Friendships can be complicated, as Keith Richards and Mick Jagger’s were. Although the pair had known each other since they were children, they seemed to clash when it came to getting along, which caused some issues for their fellow Rolling Stones. Things were physical at times, just like in Amsterdam in the early 1980s. Following a loud argument with Keith in a hotel room, a drunk Mick had the brilliant idea of calling Charlie Watts’ room to find out where ‘his drummer’ was. Richards later reported that the phone was never answered, but Watts had an answer for Jagger. In his memoir, the guitarist described how his bandmate, Charlie, calmly strolled into their room shortly after Jagger’s phone call, discovered Mick, and struck him so hard that he stumbled backward and fell down. The musician then told Jagger not to call him ‘his drummer’ again and walked casually out of the room as if nothing had occurred.
Keith may have admired this aspect of Charlie because the drummer appeared calm and bashful, usually minding his own thing while peacefully playing his drums at the back of the stage. He never appeared to require the extra attention that Mick thrived in, and believe me, drummers can be quite the showmen, as Keith Moon used to take the show from his colleagues. Watts, on the other hand, seemed to care just about his music, fixating on performing his best on stage, and despite the fact that he could’ve been quite the dominant force when needed, the drummer often preferred to remain quiet and keep himself to himself. Still, it’s possible that this is what made him the ideal collaborator for Richards, because the guitarist never needed anyone else when Charlie was right behind him. When the Rolling Stones legend spoke with the San Diego Tribune in 1998, he couldn’t help but admire and adore Watts. Charlie was an important and driving force in the band for Richards, who thought that all he needed to become inspired and perform his best on stage was to feel the drummer’s booming strikes behind him.
Watts was a crucial force during live shows, according to the rocker: “He’s my guy!” He’s at his top; my man is at his peak. And I’m right following him. I’m with him the whole time, but he’s pushing me. My man is playing fantastically well. It gives me something to aim for because he and I are the ones in charge. It’s the breaking down of rhythms and how we can flip them around and fling the hash and burn. And we’re having a great time every night. I have nothing to complain about. I mean, I work with Charlie Watts! What do I have to be concerned about?” When someone discusses the Rolling Stones, most people think of the Jagger-Richards duet, but Richard’s comments about not having to worry about anything when Watts was playing directly behind him demonstrate the strong and secret affinity he also shared with the drummer. Still, given that the band continued to perform after Charlie died, it’s natural to wonder how Keith felt. It’s safe to assume that the drummer’s death affected Richards greatly, as it was undoubtedly a habit for the guitar hero to feel Watts was there, playing his tunes and keeping the rhythm under his command without the need to look back, as the rocker pushed and inspired Keith to keep going. Still, the Rolling Stones have to “carry on and keep no moss,” as the old adage goes.