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(Credit: Bent Rej)

Music

The hilarious moment Charlie Watts upstaged Mick Jagger

The late drummer of The Rolling Stones, Charlie Watts, was often seen as a peripheral, albeit integral, member of the band. Naturally, sitting at the back of the stage behind a heap of drums isn’t so much under the limelight as, say, Mick Jagger prancing, pouting and roostering his way back and forth. But Watts was also an unlikely fit for the Stones. 

Doubtlessly, Watts’ rhythm-keeping talent and chemistry with the rest of the band was palpable. However, ironically enough, Watts, being the drummer of perhaps the most quintessential rock group of all time, wasn’t particularly fussed about rock ‘n’ roll. He would regularly assert that jazz was what moved him the most, especially the output of Charlie Parker, Buddy Rich and Max Roach. “I never liked Elvis until I met Keith Richards,” Watts told Mojo magazine in 1994. “The only rock’ n’ roll player I ever liked when I was young was Fats Domino.”

As the impartial beat-keeper, Watts mostly let Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and co. get on with it, but there were occasions where Watts felt an urge to stick in his forceful oar. With a frontman with as much presence and ego as Jagger, Watts was generally well adapted to restraining himself, but in one instance, he was driven to punch his frontman square in the face. 

As Keith Richards recalled in his best-selling autobiography, Life, Jagger was drunk one night and repeatedly called up to Watts’ hotel room shouting: “Where’s my drummer?”

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Clearly not happy with the tone of Jagger’s question or his erroneous sense of possession, Watts marched down to the frontman’s hotel room to give him a physical lesson he wouldn’t forget in a hurry. About 20 minutes after the phone calls, Richards said, there was a knock at the door. 

“There was Charlie Watts, Savile Row suit, perfectly dressed, tie, shaved, the whole fucking bit,” he wrote. “I opened the door and he didn’t even look at me, 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 of his jacket and gave him a right hook. Mick fell back onto a silver platter of smoked salmon and began to slide towards the open window and the canal below…It takes a lot to wind that man up.”

This story is hilarious in hindsight, but at the time, it was no laughing matter for the drummer. Jagger’s frontman ego had overstepped the line one time too many, and he got a fat lip for his labours. 

The video below shows a rare occasion in 2015 when Watts was given the chance to upstage Jagger. The band filmed a promotional video for their Exhibitionism art exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery, in which Watts takes centre stage, comically eclipsing Jagger.