The End > Charlie Watts 7
Date: July 8, 2008 01:20
"C harlie's tastes were never the same as the rest of the crowd"
Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Watts have also hurtled up market, but in a less high-profile fashion. Charlie is one of Mick's best friends, and his secret soul mate in the way he wants to live. Browsing through Country Life magazine five years ego, Charlie found the ideal home. Halsdon, once the residence of a local Devon squire, John Henry Furse, is set above the valley of the river Torridge and surrounded by green hills and meadows. There he and his artist wife, Shirley, are content to live their solitary human lives amongst a menagerie that includes fifteen Arabian horses, eighteen dogs, and two cats.
It was the mention of the Victorian sculptor's studio, ideal for Shirley, plus ample stable space, that caught Charlie's eye after their long sojourn in tax exile in France. In the entranceway stands the only human bust Shirley has ever sculpted. "That's my brother," she says. ''Charlie won't let me sculpt him and he's got such a perfect face for it."
"I think I'm pretty good," says Charlie with self-deprecating irony, "you know, an artist or something, and then I come home to bloody Rodin."
At forty-eight, after a long career of being the Stone in the background, the laconic one pounding on his drums, the slow fuse behind the fireworks of Keith and Mick, Charlie Watts has emerged into a delightfully incongruous middle age. During my visit he wears a blue bow tie and dapper velvet slippers. On the day Christopher Simon Sykes is there to photograph the house, Charlie is wandering around in immaculate white flannels, white shoes, and a striped blazer.
"What are you wearing those for?" asks Shirley.
"I'm going to watch the cricket," he replies.
''But that's tomorrow, " she observes.
''I know," counters Charlie. "I'm just practicing."
Separately Charlie and Shirley are quite handsome; together they are an extraordinarily sexy couple. It is as if they have waited their whole lives to be fifty. "I think Charlie was always a fifty-year-old man," Shirley tells me in the stables that house her Arabian horses, including two European champions. She strokes a gray named Halim, "gentle spirit" in Arabic. "Charlie's tastes were never the same as the rest of the crowd. To tell you the truth, I was always surprised he was a part of that band."
Charlie was almost an unwilling rocker-single-mindedly eschewing sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll's other accoutrements. And Shirley is a most unwilling rock wife. "It was quite.appalling being pitched into the life of the Rolling Stones," she remembers. "I really got lost for about twenty-five years and I've never been able to cope with it. There's been lots of anger, much of it very, very deep. I like the people in the group up to a point. But I've always hated the way rock music and its world treat women and particularly the Rolling Stones' attitude. There is no respect."
To some extent Shirley has only survived the rock-wife problem by opting out of it. Her maiden name, appropriately, was Shepherd, and horse and dogs have been her version of the stabilizing family. "I started gathering them around me out of loneliness, I suppose." Back when the other were busy sowing their wild oats, Charlie was ribbed for being so faithful to Shirley. But now he has the pleasure of shared memories and what it was like to live through the struggle and success.
"Would you like to see the rest of house?" she asks. "It was in one family for over three hundred years before we bought it. We got it just in time. The place was about to fall in before we furbished it." She could be talking about her own life, this woman who has survived being around the Stone for a quarter of a century. When Shirley is asked how the group's drug abuse over the years has affected her, she is understandably hesitant. "It affected my life very, very deeply," she finally whispers. "Very, very deeply. But I can’t really say anything other than that because it wasn't my problem."
Her own problem was alcoholism and she is quite open about that. She checked herself into a rehabilitation center four years ago for six weeks. "It's strange, though, my treatment has had a much different effect on me than it does with most. Most people feel that once they get out, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are a lifeline for them. But I went to one and had to leave. I just couldn't talk about myself anymore; I didn't want to hear about anyone else's problems anymore."
The house is also filled with the smells of incense and dog fur. The dog pack, all eighteen, are locked inside the kitchen because of their overwhelming excitement when infrequent visitors arrive. Their barks bounce off walls crowded with dozens of paintings of more horses and dogs. Shirley and Charlie serve as separate tour guides. Now there's a kerchief tied across her head and she's wearing jeans; later, when she dons her riding gear, a stately severity appears. Charlie, in his vest and bow tie and slippers, is, effortlessly, the dashing gentleman that Mick puts so much effort into being.
"I really just put any old thing on," he says. "Not like Mick, with his fabrics and colors. He's like @#$%& Greta Garbo."
Charlie's study is as well ordered as his drumming. There is no sign of his passion for the American Civil War; instead it is lined with his neat collections of ornate boxes, memorabilia from the Nelson and Hamilton families, rare books, eighteenth-century erotic literature, stuffed birds. Atop his desk is perched the largest, a sparrow hawk. "It flew into the house and broke its neck," Shirley whispers. "Broke Charlie's heart too."
