Kimsey first worked with the Stones as they recorded 1971’s Sticky Fingers, and remained associated with them until 1981’s Tattoo You. His career also includes collaborations with Elton John, Paul McCartney, Peter Frampton and many others.
“Charlie never changed over the years,” Kimsey tells Uncut. “When I first worked with the Stones, on Sticky Fingers, I wasn’t really noticing the individual personalities in the band. They just struck me as strong, innovative characters, searching for something in their sound and their groove. But as I got to know them, I realized that Charlie was just a wonderful, wonderful person.”
He continued: “After many years I could never figure out why he was in the band, because he was not like the others. The rest of them were all frontmen, as it were – though I’m sure Mick [Jagger] wouldn’t agree. Even Bill [Wyman] had this persona. Charlie was just this quiet man at the back, but he was the one holding it all together.”
Kimsey hailed Watts’ “intense” energy, noting that even though he didn’t hit his drums heavily, he managed to generate “a very loud tone.” He recalled an incident when Watts noticed a tiny adjustment Kimsey made to the snare drum, recognizing instantly that something had been changed. “It was such a minimal thing, but he knew the response so well. It was amazing that he could immediately pick up on such a small change,” Kimsey said.
He added that Steve Jordan, who’s currently touring with the Rolling Stones, was a good replacement because he learned so much from Watts. But don’t expect anyone to ever completely recreate Watts’ unique approach.
“A lot of drummers I’ve worked with have said, ‘I want to sound like Charlie Watts,’” Kimsey explained. “And I’d say, ‘Well, good luck there, mate. You don’t sound anything like him.’ It’s all in the style. They think they have it, but Charlie had so many subtleties that made such a difference when it came to the big picture. Coming from a jazz background, his playing had dynamics in it. It wasn’t just thump-thump-thump. He was extraordinary.”
The Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts Year by Year: Photos 1962-2020
We collected dozens of pictures of the drummer below for Charlie Watts Year by Year: Photos 1963-2020.
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