of frills or fuss, freeing the rest of the band to express themselves around it.
Jagger and Richards soon formed their own group, the Rolling Stones, with Watts joining in 1963.
“It was another band to join, I was in about three of them,” Watts later said; he began living informally with the group.
“We’d rehearse a lot. They — Brian and Keith — never went to work, so we played records all day, in that rather bohemian life. Mick was at university. But he paid the rent.”
A time long, long time ago, which does catch up near-about always — and another one bites the dust.
Just being human…