Shirley's drawing room is across the hall. Upstairs are her immaculate collections of Victorian dolls, all bought by Charlie from his numerous antiques dealer scouts, and a menagerie of glass figurines. The drawing room contains more photos of dogs and horses and the occasional family member, and in the corner stands a life-size wooden Arabian horse once used by a London saddlemaker. Shirley's easel stands in the window with a poem about horses pinned to it. On the windowsill is an etching of a naked boy entwined with a leopard. The inscription reads, "To Shirley and Charlie with much love, Astrid Wyman, 1986.'
The dogs continue their chorus from the kitchen. "We sleep with them, the dogs," Shirley says shyly. Across the hall, Charlie turns up his radio to catch a cricket match. "Well, we allow ten of them up in the bed with us at a time. I started it out of loneliness when Charlie was working, but now he's the one who really likes it. I'll shoo them away at times, but he always calls them back up."
Charlie cocks his ear closer to the cricket. He never tunes in to rock music. In fact, he claims never to have listened to a Rolling Stones album after it was finished. "The only way I can tell if we've made a good record or not is if we're still talking at the end of it. We were all still talking at the end of this latest one, so I guess it's a good one. We had a lot of fun. But I never listen to rock 'n' roll. Never liked it. I listen to classical. Or jazz. Especially Miles Davis." Davis and Fred Astaire and Stravinsky are Charlie's heroes
The dogs have been freed from the kitchen and are now running wild about the grounds, playing loudly outside the window. Released, they seem to trumpet Shirley's recently won sense of freedom.
"Charlie and I have a farm in France, where we lived until twelve years ago. It was a great mistake coming back to England. I've had twelve very unhappy years. I'm just now beginning to get in touch with some happiness in my life. That's because I've realized that my life doesn't have to be tied to Charlie's anymore. And, oddly enough, that has brought us closer because he doesn't have to be so responsible for everything now. When we came back from France it was difficult for our daughter, Serafina, too. Being in school and being taunted for being the daughter of a Rolling Stone. Kids would say her father was a junkie and things like that. Awful. She's twenty-one now, though, and attempting to start a life of her own."
Shirley finds Rolling Stones concerts "frightening because of the sheer power of the people in the band." She adds, "I've never felt that connected to the group. At Bill Wyman's wedding to Mandy Smith I just felt embarrassed the whole time. I'm trying not to pass judgment, but my honest opinion is I found it appalling.
"I much prefer my life here with the horses. I love the hunt. The sense of power one gets on a horse. I don't approve of hunting, but it does fulfill something in me. It's a very primeval instinct. When you hear the hounds—they call it the music—when you hear the hounds' music, it's bloodcurdling it's so thrilling. And it affects both you and the horse. There's nothing like it. It's dangerous. It's exciting." She catches herself and laughs. "It sounds rather like a rock 'n' roll concert."
From NBC's Later with Bob Costas, Charlie once said : "A drummer is a cross between an athlete and a nervous wreck."
Charlie is quoted in Bonanno' Chronicles about his reaction in January 1963 to a proposal to join a band playing without any pay: " I liked their spirit and I was getting very involved with rhythm' n blues. So I said, OK, yes, I'd join. Lots of my friends thought I'd gone raving mad."
"That's what I do, I play the drums for Mick and Keith I don't play them for me."
The following quotes are from Bill Wyman's Stone Alone :
Charlie : "I certainly can't claim I came from a musical family. I reckon the only instrument any of them could play at home was the gramophone."
Bill on Charlie :
1. "Studious, shy and quiet, Charlie Watts hasn't changed much. Being a Rolling Stone has almost passed him by."
2. "He has never courted fame or sought pop stardom. Inside a band of powerful personalities he remains a true British eccentric."
3. "What endeared Charlie to everyone was his imperturbable, laid-back, non pop-star, friendly approach. 'Drums fascinate me', he said. 'Don't ask me why I took up the drums; I suppose it's just that I like the noise they make.' many people observe that on stage he seems detached from us; that's because music is a form of religion to him and he is totally immersed in it. We are lucky to have him, for the drums are the foundation of our great sound."
Charlie on 60 Minutes (1994), regarding the size of the Rolling Stones Corporation : "Yeah, It's on a really huge scale. Um, it's still sort of four white blokes from England playing American music, I think."
Charlie in Rolling Stone (1994) :
1. Feeling frustrated and isolated on the monstrous stages the Stones often play on : "At the very least, I need to see Keith's legs; I need to know I'm in a band."
