Twin Peaks Revisited
That Motu Proprio Business

Stewart Copeland on Charlie Watts

I've never been inclined to mourn celebrity deaths, especially in cases like that of Charlie Watts, who died this week at the age of 80 after a long and spectacularly successful career--and I hope his private life was equally successful. But I certainly don't feel any sense of personal loss.

And anyway I lost interest in the Rolling Stones sometime in the early '70s. I remember once, in probably the late '70s, picking up a copy of Rolling Stone magazine (no relation) and reading a review of whatever Stones album had just been released. The reviewer said that the album showed that the group was "still at the forefront of our culture," or something to that effect. Maybe he said "leading edge" or even "cutting edge," terms that were not as hackneyed then as they are now. I remember thinking "Which culture is that? The culture of super-rich hedonists?" It sure wasn't mine.

I liked those early (i.e. the '60s) Stones albums quite a lot, but haven't listened to them for many years. As a matter of fact, the only time I can remember hearing the Stones in the last forty years or so, apart from the occasional song on the radio, was maybe five to ten years ago when I noticed one of their recent releases in the library and checked it out just to see if they were doing anything interesting. And after one listen I concluded no, they weren't. I am somewhat curious about the blues album they released a few years ago--I can imagine that being quite good--but I haven't heard it.

Still, the eulogies about Watts reminded me of something I read way back when, probably ca. 1970. It was a remark by a jazz critic, and he was probably discussing the fact that Watts began as a jazz drummer: "Somebody makes the Rolling Stones swing, and it must be Charlie Watts." That intrigued me because I sort of knew what he meant, but sort of didn't. That is, I recognized that something about the Stones' rhythmic feel was different from that of other bands, but I didn't know what it was. The rhythms seemed looser than (for instance) the Beatles, almost relaxed in a way, but yet intense and driving. They don't "swing" in a jazz way, but...they do.

And that faint leftover curiosity was what prompted me to listen to this four-and-a-half-minute clip of another famous drummer, Stewart Copeland of The Police, commenting on Watts. It's interesting, and the technical bit seems to describe the thing I heard.

I think a lot of people have an image of drummers, especially rock drummers, as Neanderthals pounding on things. In my experience drummers tend to be quite bright. On some level they have to be, unless they literally are just pounding, to keep track of the multiple interlocking rhythmic threads they generally have going on. 

Speaking of drummers: I have a Kindle Fire, the Kindle which is cheaper because it forces you to see Amazon advertisements. Now and then it offers me a free Kindle book, and it's usually not something that interests me, and anyway I don't often read books on the Kindle or any other electronic device. So I usually ignore these offers. But when it offered me the memoir Inside Out by Pink Floyd's drummer Nick Mason, I was curious enough to take it.

The book turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable. Mason is a bright and witty guy, and the book is a straightforward account of Floyd's history, pretty well devoid of sensationalism, modest, very down to earth, with a particular focus on the sheer logistics of the elaborate stage shows for which the band was famous. Worth a look if the subject interests you.


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There is a new documentary on Netflix titled Count Me In about drummers that I plan on watching. Nick Mason and Stewart Copeland are both listed in IMDB, so I suppose each was interviewed. Lately I am finding it easier to finish books than to get to everything saved in Netflix and Amazon Prime, but I suppose I just need to sort that out.

I'll put that on my list, too. I have a weakness for music-related documentaries, even for artists I don't much like. For instance the Stooges. What a weird phenomenon they were.

Yesterday I got a Netflix dvd in the mail, Waterloo Bridge, which I'm sure has been on my list for at least ten years, probably more.

Just saw this, don't have time to read it now, but should be interesting:

That Copeland vid was the first thing I watched after I found out Watts had died. To me one of the songs that features what Copeland is saying about Watts' playing is "Start Me Up." It's a simple 4/4 beat, and a lot of drummers would likely play it very crisp and precise. Watts plays it loose though, which is what gives it its swing. I think you can hear the same thing on "Beast of Burden." The beat comes across as being slightly "behind," which is what gives the song its groove.

Both appeared after I quit listening to the Stones, so I've never really listened to them. I keep thinking about "Honky Tonk Women"--I wonder if it's an example. I never liked the song much but it certainly has a groove.

I think you're right about HTW. Funny, that's the first Stones song I remember hearing and liking. I'm guessing I was about 10 y.o. Don't really care too much for it anymore though.

It's pretty good musically, but I don't like the lyrics. That dumb sexual thing is the side of the Stones that I find off-putting. "Brown Sugar"--ugh.

Yep, me too. There's a reason our parents were skeptical about "rock and roll."

Just ran across this--the drum track from Honky Tonk Women more or less isolated:

Skimming a few comments, I see there's a bit of an argument about whether it was actually Watts, based on a recollection from...Keith Richard. :-/

The late 70s album was probably Some Girls. That is the only Stones album I ever owned. It had Beast of Burden on it It was indeed a topnotch album that showed that the Stones still had their chops. It was a comeback album for them

It was kinda New Wavey, which was not "cutting edge" at the time, although it was trendy. For instance, Linda Ronstadt and Billy Joel jumped on that bandwagon.

For some reason I played the song Shattered for my dad. I thought he'd appreciate the social commentary. He didn't.

You mean the one I mentioned in the post? Yes, that probably was it. I see it came out in 1978. And I see Allmusic gives it 5 stars, which is rare. Maybe I should give it a listen. I see they also give 5 stars to Between the Buttons, which pleases me, because I liked it a lot at the time and have thought it's underrated.

I have to admit that I have no idea what the lyrics of Shattered are besides that one word.

They also give 5 stars to Exile on Main Street. I must be the only person in the world, or at least the only one who likes the Stones, who isn't enthusiastic about it.

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