Friendships can be complex, or at least the one between Keith Richards and Mick Jagger was. Although the pair knew one another since they were schoolboys, they seemed to bump heads when things came down to getting along properly, and that, at times, caused some problems for their fellow Rolling Stones.
Things even got physical sometimes, just like it did in Amsterdam in the early ’80s. After a loud argument with Keith in a hotel room, a drunk Mick had the great idea of phoning into Charlie Watts‘ room to see where ‘his drummer’ was. The phone was never answered, Richards later recalled, but Watts had an answer for Jagger.
The guitarist disclosed in his memoir how his bandmate, Charlie, calmly walked into their room a bit after Jagger’s phone call, found where Mick was, and punched the singer so hard that he stumbled backward and fell down. Then, the rocker warned Jagger never to make the mistake of calling him ‘his drummer‘ again and walked quietly out of the room as if nothing had happened.
Perhaps, it was this side of Charlie that Keith admired, as the drummer often looked quiet and shy, usually minding his own business while peacefully playing his drums at the back of the stage. He never seemed to need the excessive spotlight Mick thrived under, and believe me, when one remembers how Keith Moon used to steal the show from his bandmates, drummers can be quite the showmen.
However, Watts seemed to only care for his music, fixating on playing his best on stage, and apart from the fact that he could’ve been quite the dominant force when he needed to, the drummer often preferred to be quiet and keep himself to himself. Still, perhaps, that’s what made him the perfect collaborator for Richards, as the guitarist never needed anyone else when Charlie was playing right behind him.
The Rolling Stones icon chatted with San Diego Tribune in 1998, and while talking about his bandmates, he couldn’t help but praise and appreciate Watts. For Richards, Charlie was an essential and pushing force in the band, as the guitarist felt that all he needed to get inspired and do his best on stage was to feel the drummer’s thunderous strikes behind him.
The rocker’s words on how Watts was an essential force during live shows:
“He’s my man! He’s at the peak; my man is peaking. And I’m very close, behind him. I’m with him all the way, but he’s pushing me. My man is playing so well; it’s unbelievable. It gives me something to go for because he and me, that’s the charge.
It’s the cutting up of the rhythms and how we can flip them around and fling the hash and burn. And we’re having a ball every night. I have no possible complaints. I mean, I play with Charlie Watts, man! What have I got to worry about.”
Anyone might think of the duo, Jagger-Richards, first when someone mentions the Rolling Stones, but Richard’s remarks about how he didn’t need to worry about anything when Watts was playing right behind him shows the undeniable and secret bond he also had with the drummer. Still, as the band carried on performing after Charlie passed away, it’s natural for one to wonder how that made Keith feel.
It probably would be safe to assume that the drummer’s passing affected Richards very much since it surely had been a habit for the guitar hero to feel Watts was there, playing his tunes and keeping the rhythm under his helm without the need to look back, as the rocker pushed and inspired Keith to go on. Still, when it comes to the Rolling Stones, they got to carry on and keep no moss, as an old saying goes.