2. "People say we risk nothing going back out on the road." Watts says folding his arms. "But we risk everything," standing to cross the room, he moves with the jaunty grace of a silent-film star. "With age, what you learn most is doing what you do even better. That doesn't mean Louis Armstrong at 70 was better than Louis Armstrong at 20. But he did get Louis Armstrong across better. And the same is true with the Stones."
Charlie on Mick in RollingStone, (1995) : "Mick Jagger is based on James Brown. He's a younger version of James Brown."
"One of the things drums do, actually, is frighten me."
This quote is from Ian Stewart when asked how Charlie came to be a member of the Rolling Stones. The (band) said to Charlie "Look you're in this band, that's it, end of story." Charlie's response back was "well, yes, alright then... but I don' know what my Dad's going to say."
Quote taken from "Blues, The British Connection" page 21 by Bob Brunning. Blandford Press/UK.
I think this quote comes from the 25 x 5 documentary when Charlie claims : "I have spent about 5 years playing and 20 years just hanging around."
This quote comes from Charlie in the documentary "25x5" : "I got off the plane in '72 and said,"No f****** more".I don't like touring you see, so at the end, I always leave the band."
Charlie on the Stone's longevity (1994) : "It must seem strange that we do the same thing with the same boys all these years later. It seems strange to me. But it's like when you get drunk at a bar and wonder later how you got home. You know where you are - you're home - but how did you get there? That's the mystery."
An interview with Kurt Loder November '97 : "I'm very lazy"
My favorite line was during Bill Wymans wedding when Mick presented a Picasso etching Charlie joked : You should have kept the real one and give Bill the copy , he wouldn't know the difference !
At one point, producer Chris Kimsey showed him [Charlie] how his drum sounds could be sampled and loaded into a drum machine : He can actually play me. At least, he can play what he thinks I'd play, but it's my sound, the drums that I play. I mean, I would probably play them totally different, and I doubt if it would sound the same. But he could play his version of me playing with my drumkit sound. That's incredible, isn't it ? That makes a mockery of all that I love, in a way.
He will be the first one to get lynched, come the revolution.
I would have love to play for the Sex Pistols. They were the best of all those bands. I would have loved to see if I could make it with them.
[While the Rolling Stones were being photographed with Margaret Trudeau]
I wouldn't want my wife associating with us.
When we are recording, it is not a question of getting over it quickly. It's getting a take which the majority likes. You can imagine, this tends to make much longer than it did when we first started. The consolation is that these days our records sound so much better.
As far as I am concerned, once I've done my bit, there is nothing else for me to do except hang about the studio. It's OK if the boys have brought some people in to do some overdubs or the girls are doing back-up vocal track - otherwise it is just boring.
Regretfully I never took acid . I say regretfully because I have been terrified of the @#$%& stuff and I wish I had taken it to know about it. I think I was the only rock star never to wear a pair of beads. I wish I could have done, but it never looked right on me. But I thought it was great. It @#$%& a lot of people up, the psychedelic thing, but it made people really talk to each other too.
People say I have always been Charlie, I don't know. Maybe I'd have been a better person if I had gone through all that. Like junk. I don't like it. I've never had it. I don't want it. I can hear better behind a smoke but I can cope with that. But I drink too, and I can't cope with that sometimes.
Part of it is that I never was a teenager, man. I'd be off in the corner talking about Kierkegaard. I always took myself seriously and thought Buddy Holly was a great joke.
Sure, but I am cynical about everything - I can't really help it. I don't listen to much rock and roll music at all. Yeah, and I don't consider myself a musician, if you can understand that. I am a workman and that's how I approach my task. I don't think that the Stones are inferior music at all. I think what they do is fine as anything else going around and they deserve the label as much as the rest, and I am not resigned to my position like a frustrated jazz musician or anything. This is what I do. Period. And I don't consider myself anything else.
I give the impression of being bored , but I am not really. I've just got an incredibly boring face.
Life'd be very tricky if I didn't have a car.
I get bored anywhere. The only time I'm not bored is when I am drawing, playing the drums or talking. I talk a lot, about nothing usually, and all contradictory. Shirley always accuses me of having no beliefs. Maybe that's why I can talk to anyone.
Not amazed that the band is still going, just amazed they get anything together. that's our claim to fame, y'know. Carry on lads, regardless. Should be the title of our next film. We're a terrible... band, really. But we are the oldest. That's some sort of distinction, innit ? Especially in this country.
The only difference between us and Westminster Abbey, y'know, is we don't do weddings and coronations.
