Charle Watts in conversation – Kaleidoscope Program – BBC Radio 4 – January 8, 1994 – BBC Radio –
No breaks this year – hits keep coming. Today it was Charlie Watts, the last one you would ever expect to be leaving the Earth plane from The Rolling Stones. News came this morning that Charlie had gone. It was that “short illness” they talked about. Nothing to worry about – back as Ultimate Time Keeper before we knew it.
Didn’t happen. Sources say it was worse than we were told – it always is. Bottom line: Charlie has left us and with him leaves a huge hole in what made The Rolling Stones the Rolling Stones – that gaping dark space with no count off.
I remember when Brian Jones died – still haven’t gotten over it, and that was over 50 years ago. Charlie, I think, is the final straw – that crucial element, seemingly so simple – yet, simplicity is always deceiving. I’m not sure the band will recover from this one. They had already recovered when news of Brian Jones’ death was announced – they were ready for that, they had even fired him.
One of the things that drives me craziest about music is the desire to label a musician “the greatest”, as if it weren’t music we were talking about, but instead some long-distance sport. It isn’t – it’s not a race, not an endurance test, not a popularity contest.
The one thing a lot of people fail to realize is that music, like every art form, has a point of view attached to it – that point of view is shaped by an almost limitless series of experiences, influences and coincidences – some of them have nothing to do with music – but it is how those experiences are shaped and approached is that point of view the artist brings to the table. It’s not a question of better than or worse than, it’s a question of how it’s viewed and interpreted.
Charlie, even by his own admission, was not a complex drummer – he didn’t believe in flash, he believed in the truth as it was; providing solid support to the work going on around him; being an element in the big picture; the primary color.
I have had numerous heroes in the percussion department in my life – Keith Moon, Robert Wyatt and Art Blakey are a few of them. But if you go back and listen to some of the early Rock from drummers like Earl Palmer, you’re stopped dead in your tracks by just how perfect the set up and send off is by its sheer pure simplicity.
Charlie was a technician, a master mechanic, and I don’t think there’s going to be another one like him any lifetime soon. They are all out there, and the Music world is overflowing with amazing artists who are proficient and magnificent in their execution – but again, it all boils down to a point of view, what the heart is bringing to the table and sometimes the heart is a very simple yet precise instrument.
This interview, part of the excellent series BBC Radio 4 did in the 1990s called Kaleidoscope, presenter Robert Sandall has a half-hour chat with Charlie and it’s loaded with insight and down-to-earth talk about Music; the nuts and bolts, the real deal.
This year has brought more than the usual amount of shock and sadness – but then, I said that last year. Last year we had Charlie Watts – this year we don’t. And something is very-very missing.
Bon Voyage Charlie – have a wonderful time – you helped shape my life and millions of others you never met.
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