Charlie Watts the coolest on Earth, you were over 80. And sick. Sooner or later someone in the band would’ve to greet us all, sure. And we knew already that you wouldn’t participate in the next tour.
Still, it’s a shock.
The Stones will never be the same without you, always well-dressed jazz loving rhythm devourer sitting at the back. You were one of the best and coolest drummers in rock history. Of that unique, messy groove that the band created in its most brilliant moments, you Charlie Watts the coolest on Earth are a fundamental part.
Charlie Watts in the 60s
Here’s not the place to write all the anectoditcs about Charlie’s life, you can read them everywhere in these days. Everyone knows he became passionate about jazz soon, so early 50s. Not everyone knows, perhaps, it happened when he was living with his family in a prefab in the post World War II Wembley, where Luftwaffe bombed generously around, exactly in the days when Charlie was born. And well, no big surprise he was not a rocknroll teen: there was no rocknroll in the UK before the very late 50s. Therefore Charlie Parker was his role model, not Elvis.
Jazz and blues were the coolest things in UK 50s for a music loving teen ager. Poor, sure. As almost everyone in those days. Therefore maybe somehow genial, as when he turned a banjo into a snare drum, yes.
And as both the money flow and the drum kits in rock grew bigger and bigger, Watts sat always there behind his simple, small set.
Charlie was holding the group together better than anyone else could have done. With pace, but also with flexible, amazing dynamics where the songs benefited from that. Jazz school, musically.
Keeping himself far away from the pursuit of eternal youth and the excesses of the rest of the band, he was nevertheless able to throw an elegant punch in the face of his companion Mick in case of need. Wembley post World War II prefab area, socially.
Drummers. They rarely get the full attention when bands are on top. Then they leave and the bands quit or almost. Think about Led Zep, the Who, the Clash etc
Now Charlie Watts is no longer one of rock’s immortals. And that’s the shock. The Rolling Stones have been the symbol of rock’s seemingly eternal life. The passing of Charlie Watts is the end of an era. It’s the treason of a totem, an offense to the gods, a brutal interruption of a faith as irrational as it was cozy and warm. Will the Stones go on? Not the same way, although Jagger & Richards may well find themselves playing until they plunge.
Charlie’s death rang like an alarm clock, loud as a bomb of ’41. This may have woken up some of those who, hypnotized by the greatness of what it was, do not realize that the life of rock as we know it is today endangered. Retromania filling theaters with tribute bands, charts topped by bands sounding like 30 years ago, no future.
At the same time it is the chilling realization that the lifespan of what we called rock culture seems like doomed to an end and survives clinging to the longevity of its celebrated myths. And good old myths die every day, even the biggest ones, immortals included.
Remember when in a Monty Python’s return to the scene commercial sketch, Jagger sat solemnly on a sofa and complained about the phenomenon of “wrinkly old men trying to relive their youth and make a load of money with only old numbers“? Next to him lay Charlie Watts, stealing the scene with his eyes rolled up to the sky.
The Rolling Stones will never be the same without him and the world will never be the same without the Stones.