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View Full Version : Somebody explain Charlie Watts to me


woodstockbirdybird
06-10-2008, 05:31 PM
I should mention that I'm a drummer. For some reason, Charlie Watts gets listed as a great drummer a lot, while Ringo is routinely (and unfairly, IMO) bashed. This despite the fact that I've never heard Watts do anything even remotely more complicated or interesting than Starr. I mean, I could play pretty much any Rolling Stones song after about the first 3 months I started drumming, and I can probably name off the top of my head at least a hundred better players, both from a technical and an innovative standpoint. The guy does basically the same 4/4 rock beat on every song, so why the love?

Hal Briston
06-10-2008, 06:08 PM
Because he's a member of the Stones, man!

Plus it's entertaining to watch him talk to himself as he drums.

ming the merciless
06-10-2008, 06:10 PM
I too have no idea, I have seen them live a couple of times and Charlie defiantly gets the biggest ovation when they step on stage.

ChockFullOfHeadyGoodness
06-10-2008, 06:13 PM
Do people love him for his drumming? Most of the love I've seen for him pertains to his persona. He's just....cool. By being so damn normal, he's cooler than the rest of them.

Mick has the debauchery and the Mars bars stories, Keith looks like he would have died 30 years ago if the Grim Reaper weren't afraid of him, Brian Jones was all kinds of messed up. Hell, even poker-faced stoic Bill Wyman is crazy enough to have his mother-in-law and daughter-in-law be the same person. But Charlie is so damn clean and normal. Not only that, he'd rather be playing jazz. Being in the "greatest rock and roll band in the world" just pays the bills. He was an anti-rock star years before grunge made it fashionable. If punk is doing your own thing, he's incredibly punk. Which makes him just....cool. If you go to a Stones show, he always gets the biggest cheers for the crowd.

From a drumming perspective, sure, he's no Moon or Bonham, he just keeps the beat like a human metronome. He does what the song needs, and no more. In that way, he and Ringo are very similar. Ringo wasn't flashy, but he had an intuitive way of supplying exactly what the song needed. Same thing with Charlie. He and Bill provided the foundation that Mick and Keith could build on.

Contrapuntal
06-10-2008, 06:22 PM
Hell, even poker-faced stoic Bill Wyman is crazy enough to have his mother-in-law and daughter-in-law be the same person. Can you explain how that works?

WordMan
06-10-2008, 06:36 PM
From a drumming perspective, sure, he's no Moon or Bonham, he just keeps the beat like a human metronome. He does what the song needs, and no more. In that way, he and Ringo are very similar. Ringo wasn't flashy, but he had an intuitive way of supplying exactly what the song needed. Same thing with Charlie. He and Bill provided the foundation that Mick and Keith could build on.

I would frame this differently.

- Ringo kept a steady beat, rarely made errors in the studio (if ever), was an easy-going guy who had great chemistry with the other Fabs and he provided a foundation for the creativity that was The Beatles

- Charlie - well, he's different. He plays with a very light touch and REALLY keys off of Keith Richards. You say "he keeps the beat like a human metronome" - I don't know that that is true. The Stones play a peculiar sort of rhythm style that really depends on how the two guitars weave together. I commented on this here (http://boards.academicpursuits.us/sdmb/showthread.php?t=465728) (link to other SDMB thread) where I talk about the first three songs in the latest Scorsese / Stones doc, Shine a Light. Some stuff that the Stones do sounds like a single guitar, but it really depends on Keef hitting a chord or lick and Ron Wood hitting a chord or lick and whether they: a) happen in the right sequence; or b) blend together. So that "single guitar" is really two guitars meshing. I point this out in the other thread about Jumping Jack Flash - it sounds pretty bad (to my ears) in Shine a Light because the classic JJF riff sounds like one guitar, but is really two - and in this case, they are off a bit.

Why I am discussing guitars when the thread is about drumming? Well, because Charlie's role is to help the guitarists find their sync-points. His backbeat provides the foundation that influences which parts Richards chooses to punctuate. And if either Keef or Woody aren't holding up their end, Charlie can help them find their groove based on how he hits fills or how much open space he leaves in the mix.

