When Charlie Watts Dressed Up to Punch Mick Jagger in the Face
In 1984, singer Mick Jagger, returning from a night out in Amsterdam with guitarist Keith Richards, decided to phone Watts around five in the morning. "I said, Don't call him, not at this hour," Richards remembered in his 2010 memoir, Life. "But he did and said, 'Where's my drummer?'"
There was no reply on the other end of the line. Roughly 20 minutes had passed when a knock came at the hotel room door. Richards answered. "There was Charlie Watts," he said. "Savile Row suit, tie, shaved, the whole fucking bit. I could smell the cologne! I opened the door, and he didn't even look at me, he walked straight past me, got hold of Mick and said, 'Never call me your drummer again.'"
Watts promptly landed a right hook on Jagger, "a punch I've seen a couple of times and it's lethal," Richards wrote. "It carries a lot of balance of timing. He has to be badly provoked."
The impact caused Jagger to stumble back, nearly falling out the hotel window into the canal below before Richards grabbed him. The guitarist suddenly remembered the jacket he had loaned Jagger to wear that night was the one Richards had gotten married in.
"It took me 24 hours after that to talk Charlie down," Richards said. "I thought I'd done it when I took him up to his room, but 12 hours later, he was saying, 'Fuck it, I'm gonna go down and do it again.' It takes a lot to wind that man up. 'Why did you stop him?' My jacket, Charlie, that's why!"
It was an impromptu moment of intensity rarely displayed by Watts, whose robust yet unassuming style of drumming helped shape the course of the Stones' career. Since the band's inception, Jagger had oozed confidence, occasionally to a fault, but Watts was well aware that without the bedrock of the rhythm section behind the frontman, the Stones' performances would suffer.
"Mick is the show, really," Watts said to The Guardian in 2013. "We back him. But Mick wouldn't dance well if the sound was bad. It doesn't come into it with a lot of bands because the lead singer just stands there. We've always been about playing it properly."