Charlie Watts should have charged admission.
His Audience of One, otherwise known as Mr. Keith Richards, surely could have afforded it.
The sight of Richards digging Watts and his pre-concert, dancing-in-place warmup routine from many years gone by is now playing on YouTube accounts across the universe. It’s made all the more poignant, of course, by the sad news this week of Watts’ passing from this temporal sphere at the age of 80.
How Richards will go on without his Partner in Crime and Riddums will be on display for all the world to see in a matter of months, when what’s left of the Oldest Show on Earth, otherwise known as the Rollin’ Stones, goes on tour yet again, but this time without Watts and his lovely stick work.
Someone much wiser than me once said that grief is the price we pay for love, and it is a price I am most willing to pay for the decades I have loved Charlie Watts and his drumming. But it hurts, baby!
Much more steep will be Keith Richards’ final bill of sale, Richards having loved and appreciated Watts’ inestimable gift to him, his bandmates and to us for something in the range of 60 years right about now.
To paraphrase Keith’s old running buddy, author Stanley Booth from Waycross, Georgia, there ain’t enough drugs on this planet to cover up the feelings from this deep a loss.
But for Keith, playing with the Stones was always the best medicine, and here’s hoping that seeing them one more time, in this age of Boomer Mortality, will do same for the rest of us.
We will miss you, Charlie, but we have all those drum beats on record to dig, which will surely keep us in good time and spirit till we someday see you again in that rockin’ Stadium in the Sky.
Until then, keeps those hips shakin’, baby!
I don’t remember anyone ever calling it a shuffle, and I’m certain no one ever jumped on stage and yelled, “LET’S SHUFFLE!”
But by the spring of 1974, the shuffle had returned to rock ‘n’ roll with a certain up-tempo, twangy vengeance.
I know this because at the time I was 13, learning to play the drums and beginning to pay attention to such matters.
What I did not know but learned this week was that the shuffle as a rhythmic conveyance (i.e. beat) for rock ‘n’ roll songs had fallen out of favor as the British Invasion commenced a decade earlier.
LItR guest Ned Sublette, author and astute musical observer, shared this tidbit of information as part of a much wider-ranging but no-less-fascinating discussion of the Cha-cha-cha’s collision with rock via “Louie Louie” and “Satisfaction.”
Sublette has cracked a musical code or two in his life, his insights are beyond astute, and his comments regarding the shuffle reminded me of the times between ‘74 and ‘75 when I, as an aspiring teenage drummer, first attempted to play a shuffle on the drums.
And here’s the rub: It wasn’t called a shuffle in 1974, at least the shuffles that came to my attention in those years.
They were boogies. As in “are you ready to boogie?” As in “THE INCREDIBLE BLACK. OAK. ARKANSAS!”
As in, BOA’s boogie-on-steroids version of “Jim Dandy.”
Followed soon after, across the rock radio landscape, by “La Grange” (ZZ, I mean), “Can’t Get Enough” (Bad Company), “Some Kinda Wonderful” (Grand Funk—a heavy, lumbering boogie, their penultimate hit) and “Tush” (more ZZ, don’t you know).
And onward we went, “boogie” becoming the shorthand for this kind of song and the bands that played it, circa 1974-‘75.
The shuffle had returned, and it boogied.
Listening to a recounting of Marvin Gaye’s life reminds me of a YouTube video I made the mistake of watching one recent eve right before turning in for the night.
Various jumbo jet crashes was the theme of this particular uplifting bit of viewing (ironic pun not intended, but boy does it fit), and let’s just say the 10 minutes of watching giant airplanes with people in them falling from the sky did not lead to a long winter’s nap.
That’s kinda my overall reaction to the Marvin Gaye saga, of which I was reminded while listening to the Marvin Gaye episode of Let It Roll.
If you’re reading this, you probably already know at least the basic details about Marvin’s life, music and tragic death. If you don’t, listen to the podcast first.
You will hear much of what I heard the time a friend read David Ritz’s 1985 biography of Gaye, a veritable litany of suffering every bit the equal to poor Marvin’s prodigy of musical greatness.
And just as I would argue (if anyone disagreed) that nobody had it worse, I’m pert near sure no one ever did it better.
My friend could not resist yelling me some of the nightmarish details, which is probably why I never read the bio myself.
It’s Greek tragedy, Shakespearean drama and Biblical prophecy all rolled into one, marching most any tale, mythical or true,
But his life was as spectacularly troubled as his artistic output was
Apparently Marvin himself prophesied the worst of it, or was this a prophesy self-fulfilled?
So were the agonies he put himself through. The story is full of agony and ain’t just one jumbo jet going down here—it’s a veritable fleet of them, coming right off the assembly line at the Boeing factory and making a beeline towards Mt. Rainer.
Yeah, it’s that bad—and, at least in part, why Marvin’s creative output was so great.
There was no “off” position on that genius switch, but neither were there many other “off” positions on other switches.
And why I doubt I’ll ever read David Ritz’s biography about Gaye. I also won’t be going overboard on the reading list when the 9/11 20th-Anniversary remembrance commences in about a month, and why I’ve probably read all I need to about the Altamont tragedy.
All of ‘em, awful, tragic and — while we can debate the inevitability of it — needless from the standpoint that pain is inevitable but self-inflicted suffering is optional.
And that is where the Marvin Gaye saga reminds me all that other apocalyptic stuff. Yeah, some of it — his dad’s issues, his upbringing --was baked into the cake, but at some point Marvin took what was bad and made it worse all by his lonesome.
Once the fan is turned on and the shit is heading toward it, the kids start showing up at Altamont Speedway and the planes have been hijacked...
Which brings me to Marvin and the sad state of affairs that brought him to a needless and tragic end.
But as usual the devil is in the details, and the details suck.
Ed Legge (@freebirdyeller) is a life-long musician, long-time journalist and sometime corporate dweeb who’s writing a book about originating rock ‘n’ roll’s most absurd tradition.