The bottom line is The Stones are actively constructing the songs as they go along and Charlie contributes actively to that. And he is less like a human metronome that he is an active participant - he will speed up or slow down during the song as part of keeping the parts moving together as a whole...at least that's what I hear...

But I don't think your average listener is aware of all that going on - they just think the Stones sound good (or don't). From that perspective I would assume that Watts is held up as a good drummer because the Stones are famous and he is their drummer.

But that's a guitarist's perspective - I would be interested in what Doper Drummers like percussion, DfrntBreign, pulykamell and others have to say...

MovieMogul
06-10-2008, 06:44 PM
Can you explain how that works?Surprised this wasn't on Wiki: (http://celebrityrockstarguitars.com/rock/wyman.htm)At age 47, Bill Wyman, began a relationship with 13-year old Mandy Smith, with her mother's blessing. Six years later, they were married, but the marriage only lasted a year. Not long after, Bill's 30-year-old son, Stephen, married Mandy's mother, age 46. That made Stephen a stepfather to his former stepmother. If Bill and Mandy had remained married, Stephen would have been his father's father-in-law and his own grandpa.

woodstockbirdybird
06-10-2008, 07:08 PM
I would frame this differently.
But that's a guitarist's perspective - I would be interested in what Doper Drummers like percussion, DfrntBreign, pulykamell and others have to say...

Well, as I said, I'm a drummer, and I don't get it.

Contrapuntal
06-10-2008, 07:49 PM
Surprised this wasn't on Wiki: (http://celebrityrockstarguitars.com/rock/wyman.htm)How does that explain his mother-in-law and his daughter-in-law being the same person? He divorced Mandy. As your cite states, his son's wife is his former mother-in-law.

ChockFullOfHeadyGoodness
06-10-2008, 08:11 PM
How does that explain his mother-in-law and his daughter-in-law being the same person? He divorced Mandy. As your cite states, his son's wife is his former mother-in-law. I never said they were same person at the same time. The same individual did fill both those roles, although not simultaneously. Sorry if my original post was misleading.

Sam Stone
06-10-2008, 08:32 PM
I would frame this differently.

- Ringo kept a steady beat, rarely made errors in the studio (if ever), was an easy-going guy who had great chemistry with the other Fabs and he provided a foundation for the creativity that was The Beatles


I think Ringo deserves a little more than that. He was a very good drummer not just in being able to keep the beat, but in being innovative. There are a lot of Beatle songs that have very unique drum parts. His fills were original and unique. Of course, sometimes the song required him to just play a straight beat, but there are lots of songs on which Ringo really shines.

I think his lack of recognition comes from the the opposite reason Charlie Watts' is given more credit than he should have had - Watts was cool and straight and unflappable and the anti-rock star. Ringo was lovable and goofy and self deprecating. Also, Ringo had the 'misfortune' of being a great musician in a band full of even greater musicians, so he came in last. Had he been in any other band from that era, he would probably be remembered as a great drummer.

DaddyTimesTwo
06-10-2008, 08:51 PM
Charlie Watts is the anti-Neil Peart, the anti-Mike Portnoy, and, in my opinion one of the greats of rock drumming. He is not flashy, but he is strong and steady. And, in my opinion again, that is all a good rock drummer needs to be. Stylistically, Ringo and Watts are as different as the Stones and Beatles and I think you would compare them only because they are comtemporaries. Ringo is underrated, I agree, he plays lots of interesting things through years, while Watts keeps steady. And strong, with bluesy, steady beats. I would love to be able to play just like him.

pulykamell
06-10-2008, 08:56 PM
I'm not a huge Stones listener, and I tend to be a bigger fan of Ringo for his quirky and original drum parts. That said, I think what makes Charlie Watts so rated as a drummer I can only describe as his distinctive voice and ability to "swing". I have no doubt you can play Rolling Stones drum parts. Hell, I can play Rolling Stones drum parts. But can I make them sound like Charlie Watts? No.

