Charlie Watts’ Authorized Biography – London Jazz News

Paul Sexton: Charlie’s Good Tonight: The Authorized Biography of Charlie Watts

(Mudlark, £25, 368 pages. Chris Parker Book Review)

The introduction to this biography of the Rolling Stone drummer charlie watt sums up his theme in a single sentence: “He was a world celebrity who hated attention and once said he preferred the company of dogs to humans; the car enthusiast she didn’t drive; the horseman who did not ride; the wealthy, tasteful man who grew up in a prefab house; the drummer who toured the world for five and a half decades and spent them all longing to return home; the musician-for-hire he thought the Stones would be done with in a year and ended up being their pilot on a fee for life.” To which one might add: he was one of the most celebrated drummers in the rock world, but he never listened to rock music (not even Stones recordings) preferring instead jazz, Motown and Stax, and classical music.

Watts was a modest and extremely private individual, passionately loyal to his friends and family: his best friend as a child, the jazz bassist. dave green, was still his best friend at his death; he was married to his wife Shirley for 57 years; his granddaughter Charlotte accompanied him on his last tour with the Stones. He also dressed obsessively neat and elegant; a collector of everything from jazz memorabilia and Civil War guns to classic cars and handmade shoes; and a talented artist who drew every hotel room he stayed in and played an unrecognized role in designing the Stones’ stage show.

No, then, your average rock star, and herein lies the problem with this undoubtedly worthy and carefully researched book: Watts is simply too modest, too quiet, even too decent, perhaps, to be a suitable subject for a rock biography. . Interviewed after interviewed, and the book is packed with detailed contributions from Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Ronnie Wood, not to mention Bill Wyman’s scrupulously accurate recollection, plus a variety of poignant anecdotes from family and friends, he recalls the thoughtfulness, integrity, and Watts modesty. . Sexton is scrupulous about recording all this (deserved) praise, but carefully avoids the darkest moments in the Stones’ history: Brian Jones’s exile and his mysterious death; Altamont Speedway and the disastrous reliance on Hells Angels security that led to the death of Meredith Hunter; Watts’s own period as an addict (only briefly mentioned); the various excesses of touring life so exhaustively documented in other accounts.

Part of the problem clearly lies in the subtitle of the book (it is “authorized” therefore more like a festschrift than a biography), but it must also be admitted (somewhat grudgingly) that the devil, as is known, has the best melodies: Satan is the most attractive character in Paradise Lost, as is Lovelace in Clarissa. In short, Watts may be one of the kindest and most thoughtful men to ever appear on the rock scene, but that doesn’t make him a great biographer.

LINK: Buy Charlie’s Good Tonight