Almanac Music: Vale Charlie Watts




Rock and roll heaven has a much tighter percussion section with the arrival of Charlie Watts, legendary drummer of The Rolling Stones for almost 60 years. He will certainly bring breadth to the section with his array of skills as both a jazz and rock musician. Charlie passed away in London on Tuesday at the age of 80. Only a few weeks ago he announced that he would not be taking part in The Stones’ upcoming tour of the USA.


For years, Charlie and former Stones bassist Bill Wyman made up ‘the quiet ones’ of the group, unobtrusively adding the beat and depth of The Stones’ sound behind the theatrical vocal performances of Jagger and the flashy guitar work of Richards and Jones, and also Taylor and Wood later on. In his dapper Saville Row suits, Watts was almost the antithesis of rock’s first ‘naughty boys’ band from the 60s and the hedonistic, drug-fuelled image long promoted by Jagger and Richards. It was almost as if the deadpan Charlie tolerated their foibles and just got on with the job of pumping out great rock’n’roll.





Stones’ aficionados will be able to point you to Charlie’s best work, even then varying in their opinions according to their own particular bent. For this fan, I’ll always have a preference for ‘Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out’ both musically and for that classic image of Charlie on the cover. ‘Charlie’s good tonight, isn’t he?’ – boom, boom, tish!


It hasn’t been a very good week for temporal music with the deaths of Don Everly and now Charlie but, in the realms of the celestial choirs, it’s got a whole lot better.


RIP Charlie Watts.




Read a short biography of Charlie here.


Read Adam Sweeting’s obituary for The Guardian here.


Read Martin Boulton’s take on six Charlie specials in the SMH here.


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  1. Where to start? Charlie’s muscular constraint was always on quiet display but for me the following show it very well-

    Let It Bleed
    Can’t You Hear Me Knocking
    She’s A Rainbow.

    Surely Mick and Keef now call time.


    and here’s a spotify playlist that was created by the band’s record label to celebrate Charlie’s 80th:

  3. Thanks Rick.

    How good is this from the Ringer obituary, ‘Charlie never hits the snare and the high hat at the same time, which “moves the focus away from the pulse and onto the gait of his playing.”’

  4. Yep, the essay is great because of those type of observations. The playlist is a ripper in that the songs chosen are based on Charlie’s drum and percussion work. I’ve been playing it and been reminded of his smart, sleek yet creative playing. Even on a throwaway like Dandelion.


  5. It is ‘Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out’ for me as well.

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