He is definitely one of those quintessential less-is-more drummers, and the more I listen to the Stones, the more I appreciate Watts' contribution. It's a very distinctive, jazz-influenced touch he has on the drums, which compliments the rootsy, blues-based barroom sound the Stones have. Part of what made him sound great in that context is the interaction between Keith Richards, who would tend to lay a little behind the beat, with Watts following by holding off on the snares ever so slightly to groove with Richards, but getting those kicks in on top of the beat. Charlie Watts swings. He's not metronomic, his tempo does vary, but he's always complementing and following the energy of the band, and keeps those Stones tracks sounding loose, relaxed, and simply cool.

Contrapuntal
06-10-2008, 10:18 PM
I never said they were same person at the same time. The same individual did fill both those roles, although not simultaneously. Sorry if my original post was misleading.Not at the same time? Are you kidding? His mother-in-law and his daughter-in-law were never the same person at any time. There was never a time when he could point to one person and say "She is both my mother-in-law and my daughter-in-law."

You used the present tense. There existed no "present" where his MIL and his DIL were the same person.

But even granting your tortured logic, so what? What does he have to do with the marital choices of his son? Why does that speak to how "crazy" he was?

The Shroud
06-10-2008, 11:39 PM
Contrapuntal:

Can't tell if if you're legitimately worked up over it, but an individual went from being his mother-in-law to his daughter-in-law. It would have been worded better in reverse ("to have the same person be his mother-in-law and then his daughter-in-law"), but, whatever, it's a fun tidbit, and ChockFull clarified it well.

Ersatz Shmoe
06-11-2008, 01:00 AM
'Cause it's not crazy enough that he was dating a 13 year-old when he was 47.

WordMan
06-11-2008, 07:22 AM
Well, as I said, I'm a drummer, and I don't get it.

Sorry - yeah, I noted that in your OP - I just felt I was trying to articulate what *I heard* in Watt's drumming, but since I am not a drummer, was hoping that: a) I was articulating something worth noting; and b) a person who speaks drum could comment on it, since you wsbb didn't seem to hear the stuff I heard, based on the OP...

pulykamell seems to have done that - thank you sir. The stuff he talks about between Keith and Charlie, and the emphasis on Watt's jazz-based swing is what I was trying to conjure up as well.

And as for Ringo - oh, yeah, he was innovative - the drum lines for Ticket to Ride and Tomorrow Never Knows are worth the price of admission alone. Nothing but respect for Ringo from here.

gwendee
06-11-2008, 07:43 AM
Doesn't a lot of the respect for Watts' drumming come from his non-Stones jazz recordings?

plnnr
06-11-2008, 08:50 AM
I saw a interview with Keith Richards once and he related the following story:

After a particularly successful show, Mick and Keith were in a hotel room getting completely smashed. Charlie Watts had, as is his custom, gone to be early. Mick got more and more obnoxious, screaming "Where's MY drummer? Where the hell's MY drummer?" He then proceeded to call Charlie's room and wake him up. "Get your ass down here! You're MY drummer!"

Charlie Watts got out of bed, showered, got completely dressed in a suit and tie (he's a very sharp dresser) came down to the room...and punched Jagger flush in the jaw with a punch that would have knocked out Ali. He then straightened his jacket and said, "You, sir, are MY singer. And don't you forget it." He then went back to bed.

That's enough in my book.

Kizarvexius
06-11-2008, 10:03 AM
I saw a interview with Keith Richards once and he related the following story:

After a particularly successful show, Mick and Keith were in a hotel room getting completely smashed. Charlie Watts had, as is his custom, gone to be early. Mick got more and more obnoxious, screaming "Where's MY drummer? Where the hell's MY drummer?" He then proceeded to call Charlie's room and wake him up. "Get your ass down here! You're MY drummer!"

Charlie Watts got out of bed, showered, got completely dressed in a suit and tie (he's a very sharp dresser) came down to the room...and punched Jagger flush in the jaw with a punch that would have knocked out Ali. He then straightened his jacket and said, "You, sir, are MY singer. And don't you forget it." He then went back to bed.

