Friday, January 13, 2017

Charlie Watts Is Not Into It

Though I deeply appreciate Keith Richards' stellar rhythm-guitar stylings and Mick Jagger's commitment to prancing frontmanism, I believe at heart I'm a Charlie Watts gal. Out of all the Rolling Stones, he's the one who seems the most decent and forthright as a person and a drummer. The way he calmly and competently holds that left stick, like a groovin' jazz cat that's been accidentally time-traveled into a rock band—how does he do it? He's like a MAGICIAN! Plus he's been married to his wife for close to 150 years, he raises horses and he's always had killer style.

Part of that style is his psychological remove from whatever's going on within the Stones, and a lot has gone on within the Stones (read Rich Cohen's The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones for an excellent take on that). Watts' intelligence seems tuned to a wavelength set to "healthy distance," and he's calibrated that distance with wit and reasoning skills in order to survive the ongoing juggernaut that is his band. Richards and Jagger were smart to hang onto Charlie Watts because he's just Not Into It and that's probably saved them all on more than one occasion. Witness his skill-set in these fabulous Charlie Watts clips.

An in-depth 1966 interview with Mr. Watts ends with a whimper when the off-screen questioner wants to know Charlie's take on how sex affects a band's sound and psychological impact. "You could sing about sexual intercourse all night," says Charlie, noting it wouldn't matter to anyone unless you happen to be very attractive. Then he admits that the whole thing is a bit shallow and nauseating. That's because Charlie Watts, even at the dawn of The Rolling Stones, Is Not Into It.

In Jean-Luc Godard's "Sympathy for the Devil" footage from his movie of the same name you see everyone contributing their sonic "Whoo whoos" except for one man. Slightly obscured by the microphone, crossing his arms, with lips resolutely sealed, Charlie Watts stands in solidarity but refuses to sing—resigned while they whoo whoo more than 30 times That's Charlie Watts and He's Not Into It.

Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil - 1968 - by jc-shaffino

When grim-faced, small-handed bassist Bill Wyman married his 18-year-old girlfriend Mandy Smith after dating her for five years (do the math, then immediately shudder), Charlie Watts was asked for a comment at the wedding reception. Whereupon he said honestly, "I don't see it as a good match," before wishing his bandmate happiness and disavowing any knowledge of the entire affair ("I don't know anything about it.") It's clear to me that Charlie Watts Is Not Into It. Stick around for a classic Keith Richards exchange, punctuated by phlegm-filled laughter that says much about the day's events.

TOP 10 CHARLIE WATTS INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS screams this YouTube clip I added the screaming element, so blame me for that). But all you need to know is Interview Highlight #3. Asked if after 25 years of touring, he still enjoys playing with the Rolling Stones, this is what he had to say.

Dryyyyyy wit and Not Into It.

Keith Richards and Mick Jagger are rock 'n roll's legendary glimmer-twin frenemy duo. Their on-again off-again partnership was truly off in the early 80s. An excerpt from Keith's audiobook, "Life," tells the story of that time when impeccably dressed Charlie Watts threw his "drummer's punch" at Mick. At five in the morning, Mick had drunkenly demanded, "Where's my drummer?" Charlie Watts Was Not Into It.

No, he was not.

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