Saturday, November 13, 2010

Watts All The Fuss About Keith?

Charlie Watts

Keith is busy being Keith with a new book. It's all about him and, wow, are we surprised. He's a guy who brought self-indulgence to such a high (or low) level that we all assumed he'd never be able to put the "auto" in biography. Why bother to type it all out, when the whole shebang was already written in the fault-lines of his once-handsome face?

Disclosure: I was an early and ardent Stones' fan. I can still see the beleaguered look on my father's face when I played 12 X 5's Around & Around over & over on his new Lafayette stereo in our living room. Dear Millennials*, in those ancient days, families had only one phone, one TV and, if you were lucky, one "Hi-Fi;" until the Beatles and especially the Stones & Yardbirds  came along. Then Santa gave us our own stereos; guess he had teenage kids too

Standing in the center
But, we are not here to praise possible seizures, we are here to praise the Stones' best and most satisfyingly stylish musician, Charlie Watts.

When our parents claimed that they would never let their daughters marry a Rolling Stone, boys became inspired. But that was about Mick, Keith, and Brian. Bill Wyman was not a threat and Charlie? Well, Charlie seemed nearly as old as some of our parents, not Ginger Baker-old, but still.

Then, some of us began to notice that Charlie had his own very distinctive style. It was more formal than that of most of his contemporary musicians. He was well-beyond the prevailing Mod-Rocker style wars. He wore suits, which looked comfortable on him, while Brian mostly wore bright red cords with a black turtleneck. Girls adored Brian; women loved Charlie and probably still do. 

At left, looking cool
We're not saying that Mick & Keith didn't have a sense of style. They did. It was just that Charlie's style was so, well, square, that it was cunningly original. It took us a while to get that.

As for playing, Charlie had been a somewhat successful jazz musician, while the boys were struggling with their "spots" in art school on their way to possible advert careers, where they might have written blues-based jingles for Alka-Seltser or Ex-Lax (Just Can't Get No....)

Quintessential CW
While Mick was trying to sound like a white American boy trying to sound like a black American man, Charlie was simply being Charlie, keeping the time and the beat steadily, molding the boys's rough enthusiasm into something approaching art in those early records. By Aftermath it was all over, except for the shooting gallery. The rest became and remains just pretense.

My lifelong friend Mulligan has an amazing faculty for remembering certain of my own relationships/conquests of which I have no recollection. I suspect that is because they never occurred. Mulligan might have idolized Keith in that respect; except that at least some of what Keith remembers may have actually happened. 

Charlie's drum work and style were a happening, and they still are. He is a true RareBurgher.

Ed Note: Middle LP, above, the archival copy of 12 X 5, which helped me to garner my own stereo. And, here's a vintage look at CW and his Stones, wearing a tie behind his drums, over Mick's left shoulder. Be patient through a 15 sec. ad.

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