That's enough in my book.

I am not a Stones fan, and never have been. But after a story like that, I could definitely be a Charlie Watts fan.

BaneSidhe
06-11-2008, 10:08 AM
And for us horse-crazy folk, the man along with his wife is a top-notch breeder of some of the loveliest Arabian horses I've ever seen.

[The story about him putting Mick into his place is excellent too!!]

Mr. Moto
06-11-2008, 10:46 AM
Well, as I said, I'm a drummer, and I don't get it.

I hear this a lot from drummers - on most any subject.

:D

Contrapuntal
06-11-2008, 11:51 AM
Contrapuntal:

Can't tell if if you're legitimately worked up over it, but an individual went from being his mother-in-law to his daughter-in-law. It would have been worded better in reverse ("to have the same person be his mother-in-law and then his daughter-in-law"), but, whatever, it's a fun tidbit, and ChockFull clarified it well.I'm not worked up at all, but your own description proves my point. If she "went from" being one thing to another, she can't have been both.

As fas as it being a fun tidbit, I'll ask again. What does his son's choice in a wife have to do with Wyman's craziness? It really seems to me to be a "factoid" that is offered, tabloid style, simply for it's shock value, which, upon closer examination, is baseless. Two different individuals made marital choices, years apart. So what? How does one's choice reflect on the other?

woodstockbirdybird
06-11-2008, 12:01 PM
I've heard 'em all, Moto; I've heard 'em all. I tell you, after playing drums for 24 years, I take umbrage at the idea that...wait, what was I talking about? I lost track.

plnnr, that's an awesome story. I may never love Watts's drumming, but he definitely gets cool points for that one.

Maybe, as some have said, Charlie plays to complement Keith (rather than Bill Wyman, which is the way most rock drummers operate) - I've never noticed, and it would make for interesting listening. And I agree that rock drummers need to be steady, and having a solid beat is enough. However, there are tons of drummers who are dead-on steady, and I tend to appreciate those who add a little more to the basic expected beat. It is true that not a lot of rock drummers swing, but again, there are just enough that do (and manage to be innovative, to boot) that Charlie Watts doesn't rank that high in my book. Not that I think he's horrible; just not very impressive. Perhaps if I listened to some of his jazz work...

Kuboydal
06-11-2008, 12:12 PM
The great thing about music is that the best bands are most frequently not staffed by the best musicians.

Hell, Rush is extraordinarily talented, but I'd be forced to shoot myself if that's what music sounded like. The Sex Pistols were worthless... and phenomenal.

While everyone thought Charlie was nice and reserved, he kept quite a quiet little heroin habit throughout the years. He also made nice sketches of every hotel room he stayed in after the shows and printed a book of them a few years ago.

woodstockbirdybird
06-11-2008, 12:18 PM
Oh, I agree - I spent the years I actually played in bands playing sloppy punk, and I don't particularly care how great a musician is if their music is crap (Rush is the perfect example). I did, however, spend a ton of time learning Rush (and Police) songs when I was starting out, which made me think differently about style, and helped me add a little more than the basic 300bpm 1-2-3-4 to the punk songs I played. Charlie Watts does his job with a minimum of fuss - there's just nothing that impressive about how he does it, in my mind.

pulykamell
06-11-2008, 01:47 PM
Oh, I agree - I spent the years I actually played in bands playing sloppy punk, and I don't particularly care how great a musician is if their music is crap (Rush is the perfect example). I did, however, spend a ton of time learning Rush (and Police) songs when I was starting out, which made me think differently about style, and helped me add a little more than the basic 300bpm 1-2-3-4 to the punk songs I played. Charlie Watts does his job with a minimum of fuss - there's just nothing that impressive about how he does it, in my mind.

I agree that Watts may not win any kudos for innovation, but he will win for taste. He does follow Wyman around, of course. The kick is in groove with the bass parts. What I'm trying to say is that the snare lays a tiny bit behind the beat, echoing Richards.

