Ten Of The Best: Charlie Watts (1941-2021)

❉ Shindig’s Martin Ruddock offers ten blistering cuts (in no order) by Charlie Watts and his Rolling Stones.

Charlie Watts. Sharp, understated, inimitable. The king of the backbeat. A man so cool he once dressed to the nines then punched a drunk Mick Jagger into a plate of smoked salmon with the immortal words, “Don’t call me your drummer again, you’re my fucking singer.”

1. Monkey Man (1969)

Funky man, more like. Dainty intro. Mighty groove.

2. Paint It, Black (1966)

Rumbling toms! Big fills! Drumming as running commentary to Mick’s neuroses. Delivered on this clip like a dapper newsreader shuffling his papers. What a bloke.

3. Who’s Been Sleeping Here? (1967)

In which a fairly humdrum bit of Dylan-aping is brought to life by Charlie’s snappy groove and masterful grasp of dynamics.

4. 2000 Man (1967)

Keef plays an appealing folk melody. Mick has an affair with a random computer. Charlie plays enormous cosmic block rocking beats out of time because it’s 1967 and probably resents it a bit.

5. Dancing With Mr D (1973)

Glam rock devil blues with the most irresistible laid-back groove possible. Lands during Mick Taylor’s ‘pimp hat’ phase.

6. Fingerprint File (1974)

Sleazy, sweaty paranoid white boy funk, both brilliant and very silly, utterly elevated by Charlie’s fatback groove.

6.5. Fingerprint File (L.A. Forum – Live In 1975)

In which our hero goes to town with a little help from Ollie Brown.

7. 2000 light years from home (1967)

In which the Stones ferment the chilliest of psychedelia into space rock using a muffled guitar, mellotron and a simple but utterly irresistible groove from a man who is only humouring their fiery oceans and daft hats.

8. Can’t You Hear Me Knocking (1971)

This one has it all. Southern soul thwack, dainty jazzy shuffle, brilliant Latin bits. A tour de fucking force.

9. Sister Morphine (1971)

Charlie doesn’t come in until halfway through, but when he does his obstructive fills joust with Ry Cooper’s slide as Marianne’s OD nightmare unfolds.

10. Salt Of The Earth (1968)

More stop-start rolls and fills from the great man, but it’s the way he rides the gospel finale then kicks it into a double time frenzy at the end that makes it. Let’s drink to the hardworking people.

There’s so, so much more. I’m barely scratching the surface, this thread could go on a long, long time. Forgive the indulgence, but the Stones mean so much to me. And now they’re over. Goodnight Charlie.


 Martin Ruddock has written for ‘Doctor Who Magazine’, ‘Shindig! Magazine’, the ‘You And Who’ series, and is a regular contributor to We Are Cult. Twitter: @sugarraybuzzard

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