Remembering when Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts had the ultimate drummer's revenge on Mick Jagger

25 August 2021, 11:12 | Updated: 6 October 2023, 15:24

Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts
Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts. Picture: Getty

By Mayer Nissim

Charlie Watts got suited and booted to put a drunken Mick Jagger in his place in 1984.

The Rolling Stones drummer and swinging heartbeat of British rock Charlie Watts has died at the age of 80, prompting an outpouring of love, tributes and rock 'n' roll stories.

As well as being a virtuoso musician, people are recalling Watts's generous spirit, dry wit and blunt honesty.

There was of course the time when The Guardian asked Charlie if he was excited that the band were finally playing Glastonbury in 2013.

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"I don't want to do it. Everyone else does. I don't like playing outdoors and and I certainly don't like festivals," he replied.

"I never liked the hippy thing to start with. It's not what I'd like to do for a weekend I can tell you."

But the ultimate Charlie Watts tale that everyone is sharing is the time he put a drunken and rather obnoxious Mick Jagger right in his place in 1984, when the band were in Amsterdam for a meeting.

The Rolling Stones on the Steel Wheels Tour
The Rolling Stones on the Steel Wheels Tour. Picture: Getty

The story had been told many times over before it was officially set down for the record in Keith Richards's chunky 2010 memoir Life.

What happened was, after a drunk night on the town, Mick and Keith return to their hotel and – against Keith's advice – Mick insists on ringing Charlie up at 5am to ask "Where's my f**king drummer?"

Here's how Keith tells it.

Another version of the story gives Charlie an even better line to go with his knockout punch: "Don't ever call me your drummer again. You’re my f**king singer!"

Whatever the exact truth of the tale, it was an example of a man who, despite not being the flashiest or most OTT member of the group, deep down absolutely knew how important he was to The Rolling Stones.

Watts wasn't the very first drummer of The Rolling Stones. They played with Tony Chapman and Carlo Little (and, for a couple of rehearsals, future Kinks player Mick Avory), before Charlie joined in January 1963.

After that, he was the only ever present in the group apart from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Rock in peace, Charlie.