Dancing with the 'gentleman of rock', Stones drummer Charlie Watts
Sep 04 2021British photographer Dave Hogan has photographed The Rolling Stones for 40 years. He talks to Vicki Anderson, paying tribute to late drummer Charlie Watts and the band's enduring friendship.
Dave ''Hogie'' Hogan is currently rolling with the pandemic punches on a beach in Barbados.
From his vantage point, azure coloured waves roll on to pristine white sand.
It is a view the famed photographer punctuates with leisurely strolls on the beach where serene shirtless men sunbathe against walls, spliffs dangling loosely from the edge of their lips.
With one eye to the frame, Hogan documents the scene around him as he has done for most of his life.
But it's a quieter scene than the rock 'n’ roll world he's used to.
Hogan has spent the last 40 years documenting the famous with one eye shut. From David Bowie to Prince, Amy Winehouse and Madonna, he has photographed them all
The Rolling Stones spotted at The 100 Club in London's Tottenham Court Road in February 1986. Dave Hogan/Getty Images
As The Rolling Stones photographer of choice in recent years, he has been privy to, and has captured on film, some of the iconic band's greatest moments.
This week he has walked the sun-kissed beach in the Caribbean, reflecting on the passing of the ''gentleman of rock 'n roll''.
Hogan notes with reverence the worldwide ''outpouring of love'' since the death of 80-year-old drummer Charlie Watts – one of the greatest of all time – in London on August 24.
''I'm a hired hand who has been privileged to be allowed access into their inner circle,'' he says. ''I have been photographing them since the 1980s and more recently have been employed by the band ... think I've done their last four official photo sessions.
''Here are a group of men in their late 70s – Charlie was 80 – they're doing what they love and to witness that incredible relationship between a group of men, it's really special.''
These are men whose lives have echoed one another's since the 1960s.
Armed with a basic Canon ''point and press'' Hogan recalls a gig The Rolling Stones performed in 1980 at the 100 Club in London – the oldest independent venue worldwide.
''Your name would be on a list. You turn up, there's 100 people in this little club in there living on recycled sweat, in like your granny's front room,'' he says.
''And it's the Rolling Stones doing their back catalogue for me and 99 other people.''
The Rolling Stones perform live at The 100 Club, London, in 1982. Dave Hogan/Getty Images
Watts loved to play jazz and his side project with Ben Waters, is the jazz outfit The ABC and D of Boogie Woogie.
Waters has a long-lasting relationship with New Zealand, in particular Christchurch and played an intimate show in a quaint venue in Akaroa, touring with Jagger's brother, Chris Jagger. Two members of The Rolling Stones crew, Bernard Fowler and Tim Ries, also played there.
There were hopes, one day, of perhaps staging a Rolling Stones performance here circa the 100 Club but in Banks Peninsula.
''The thing about The Rolling Stones is they're serving the music,'' says Hogan. ''That's what it's all about for them, arguably that may be why they've enjoyed such longevity. They're comfortable in a club or playing to half a million people in Cuba.”
Watts was a legendary drummer, but he also possessed a fantastic right hook.
There's a notable story documented in Keith Richards' 2010 autobiography, Life.
In it, Richards recalls witnessing Watts throw a punch in a ''rare moment''.
He and Jagger had returned to their hotel in Amsterdam after a night out in 1984 when Jagger picked up a phone to call Watts at ''about five in the morning''.
Jagger asked Watts: ''Where's my drummer?'' and hung up when Watts didn't respond.
''About 20 minutes later, there was a knock at the door'’, Richards wrote in his memoir. ‘’There was Charlie Watts, Savile Row suit, perfectly dressed, tie, shaved, the whole f...ing bit. I could smell the cologne! I opened the door, and he didn't even look at me,'' Richards continued.
''He walked straight past me, got hold of Mick and said: 'Never call me your drummer again'. Then he hauled him up by the lapels ... and gave him a right hook.''
