Charlie Watts Recalls his Drum Parts on some of the Rolling Stones Greatest Hits

Written by on September 24, 2021


Written By  On August 24, 2021

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One day, I got a call from the Stones asking me to fly to Toronto to interview the band on camera for an electronic press kit. Here is an excerpt from my interview with The Rolling Stones drummer, Charlie Watts:

Dimitri Ehrlich: Tell me how you recorded drums on “Street Fighting Man?”

Charlies Watts: “Street Fighting Man?” We did it with this tiny, little drum kit and a Sony recorder, me and Keith, and then we overdubbed the proper drums. In those days, early cassette recorders didn’t smooth the sound out. It broke up a lot. So recording in bedrooms with little tambourines or little percussion things sounded thunderous. And we used that as the basic track for “Street Fighting Man.”

DE: What about “Not Fade Away.” What do you remember about that drum part?

CW: “Not Fade Away.” Blimey.  We did it in a Bo Diddley thing, which at the time was very avant-garde for a white band to be playing Bo Diddley’s stuff. It was a very popular rhythm with us in clubs; looking at it from the drumming point of view.

DE: Tell me about the drum groove in “Sympathy for the Devil.”

CW: Well, that’s a great song. “Sympathy for the Devil,” I first heard Mick play it on the doorstep in my house and– acoustic. And we did loads of versions in the studio of it, trying desperately to get the time and atmosphere… And we landed up with Rocky Dijon playing congas. I’m playing this Latin thing on it. It’s a good song, though. Good song to play.

DE: Tell me about   “Wild Horses.”

CW: That was Muscle Shoals. “Wild Horses,” is a lovely song. It’s still good to play, that song, and we did four songs there at Muscle Shoals, “Brown Sugar.” I had a great room for drums because the studio’s owned by Roger Hawkins, who’s a drummer, and I was up on a balcony like that playing. It was a bit unusual. I remember looking down on everyone else.

DE: How about “Beast of Burden?” That was a great riff.

CW: “Beast of Burden?” That was a one-take thing, I think.

DE: Your drum fill is amazing, the way you come into that song sounds like a man falling down the stairs.

CW: Those are accidents. It’s like “Brown”– the intro to “Honky Tonk Woman.” It’s like– it’s kind of an accident, isn’t it? You know, they– they just happen to come off that way. I don’t know why. If you wrote musically that down and played it properly, it wouldn’t have the same thing as the actual take. But that’s what’s good with being in a band like this, you know. There’s room for things like that.

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