Thursday, May 30, 2024

Watts beat to his own drum

Hales Passino

He held the beat for the better part of 60 years.  

“The Wembley Whammer” Charlie Watts passed away this past August at the age of 80, but his cause of death was never disclosed. The world of rock was inevitably shaken up by his passing and an outreach of tributes flooded in from fans of his and other artists, like Paul McCartney, Lars Ulrich, Dead and Company and many more. 

Watts achieved fame as founding member and drummer for international rock band “The Rolling Stones.” He never missed a show and has been a part of every Rolling Stones album along with other members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. 

Watts took to the drums when he was 13, but he was more than just about the music. He was a visual artist at heart and graduated with a degree in graphic design in the pre-Stones era. Watts helped with elaborate stage designs for concerts like the ethereal-lit lotus-themed stage on the “Tours of the Americas ‘75.” Other contributions of his include the back cover design of the often-forgotten and highly underrated 1967 album “Between the Buttons.” It’s decorated with a six panel cartoon accompanied by an original poem that flows rhythmically, which was fitting for Watts. 

He was quiet and reserved from the get-go of his career. He didn’t necessarily stick out like a sore thumb, but he certainly stood out amongst his band members. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe the solitary soul was also part of one of rock and roll’s most chaotic, needle-in-a-haywire bands. Nevertheless, Watts’ posh, yet humble, eccentricity was admirable. He was one of few musicians who made others realize not everyone necessarily has to carry out an outlandish stage persona or wear the most bizarre outfits to be recognized. It is entirely possible to simply be what many would consider “normal” and hold a career of staggering highlights. Watts makes many expect the unexpected. Was he comparable to John Bonham of Led Zeppelin or Neil Peart of Rush in terms of talent? Unfortunately, it would have to be no on this one. However, listeners should still have utmost respect for the man. 

An excerpt from “Sympathy for the Drummer” sums up Watts’ cool underdog demeanor. It also seems to be everyone’s favorite story about him ironically. Back in 1984, a storm of deceit was brewing with the band as Jagger sneakily came out on top with a new recording contract he signed for the Rolling Stones at the expense where it left other band members in the dark. It was a sell-down-the-river stab in the back to say the least. Any who, the band finds themselves in Amsterdam for a meeting when a drunk and disorderly Jagger calls Watts’ hotel room after a night out on the town with Richards. Oh, to be a fly on the walls of every bar those two visited that night. Watts picks up the phone only to hear, “Where’s my drummer?” All hell breaks loose. 

About 20 minutes later, there’s a knock on Jagger’s door. Watts shows up clean shaven and dressed to the nine with a Savile Row suit. He walks past Richards, grabs a hold of Mick and tells him like it is: “Never call me your drummer again.” If anything, Jagger was his singer, and he told him that too. His message was followed up with roundhouse-style “drummer’s punch” from his right hand right to Jagger’s jaw. Charlie Watts was most certainly a badass. 

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