Richards recalled in his book that the resulting punch was such that Jagger then ''fell back onto a silver platter of smoked salmon on the table and began to slide towards the open window and the canal below it'.'
The frontman was retrieved before he took an unintentional dip in the canal.
Hogan chuckles at the mention of the infamous tale involving the dapper Watts.
''I'm sure they have had little squabbles over the years, like any family really. I've photographed their kids and grandchildren and there is something in the genes, they're all talented.''
The Rolling Stones have a circle of people who have worked alongside them for decades.
''There are lots of people you'd never work with them again in this industry, but with the Stones people keep coming back. There's such a loyalty and respect among their crew,'' says Hogan.
Whenever he was booked to photograph the band, Hogan says Watts was always the first to arrive.
''He was a gentleman. He'd turn up and talk to everyone, and he'd put them at ease. Here's the biggest rock 'n’ roll drummer in the world, and he knew how to deal with people.''
Hogan describes himself as a ''great witnesser''.
When photographing them, in agreement with the band, Hogan had an ''access all areas’’ arrangement.
''It is a relationship of trust, a privileged position to witness what is going on,'' he says. ''Sometimes they are just drinking herbal tea. They're just super cool people ... the kind of people you want to drink tea with and listen to them talk.’’
Live music photography involves ‘’dancing’’ to find the right moment, the right light.
''I've worked with some of the most powerful figures in the world. We know the ones who are one-hit wonders, packaged, signed, and then they spend years trying to get out of their contracts.
''The Rolling Stones are not that, and we should celebrate it.’’
He recalls the band donating funds to build a recording studio in an academy in east London.
''I would say 99 per cent of those kids wouldn't have a f...ing clue who The Rolling Stones are. It's not their demographic, but the fact that in their late 70s they are still prepared to give back, it is something which doesn't get told enough.''
The waves are calling, but not before Hogan shares a special memory – being invited to document The Rolling Stones’ first show in Cuba in 2016, which is shown in the concert film, Havana Moon
'The Rolling Stones were to come down the steps of the aeroplane, and I'd agreed with them and management that we'd do the picture of them there with a Cuban flag behind.
''But, of course, when we decided this, we didn't factor there would be half a million people there for a free concert, and we were in the middle of a field. It was buzzing.’’
The Rolling Stones perform during their concert at Ciudad Deportiva on March 25, 2016 in Havana, Cuba. Dave Hogan/Getty Images
Thinking on his feet, as the best photographers are particularly apt at doing, Hogan instead draped a Cuban flag backstage.
''It got dark very quickly, I needed light. I had six security guards each holding massive torches,'' he recalls.
''I do these pictures, each one of them is shining torches, everyone is smiling and then The Rolling Stones walk out on stage and I walk out there with them, and you get this buzz of half a million people who have come to see the biggest band in the world. They've all got mobile phones on, and it's shining like Christmas. Witnessing that and moments like that ... there's no price.''
A fortnight ago, Hogan was working with Wood and others from the band's crew. Wood has had his own health battles and survived cancer twice.
''We were chatting. If you looked back and went to the bookmakers and said 'look, we have these superstars, we have Prince, George Michael, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, we are going to give you a $100 bet on who is still alive in 2021’, would you have picked that? The longevity is incredible.”
Staring out to sea, Hogan can't believe Watts has ‘’left the show’’.
He recalls a recent conversation about a tour.
''The news was Charlie was going to take time out from the tour, but nobody ever imagined he wasn't going to be there. It was just that he was having a break, that's what the feeling was.”
Hogan believes the band will ''carry on at some stage''. Calm and elegant, Watts was the ''backbone of The Rolling Stones''.
''There's got to be some massive tribute for him when the time is right.
'’The gentleman of rock. I hope I get a call again to go and do some pictures, but it's never going to be the same again because Charlie's not there.
''It's the end of an era.''