I came out of the scool that never listened to rock'n roll or refused to until I was about 21. I was never really that good to play what you term "jazz" , especially at that time. So I just used to play with anyone really, which was mostly jazz people, but not on a very high musical level, not the best, though some of them turned to be the best as time passed. By the time I joined the Stones, I was a bit used to rock'n roll. I knew most of the rock'n roll guys, people like Screaming Lord Sutch, through people who played in bands (like Sutch's pianist, Nicky Hopkins), though I never had any desire to play it myself. By the time I actually joined the Stones, I was quite used to Chuck Berry and that. But it was actually sitting up endlessly with Keith and Brian - I was out of work at the time I joined the band I just used to hang about wwith them, waiting for jobs to come up, daytime work - just lessoning to Little Walter and all that, that it got ground in.
I don't hate rock'n roll. I never said that. That's why I don't give interviews. Haven't given one in eight years.
It'd be nice to be rich and grow old. I'd hate to be shuffling 'round Brixton market in a pair of slippers. Then again, I'll probably be shuffling 'round the garden.
I think the secret of a successful marriage is separate bathroom.
Well, if I wasn't working with this band I don't know if I'd turn up again tomorrow if I didn't enjoy it. I'd have a headache or something.
People seem to think that putting on these tours and putting out records is all quite straightforward. But it's bloody hard work. Mick puts himself through a lot of worry, concern and sheer physical effort to get through these things. And all you see in the press is their total age is 213 years. Well, that's very funny, I'm sure. But what you really need at this stage is a bit of help not hindrance.
I'd hate to be Mick . I'am glad to say he's promoted himself in that direction -always in the magazines- because it helps us. It's great for me 'cause I'd never do that. I hate that sort of thing. I'd hate to go on stage and walk around in front of everyone.
I don't really know him [Ronnie Wood] as well like that. He's a very likable person. He's not grown-up. He doesn't need to be. He's not at all sensible, Ronnie. It's not his role. He's a maniac.
He [Keith Richards] is a bohemian. They don't work by the book- He'll either miss very badly, whatever it is, or he's 100% and two weeks ahead of you. I've seen Keith fall asleep at business meetings about millions of dollars for him - because of heroin, just nod out and then wake up and answer a question.
Keith is the sort of guy you should leave alone. He's the classic naughty boy. He's the sort of guy I knew at school who hated the head boy. And I love Keith because of that.
KEITH ABOUT CHARLIE
I drove up to the joint we were rehearsing in one afternoon, and I could here these drums going. I thought 'Ah, Charlie's here'. So I killed the engine and sat in the car for about five minutes listening to him playing - just warming up. 'Yeah, soundin' good'. Then I started to get my stuff together to go inside, and I happened to see myself in the driving mirror. I had this silly grin on my face. I didn't even know I was smiling, but that's what Charlie does for me.
It's Charlie's band - without him we wouldn't have a group.
Charlie Watts makes Charlie Watts great. He's one of the few drummers that knows the importance of swing in playing rock n roll.
Everybody thinks Mick and Keith are the Rolling Stones. If Charlie wasn't doing what he is doing on drums, that wouldn't be true at all. You'd find out that Charlie is the Stones. Bullshit...nobody, individually, is the Stones. But right on Charlie !
I can't imagine Charlie Watts getting off his arse for 15 million dollars if he didn't feel it was still worthwhile, and that applies to all of us.
Charlie Watts is my absolute favorite. He has all the qualities that I like in people. Great sens of humor, a lovely streak of eccentricity, a real talent, very modest. The only thing about Charlie that's always been true is that he's always hated being a pop star. He genuinely loathes it. He wanted to be a kind of Max Roach hipster, a cool guy. He suddenly got thrown into this thing that was really not part of his self-image.
God forbid they should ever get around to making a Stones movie. I certainly wouldn't want to watch it. I hope I am dead and gone by then. Never mind Mick and I. Who'd play Charlie ?
Cutting the basic tracks for Steel Wheels, the Stones would play for up to fifteen hours at a stretch : "I'd get up the next morning and I'd feel like I'd just done fifteen rounds with Mike Tyson," Says Richards. "Get out of bed and my knees would buckle, I'd be lying there on the floor and Mick would go, 'What's the matter with you?' 'It's Charlie man, I know it.' Charlie was not going to let me off the hook. I think he was a little pissed, too, that I'd gone off and played with Steve Jordan. Like he was telling me, I'll show you how it's done."
RollingStone, (1989), sent by Trish.
Charlie Watts. When you work with a guy like Charlie, where else do you want to go, because the guy's incredible.
Sent by "Cubanpete".
ROD : In Montauk, when we were rehearsing, we'd be sitting there playing and he (Mick) would suddenly come up and kick me. And he tried it on Charlie's drums - once. He never tried it again. Charlie did a mild flip-out, said : "Listen, i don't unplug your mike lead, so don't upset my drums. And while we are at it, don't keep buggin' Ronnie".