Mick Jagger pays tribute to Charlie Watts at Rolling Stones show
As one of the biggest rock groups to ever exist with 60 years of touring experience, it is no surprise that Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and the late Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones have plenty of stories to share.
The band has persevered through many trials and tribulations throughout the years, with drugs and fallouts threatening to destroy the band many times.
But like any good performers the show must go on, like a “relentless juggernaut,” according to Richards.
With the tragic passing of Watts last year aged 80, his fellow bandmates reminisce fondly in emotional interviews for a new BBC four-part docuseries called “My Life As A Rolling Stone”.
And who better to take us through those memorable moments than The Stones in their own words:
Watts (centre-left) will be the main focus of the BBC series
THE STONES ON….drugs
MICK: Everyone was taking far too many drugs then (1970s). The band should have gone into f****** rehab for a year, including me. But you know, you take the rough with the smooth.
KEITH: The hard stuff ain’t called the hard stuff for nothing. You better be hard enough to deal with it.
RONNIE: In the crazy days it got out of hand. I used to take it at parties and thought it was the best thing going. I used to say at parties ‘You have got to try this.’
It got to the point where it was not funny anymore. Getting high …was dangerous. You would do anything for it.
Mick said “Do you need a little help?” and I said “Sure, I will give it a go.” That was my first rehab. After doing it for so many years your body thinks it needs it but I can’t handle it anymore. It was the beginning of me seeing the light.
On the 1967 arrest for LSD possession after party at Keith’s West Sussex mansion Redlands:
MICK: When you are on acid and being busted it is very odd. It is not fun being busted at all – being busted on acid is really grim.
It was a complete waste of everybody’s time. It had ramifications far beyond a drug bust. It had social implications like “What is wrong with people smoking drugs?” This is when it first came up. It became a big discussion.
On 1977 Toronto arrest for having heroin, facing 20 years in jail:
KEITH: The reason I was taking it was how to deal with fame and pressure. It is one way to run away. I would not recommend it to anybody. It is a rough old world and sometimes you need something to blank it out. It probably ain’t worth the ride.
It was the realisation in Canada that I was jeopardising the band. If they were going to put me away it was bye-bye. If I was going to get out of this and not have to cold
turkey in jail I am going to go and clean up.
THE STONES ON….drummer Charlie
MICK: I miss Charlie on many levels. I miss wanting to play him this new groove and I want to say how badly England has done in the Test match yesterday. I miss him a lot.
KEITH: I am still dealing with it. Charlie was the engine. The best drummer England has produced.
People like Charlie Watts are very hard to put in a pocket. They don’t make pockets for people like Charlie. He is a totally unique guy.
RONNIE: When Charlie passed we were mind-blown. We have the spirit of Charlie playing with us. One word, particular. Clothes had a layer of tissue paper between each shirt, each sock, each underpant, each jacket. Not one thing out of place.
Drummer Watts tragically passed away last year aged 80
THE STONES ON….being on the road for 60 years
KEITH: Mick and I look at each and think “We must be doing something right.” I don’t know what it is. The idea of turning people on for 60 years is like “Whoah.” The thing is relentless, it is like a juggernaut.
Not many people get the chance to do this with thousands of people, you know, as a job. When you are exchanging that much appreciation to each other it is profoundly touching. Music is a resilient thing and sometimes I think “God, it is the only thing we have got that we can trust.” I gave up many years ago trying to figure out why and how it works. The best remedy is to put it in a room and go “1..2..3..4” and all the problems go away.
THE STONES ON….Mick as leader
MICK: I don’t mind being in control of situations. Someone has to be in control of an enterprise like this. It is not only about music. I am representing the band in a way to make sure they don’t get f*****. One of my big jobs is to be a big show-off really. That is my job for two hours, to make people feel good.
I am lucky I can still sing the same notes when I was 19 but I have not got a great voice. It is OK.
RONNIE ON MICK: He is more of a controller and an organiser than he knows. It is just what he is built to do. He knows what he wants and you know when he knows ’cos he starts to respond and starts to sing and it is “Voom, voom, voom.”
KEITH ON MICK: The best frontman in the business. He will get up there and do his stuff. There is loads of facets and variations on him but he is really an honourable man you know, under all that c***.
Leadership came naturally to Jagger
THE STONES ON….Keith
MICK: He is terribly shy. As I knew him as a child and growing up to be a teenager, I know what he is really really like. If you are an extrovert in showbusiness you are in a good place. If you are an introvert it will probably cause you some anguish.
KEITH: I sometimes think I use (shyness) as a weapon. You get shy of these crowds and stuff.
I would have been quite happy to make all these records totally anonymously but…that is not possible. You have got to get out there. I quite enjoyed that but I guess my refuge was heroin, it was drugs and there I stayed as long as I could.
Introverted Richards used drugs to help cope with the pressures of fame
THE STONES ON….RONNIE JOINING
RONNIE: I was sitting on this sofa one night and (guitarist) Mick Taylor was there. Taylor leans over to Jagger and says “I am leaving the band. And I am leaving right now.”
Mick asked if I would join and I said: “I thought that you would never ask.” I had that feeling of coming home when I joined. Keith found his little brother.
KEITH: My great mate. What he brought was a whole new sense of purpose.
Wood was a late arrival into the band
THE STONES ON…Mick and Keith’s rollercoaster relationship
MICK: People say “Oh you are just like brothers, it is like a family.” It is not like a family. I know what it is like to have a brother and it is not like being with Keith at all. It is friendship and working together. As in friendships or love affairs people have roles to play but those roles change. It is in a state of flux.
KEITH: It is like “Oh they have had an argument.” It is all storms in tea cups. Before I know it Mick and I are having “making up fights” just to keep everybody happy, you know? It gets ridiculous. No, we are tight.
Ronnie on healing rift between Mick and Keith in the 1980s when the band almost split for good.
RONNIE: I rang Mick and said “If I got Keith in 15 minutes would you talk to him?” He said “Yeah.” I had to keep this thing in motion. There is a bond that can’t be broken.
THE STONES ON…THE BEATLES
KEITH: They got cleaned up by their manager to make them more palatable for the public, otherwise they were exactly the same as we were, filthy swines!
We were working the clubs. The Beatles had a hit with Love Me Do and what a great record. Our job was to be the premier rhythm and blues band in London. We managed that but we had no idea of progressing beyond that. We were envious. They were doing what we wanted. The holy grail was to make records.
Without The Beatles, the Stones would never have been there. The reason the Stones existed or made records was because the record industry could not afford to lose another Beatles. We would have never got in a recording studio without them.
- My Life As A Rolling Stone begins with Mick Jagger on Saturday on BBC2 at 9.30pm and continues through July as part of the BBC Rolling Stones At 60 season. Four episodes profiling Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie are available from Saturday on iPlayer.
The Stones play the BST Festival at London’s Hyde Park on Sunday.