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.