It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of Charlie Watts on Tuesday. The stylish Rolling Stones drummer was 80 years old, and had planned on playing the arena circuit with the band this fall, up until just a few weeks before his death. With tributes rolling in from all corners, people are sharing a particular anecdote they’ve heard over the years about Watts punching Mick Jagger in the face in Amsterdam in 1984. Hardly anyone gets all the details right from memory, so Vulture reprinted the story from the book Sympathy for the Drummer: Why Charlie Watts Matters.
This is the most famous Charlie Watts story. It is a very good story, and true — you cannot beat the Charlie Watts right hook. It’s like being hit by a freight train. Think about him playing “Rip This Joint” on the side of your skull, and you begin to get the idea.
These were bad times for the Rolling Stones. Keith had finally gotten clean, and while Mick had been doing a championship job holding things together with a world-class junkie as his second, by the time they come out the other side, he is convinced the Rolling Stones are his band, and the last thing in the world he wants is to cede control to a cleaned-up junkie guitar player now capable of sharing the decision making. What’s more, heels are dug deep into the argument that will define the confusion of their work for years: Mick wants to make a trendy pop record heavy on dance music, and Keith wants to stick to their roots and drive the guitars into the earth. Blues, reggae, rock’n’roll, whatever, just no tricks. He doesn’t care what the kids are listening to — he cares about what the Rolling Stones do best. The situation only gets worse when Mick decides he needs a solo career.
But that’s just the setup. You can read the whole thing as it happened at Vulture.
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— Keith Richards (@officialKeef) August 24, 2021