The Rolling Stones are getting ready to head out on their previously postponed No Filter tour, which is set to launch in St. Louis, Mo., on Sunday (Sept. 26), their first full tour as a band following Charlie Watts‘ death on Aug. 24 at age 80. Frontman Mick Jagger reflected on the drummer and his contributions in an interview with retired Rolling Stone writer David Fricke, published on Thursday (Sept. 23) to Variety.
Speaking about Watts’ talent, Jagger shared that his friend and longtime bandmate added an extra layer of depth to The Rolling Stones once he joined the band. “Charlie brought another sensibility, the jazz touch. And he didn’t play very heavy. Sometimes, if I got him mad enough, he would. That was the only way I could get him to play really heavy – to get him mad,” Jagged said. He added that Charlie “could do quite subtle cymbal work in some places. Then he could play off my [vocal] riffs with the audience. If you’re a singer, you have a relationship with a drummer which is all about the dance, the accent you’re doing physically as well as vocally.”
Jagger also reflected on special memories he had with Watts, and stated that the late artist was always dedicated to learning how he could improve The Rolling Stones’ iconic sound. “The thing about Charlie was that he was always there, always played beautifully and was always willing to discuss what to do about it — how he could make it better,” Jagger explained. “He held the band together for so long, musically, because he was the rock the rest of it was built around. We had a lot of wonderful times apart from playing music together.”
Of Watts’ many unique qualities as a musician, Jagger felt that Watts’ “sense of swing and swerve” really helped to differentiate The Rolling Stones as a group, which is partly why his death has hit the group so hard. “It’s a huge loss to us all. It’s very, very hard. But we had wonderful times, and Charlie made some wonderful music,” Jagger concluded.
Steve Jordan — former drummer for Saturday Night Live, Late Night With David Letterman, and acts such as Billy Joel, Stevie Nicks and more — is set to replace Watts on tour. Jagger explained in the interview that practice with Jordan has been going well, and that “he’s very respectful of Charlie. He played with Keith [Richards] before we started the rehearsals, and then he did homework, listening to the tunes.”
The band recently played an intimate show at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. on Sept. 20, in which they paid tribute to Watts. During the show, Jagger made a speech to the audience of 300 alongside Richards and Ronnie Wood. They also remembered Watts with a tribute video posted to Twitter a month earlier, on Aug. 27.
“It’s a bit of a poignant night for us,” Jagger said to the audience, full of emotion. “Because this is our first tour in 59 years that we’ve done without our lovely Charlie Watts. We all miss Charlie so much. We miss him as a band. We miss him as friends, on and off the stage. We’ve got so many memories of Charlie. I’m sure some of you that have seen us before have got memories of Charlie as well. And I hope you’ll remember him like we do. So we’d like to dedicate this show to Charlie.” Wood added, “Charlie, we’re praying for you, man. And playing for you!”