Charlie Watts was a saint, we learn Charlie’s Good Tonight. He was modesty itself, bought beautiful gifts for his friends, loved his wife, daughter and granddaughter deeply, and put aside his love of jazz to become a drummer in a fledgling rock band. He always dressed impeccably, didn’t participate in the orgies of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll that the Rolling Stones inflicted on tour, and always organized his socks neatly by color.
Journalist Paul Sexton boasts that over the years he had a lot of access to the inner circle of the Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards collaborated on the authorized biography of Charlie Watts, who died last year at the age of 80. The book title was taken from a statement by Mick Jagger during a performance at New York’s Madison Square Garden on November 28, 1969: “Charlie’s good tonight, ain’t he?”
On January 1, 1963, Charles Robert Watts played his first gig with the fledgling Rolling Stones, who had struggled to persuade him to give up his well-paid jobs as a jazz drummer for the precarious band life. Watts was hardly familiar with the blues and rock’n’roll in which the Stones wanted to learn. His heroes were jazz greats like Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington. “Charlie [Watts] swings really nice but he can’t rock,” wrote Keith Richard (then without -s) in the diary he kept when they lived together in the legendary filthy apartment on London’s Edith Grove.
Later, Richards had to come back to that: precisely because he had roots in jazz, the Stones got the most effective drummer a rock band could wish for. Throughout his life, Charlie Watts continued to play on a tiny drum kit, even as the Rolling Stones rose to become the Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band in the World in the 1980s with long strings of stadium appearances. The Who’s Pete Townshend gave Watts the greatest compliment the drummer could wish for in his memoriam: “The Stones could swing like the band of [Count] Basie.”
Charlie Watts didn’t like to come to the fore. Sexton recounts several anecdotes about his dry humor. “I give the impression that I’m bored behind my drum kit,” said Watts in 1964 when the first fame came, “but I’m not. I just have an incredibly dull face.” Legendary is his statement at the celebration of 25 years of Stones, which according to Watts had consisted of “five years of work and twenty years of hanging out.”
Inevitably, Sexton’s book turns into yet another chronicle of the Rolling Stones’ more often and better-described adventures, with Watts’ visits to his Savile Row tailor and his quest for rare books and Civil War paraphernalia not yielding the most exciting stories. . In the mid-1980s, the generally extremely moderate Charlie went through “a sort of midlife crisis” with alcohol and drugs, but he was soon off the hook. Even the famous story of Mick Jagger calling him “my drummer” and a furious Charlie allegedly pushing the singer back into a bowl of salmon salad is toned down. “He didn’t touch me,” Jagger says now. Charlie’s holiness must not be tampered with after his death.
With unnecessary details about the Rolling Stones’ feats of arms – the Bigger Bang tour from 2005-2007 grossed $558 million – Charlie Watts’s life story deserves a better perspective than the endless memories of his goodness that friends like Jools Holland dish up here. . The crippled translation doesn’t help: The “jacketless” band members that manager Andrew Loog Oldham saw play on their first meeting are performed here “bare-chested”. And what the hell are we supposed to do with a passage like “The boy Watts became a teenager in July 1954, when Doris Day screamed from the highest hills and told the golden daffodils of her ‘Secret Love’”? The translation of Doris Days lyrics about highest hills and golden daffodils is counterproductive here.
Gentleman rocker and history freak Charlie Watts once stated that he would rather have been born in 1810. He didn’t have a cell phone. Keith Richards communicated with him by fax. When the drummer of the cover band The Rollin’ Clones had taken the plunge and sent his great role model an invitation for his birthday, he received a handwritten letter back: “Thank you, I would like to come but I already have a family obligation. Sincerely, Charlie Watts, drummer of the Rolling Stones.”
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