Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Charlie Watts and the Art of Simplicity

 There are no coincidences. Just before Charlie Watts' death, I had been trying to capture Phil Rudd's feel on "It's a Long Way to the Top" and failing miserably. I was also cooking up a typically brainy/complicated bunch of exercises. Then I found out about Watts' death, and it's made me really think about simplicity and directness in music, two things Charlie Watts was brilliant at.

Firstly, anyone who thinks that anyone could do what he did doesn't know much about drumming, or music, for that matter. Anyone could probably technically manage the notes, but very few can make it feel that beautiful and swinging. And playing without artifice and flash ( an increasingly rare commodity ) takes patience, skill, lack of ego, and a lot of guts!

I didn't denigrate Charlie's playing when I was younger, but I also didn't appreciate it or understand it either. I have no doubt the Stones wouldn't have lasted nearly as long without his steering their ship. Even his lack of interest in most of the Rock Star trappings kept him on course to play beautifully and consistently from the early 60s to his last gigs with the band in 2019.

I met Mr. Watts once at the Montreal Jazz Festival. He noticed my cymbal bag and I grabbed his hand and shook it, saying " Hey Charlie Watts. I'm a drummer too. I've got a gig tonight!", and then rode up to my hotel room in a later elevator because I felt so foolish about what I'd said. No matter. Even if I had been the coolest I had ever been in my life, I still wouldn't be half as cool as Charlie Watts was every day of his.

Thanks so much for the music Charlie, and safe journey.

UPDATE: I have seen a lot of posts lately making a big deal over whether Charlie was a "Jazz Drummer" or a "Rock Drummer". I really think what he did was way beyond any sort of style. Check out this article in The Guardian , especially the part where Max Weinberg talks about bringing Joe Morello and Mel Lewis to see the Stones. Both Morello and Lewis realized Charlie was great at playing the drums appropriately and kicking the band, in other words, BEYOND STYLE!!!!

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