The late drummer of The Rolling Stones, Charlie Watts, is an irreplaceable figure in the world of music. A man and performer who was the definition of dignified in every sense, Watts carried himself with the distinction of a virtuoso and the calm manner of an everyman. There weren’t any backhanded insults with Watts, and he was always straight to the point, as his analysis of The Beatles proves.
While The Fab Four and The Rolling Stones public feud is still rumbling on today, Watts always rose above the pantomime aspect of their apparent beef. Although he wasn’t personally a fan of their work, Watts was always more of a jazz man anyway, he understood why they had such mass appeal and even admitted that nobody could doubt they were a “phenomenon”.
In truth, Watts didn’t care for a lot of rock ‘n’ roll, and despite being a Rolling Stone, jazz was his true passion. He once proclaimed, “I don’t really love rock & roll. I love jazz. But I love playing rock ‘n’ roll with the Stones.”
Bands like The Beatles didn’t excite him in the same way that a night at a jazz club would, but that didn’t stop him from appreciating what they created, even if it wasn’t what he’d listen to in his own time. On a personal level, he was friends with the group, and they hung around in the same circles, yet, Watts had no ambition to be a Beatle.
“The word ‘pop’ was not very big in our lives until we saw the Beatles,” Watts once told Rolling Stone. “They weren’t something I wanted to be. We did shows with them. Onstage, they didn’t do bugger-all. None of them moved much. And they didn’t have a great sound. It wasn’t like Eric Clapton and Cream or Jimi Hendrix.”
Despite his previous remarks, Watts added: “But the Beatles were a phenomenon. The great thing was how people looked at them. That’s what got you, more than John Lennon going ‘la-la-la’ or Paul McCartney shaking his head. The effect was amazing.”
Additionally, speaking to an Austrian publication in 2008, the drummer said: “I’ve never been a big Beatles fan. And I’ve always hated Elvis. He was the last one I wanted to use as a guide. Miles Davis yes, but Elvis, no.”
While The Beatles were never to his acquired taste, that didn’t mean that he didn’t see eye to eye with the group as people, and Paul McCartney’s poignant tribute to the late drummer following his death speaks volumes about the love they shared.
Macca said: “He was a lovely guy. I knew he was ill, but I didn’t know he was this ill, so lots of love to his family, his wife and kids and his extended family, and condolences to the Stones. It’ll be a huge blow to them because Charlie was a rock, and a fantastic drummer, steady as a rock.”
He added: “Love you Charlie, I’ve always loved you. Beautiful man, and great condolences and sympathies to his family.”
In truth, if Charlie Watts wasn’t in The Rolling Stones, he’d likely have made equally scathing remarks about their music as he did with The Beatles, and there was no malice laced in his honest comments about their rivals.