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Remembering the time Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts punched Mick Jagger

A black-and-white image of two men, one smoking and the other with a drink
Charlie Watts, left, and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones take a break during the band’s 1975 Tour of the Americas.
(Christopher Simon Sykes / Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

By all accounts, Charlie Watts was a great drummer. By Keith Richards’ account, the man also had a great right hook.

That’s a lesson lead singer Mick Jagger learned the hard way during “a rare moment” in 1984, according to guitarist Keith Richards’ 2010 memoir, “Life.”

After Watts’ death was announced this week, fans of the rock band began reminiscing about the time the musician apparently served his bandmate a knuckle sandwich. Watts died Tuesday in London at age 80.

In his autobiography, Richards recalled witnessing Watts throw “his drummer’s punch — a punch I’ve seen a couple of times and it’s lethal. It carries a lot of balance and timing. He has to be badly provoked.”

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“He threw this one at Mick,” Richards wrote.

Charlie Watts, the drummer who anchored the Rolling Stones throughout their reign as the World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band, has died at age 80.

According to the memoir, Richards and Jagger — who “weren’t on great terms at the time” — had just returned from a night out in Amsterdam to their hotel at “about five in the morning” when Jagger picked up the phone to ring Watts.

Despite Richards’ protests, Jagger called Watts, asked “Where’s my drummer?,” then hung up when Watts didn’t respond. “About twenty minutes later,” Richards wrote in his book, “there was a knock at the door.”

“There was Charlie Watts, Savile Row suit, perfectly dressed, tie, shaved, the whole f— bit. I could smell the cologne!” Richards continued.

“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.’ Then he hauled him up by the lapels ... and gave him a right hook.”

Charlie Watts, the drummer who anchored the Rolling Stones throughout their reign as the World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band, has died at age 80.

As Richards remembers it, Watts struck Jagger so hard that the frontman “fell back onto a silver platter of smoked salmon on the table and began to slide towards the open window and the canal below it.”

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Richards thought it was a “good one,” he wrote, until he realized Jagger was wearing his wedding jacket. “I grabbed hold of it and caught Mick just before he slid into the Amsterdam canal. It took me twenty-four hours after that to talk Charlie down.

“I thought I’d done it when I took him up to his room, but twelve hours later, he was saying, ‘F— it, I’m gonna go down and do it again.’ It takes a lot to wind that man up.”

Past bandmate brawls aside, Jagger was among the first to honor his late colleague and friend Tuesday on social media, by sharing an image of Watts laughing behind his drum set that has amassed more than 800,000 likes on Instagram and Twitter combined.

Richards paid tribute to Watts by posting a photo of a “Closed” sign hanging on his empty drum kit, while Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood tweeted a picture of himself and his “fellow Gemini.”

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The Rolling Stones drummer, who joined the group in 1963 and never missed a gig, died Tuesday at age 80.

“I love you,” Wood wrote. “I will dearly miss you — you are the best.”

Among the other music industry titans who saluted Watts this week were Aerosmith, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McReady and Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, who hailed his Stones counterpart as “a colossus in the world of rock ’n’ roll drumming [whose] hands and feet danced like [Rudolf] Nureyev, so elegant, so graceful.”

“We are extremely saddened to hear the passing of the legendary Charlie Watts,” Aerosmith said in a statement. “Our deepest condolences to Charlie’s family and The Rolling Stones. Sincerely, from the guys in Aerosmith you’ve given us all so much!”

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“A very sad day,” John tweeted along with a throwback photo of himself and Watts. “Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer. The most stylish of men, and such brilliant company. My deepest condolences to [his family]. And of course, The Rolling Stones.”

On Tuesday morning, McCartney shared a video reflecting on the death of Watts, whom the Beatles legend knew was “ill,” but not “this ill.”

“So sad to hear about Charlie Watts,” McCartney said. “Condolences to the Stones — a huge blow to them because Charlie was a rock. Fantastic drummer, steady as a rock. Anyway ... Love you, Charlie. Always loved you, beautiful man.”


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