If you've played along with a lot of Police, then you know what playing on top of the beat is. Copeland's parts very much attack the beat and even in slower tempo songs, his playing right at the front of the beat give the songs a propulsive pulse. Watts does the opposite: he plays mostly on the backside of the beat, giving the songs a lazy, jazzy swagger. (John Bonham is similar in the way he plays on the backside of the beat, but he hits the drums much harder and his tempo is rock steady, giving Zep songs a thunderous, yet still swinging, feel.)

This along, with the naturally shifting tempos give Stone songs their cool, relaxed vibe. It's difficult for me to imagine the Stones with another drummer as much as it is for me to imagine the Beatles with another drummer. He's not one of my top rated drummers, but I can see why somebody can make a good argument for him.

MovieMogul
06-11-2008, 01:48 PM
I remember once a reporter or magazine polled the Stones and asked for some informal tallies of all the groupies each member had banged over the years being on tour.

You would expect astronomical (and highly-contested) amounts for Jagger & Richards, with Wyman and Wood pulling in some not-too-shabby numbers themselves. But everyone unaninimously agreed on what Charlie's tally was:

Zero (he married his wife in '64)

Ichbin Dubist
06-11-2008, 02:11 PM
I'm not a drummer but a guitarist, mainly. I like simple drumming, generally speaking, and have nothing bad to say about Ringo. (For all his simplicity he'll often create a part that doesn't sound like any other drumming I've ever heard. Like what the hell is going on in "In My Life"?)

Anyway, I think Charlie Watts has a much lighter, swingier touch than Ringo, he just doesn't let it shine too much. I was learning "19th Nervous Breakdown" last year and it struck me for the first time how great the drumming is -- he's playing a really light swinging part in this otherwise stompy rock song but it never intrudes. I'd probably heard the song 150 times without ever really hearing it. Think the subtle switch in "Midnight Rambler," or any number of loose, woozy intros and fills on Exile. If you could play like that after 3 months, you have amazing feel.

I think of Topper Headon of The Clash as a similar player. A very light touch that doesn't go noticed much because he isn't flashy and because of the band he's in.

Mongo Ponton
06-11-2008, 03:12 PM
What is the Mick mars bars story?

Is it true or not that when some journalist mentioned to McCartney that Ringo might not be the best drummer in the world, he laughed and said Ringo's not even the best drummer in the Beatles.

Plnnr's Charlie story raises the bar even a little higher.

Carmine Appice

Biffy the Elephant Shrew
06-11-2008, 03:41 PM
What is the Mick mars bars story?
It's bullshit. Supposedly when police made a drug bust on Keith Richards' home, they caught Jagger in the act of eating a Mars bar out of Marianne Faithfull's private parts.

Is it true or not that when some journalist mentioned to McCartney that Ringo might not be the best drummer in the world, he laughed and said Ringo's not even the best drummer in the Beatles.
I've seen that alleged quote attributed to all three of the other Beatles. I don't believe for a minute that any of them would say that to a journalist; they always stuck by Ringo.

Scissorjack
06-11-2008, 04:36 PM
My favourite Charlie Watts story comes from an interview he did with Q magazine a few years back: the man basically collects finely tailored suits, but he doesn't always wear them straight away; some of them, the Bertie Woosters, he leaves them in the closet to "marinate" {his own words} for a few years.

percussion
06-11-2008, 06:44 PM
Its all in how he grooves, he plays real simple stuff that just makes the the whole band fall into the pocket (magical music area where everything feels good, for non drumming persons in the thread..)

For instance, listen to jumpin jack flash, He plays a straight up rock groove really but takes the hi hat out on beats two in four that creates this little hicup that just just helps the song bounce around, it feels great and he just sits on it the entire tune and lets the rest of the band do their thing. Simplicity is key in drum set playing...those flashy drum fill for miles guys are a dime a dozen and they don't even sound good. really!!

Think about like...even tunes like love is strong, how good does that back beat feel (snare drum, beats on beats 2 and 4)

or shit, the tune miss you.. Its all groove and it feels like a million bucks!!


so in short, Charlie Watts plays very simple, very tight, very quiet and grooves like a mother fucker while doing it.

WordMan
06-11-2008, 08:15 PM
So, woodstockbirdybird - where do you go from here? As you state, you're a drummer. You've stated your OP trying to understand Charlie Watts. A few of us, including a couple of other drummers, have tried to not just say "cuz I say so" but instead break it down to Watts' style, how he works the beat, how he contributes to the unique Stones sound, etc. - but citing technical explanations, examples and insights to back them up.

So? You think you might listen again or are you unmoved and unpersuaded?

woodstockbirdybird
06-11-2008, 10:11 PM
No, I'll definitely listen again. I'm always willing to give all things music-related way more of a chance than most sane people would. I'll let you know if I hear anything you guys are describing.

minlokwat
06-11-2008, 10:40 PM
If you are a fan of classic rock then you are a fan of the Rolling Stones. Any questions? No? Good.

Now then. I can't add much that hasn't already been said but all of the big name classic rock groups employed fantastic -and substantially different- guys working the skins. Take any one of these groups (Zeppelin, Floyd, the Who) and you can point to several songs that seemed to be built around the drum section and up. I'm not talking about great drum solos or fills that are sprinkled in this tune or that but instances where the entire song is wholly centered on the drumming.

With the Stones, I'll submit this one. (http://youtube.com/watch?v=cp_RCdH7HwM)

Great melody, lyrics, hook, etc. but here's a song that if you don't have the right guy behind the drum kit it wouldn't be anywhere near as effective.

Does Watts deserve to be considered one of the great ones? I rest my case.

Cisco
06-11-2008, 10:46 PM
The Beatles are proof that no man or group of men (using definition 2 here, which includes women) will ever be loved by everybody. As many people love them, there are people out there that have to hate them for just that reason. I cannot stand it when the Beatles come up and all some prick has to say is, "Ringo is a shitty drummer."

The Stones, while huge in their own right, never quite got to the level at which a large number of people felt like they had to hate them just because so many people loved them.

My two cents.

oliversarmy
06-12-2008, 12:47 AM
IMHO, Watts should be regarded as great because of his beat on the toms and bass drum in Brown Sugar. That's the reason I love this song. And I'm not a great Rolling Stones fan, although I admire their work.

Don't fight the hypothetical
06-12-2008, 03:44 AM
How many drummers does it take to change a light bulb?
Just one. He holds the bulb and lets the world revolve around him.

Seriously, listen to, say, 'A Day In The Life' and then point to something that Watts has done equally innovative comparatively.

WordMan
06-12-2008, 07:12 AM
Seriously, listen to, say, 'A Day In The Life' and then point to something that Watts has done equally innovative comparatively.

this can't go well.

I guess I would put it this way: It depends on how you define "innovative" and the role the drummer has in that. Are you implying that Ringo was the driving force behind A Day in the Life? Of course he wasn't - but his drumming was a key anchor in the song and his role in general in the Beatles was critical.

Well, same with Charlie Watts. However, I *would* say that his swinging style, combined with the complex approach to collaboration that he, Richards, Wyman and Jones/Taylor/Wood developed is innovative - their collective musicianship (when it is working live and in the studio on their best albums) is a wonderful thing...and his ability to take blues-with-a-swing jazz sensibility and translate it to bluesy pop is also super-influential...

Pashnish Ewing
06-12-2008, 07:24 AM
I've seen that alleged quote attributed to all three of the other Beatles. I don't believe for a minute that any of them would say that to a journalist; they always stuck by Ringo.Actually, it sounds more like something Ringo himself might have said to a reporter.

Bootis
06-12-2008, 07:46 AM
It's bullshit. Supposedly when police made a drug bust on Keith Richards' home, they caught Jagger in the act of eating a Mars bar out of Marianne Faithfull's private parts.

.

Still, if the rumors weren't true, I bet they did it once they heard they were rumored to have done it.

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