Sympathy for the Drummer: Why Charlie Watts Matters Hardcover – 1 Dec. 2019
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'Charlie Watts lays it down, and the others follow. He is the Law. This book explains why.' Clem Burke, Blondie
'Required reading for any Stones fan.' Bun E. Carlos, Cheap Trick
'The most colorfully graphic and, arguably, the most accurate description extant of the Rolling Stones at the absolute pinnacle of their career.' All About Jazz
'[Edison] shoots from the hip from the first line to the last in this extremely entertaining celebration... Edison's frenzied, gunned up prose repeatedly reminds one and all of exactly why Charlie Watts Matters... Stones fans and jazzers, bluesers and rockers alike all owe Mike Edison a massive thank you.' Shindig
Sympathy thankfully is not a ponderous academic treatise, and while Edison occasionally leans into gonzo flights of fancy, he takes the reader on a grand tour of forty years of Watts' contributions to the Rolling Stones... As Keith Richards has said, 'No Charlie, no Stones,' and Edison wrote the book to prove it.' Modern Drummer
'Sympathy for the Drummer is so much more than an incisive appreciation of Charlie Watts, it is an effusively infectious tribute to art in all of its myriad forms. Edison s insights into the Rolling Stones are backed up by a fluent scope of cultural historicity, and peppered with an array of no-nonsense broadsides. Compelling evidence to convince even the most non-partisan reader that Charlie is indeed the WORLD S GREATEST ROCK N ROLL DRUMMER!' Jim Sclavunos, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
'A great voice of authority and knowledge, dispensed with free-wheeling fluidity. Super entertaining, and right on.' Katherine Turman, coauthor, Louder Than Hell: The Complete Oral History of Heavy Metal
'A wild ride through six-plus decades of music history... An illuminating and massively entertaining book.' Dan Epstein, author Big Hair and Plastic Grass
'Mike Edison's libertine prose swings and hits like Charlie Watt s right hand.' Meredith Ochs, author Rock-and-Roll Woman
'It's not hard to fathom why a former editor of both Screw and High Times magazines would find writing about the Rolling Stones, one of the most dissolute champions of sex and drugs, right in his conceptual wheelhouse. But Edison takes a unique approach by focusing his investigation on Charlie Watts, the woefully underappreciated lynchpin of the Stones sound. This book is a delightful look at the Stones through the eyes and the beats of their most reticent member. Finally someone gave this drummer some.' -- Larry Ratso Sloman, author On the Road with Bob Dylan
'Charlie Watts is the backbone of the Rolling Stones. In this affectionate yet unflinching biography, Mike Edison shows how integral his jazz sensibility makes them a true band: keeping time, creating space, and hitting the crash cymbal at just the right moment.' Lenny Kaye, guitarist, author of You Call It Madness: the Sensuous Song of the Croon
'An imaginative consideration of the Rolling Stones, one which will let you hear utterly familiar tracks with entirely fresh ears.' -- Ira Robbin
"Proof positive that one can be both edgy and erudite, lowbrow and literate, and take joy in the unbridled pleasures of the id without sacrificing the higher mind." --PopMatters
About the Author
Edison lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Please visit him at www.mikeedison.com
From the Publisher
The Harder They Come (Chapter 7)
Charlie was something like the straight man in a British sitcom—the sympathetic glue between the druggy, heavily armed, pirate-like guitar player and the gender-bending lead singer, which is yet one more reason Why Charlie Watts Matters: he came to play….But Charlie had become a mereological essential to the group, the axis around which the Rolling Stones revolved. Once upon a time, Charlie played the drums. Now, more and more, it seemed like he was playing the band.
Respectable (Chapter 8)
Charlie’s drumming was impeccable—disciplined and unadorned. He used the hi-hats, like Al Jackson, with surgical discretion, its overuse having become the hallmark of wedding-band drummers trying to keep up with the disco times. In Charlie’s hands, it swung. Even playing disco, there was that slight wobble, keeping the beat just behind Keith. He pushed the song forward with urgency. And he was shrewd—he hadn’t played this minimally since the Brian Jones days. As ever, this was Why Charlie Watts Matters: there was the anticipation in the groove, and the penetration was left, as it should be, to whatever happened after closing time.
Where’s My Drummer? (Chapter 10)
According to Keith, “Twenty minutes later, there was a knock at the door. There was Charlie Watts, Savile Row suit, perfectly dressed, tie, shaved, the whole… bit. I could smell the cologne! I opened the door and he didn’t even look at me, he walked straight past me, got a hold of Mick and said, ‘Never call me your drummer again.’ Then he hauled him up by the lapels of my jacket and gave him a right hook.” Keith calls it the “drummer’s punch” and says “it’s lethal; it carries a lot of balance and timing.” Nothing less than you would expect from a guy whose right hand has been carrying the weight of The Greatest Rock’n’roll Band in the World for twenty years.
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Top international reviews
Edison really knows his stuff, and it's fascinating. A really well researched bio-fact, told with super charged wit and up tempo levity. I kept thinking: "I hope Charlie gets to read this, he would love it!"
Well done Mr. Edison :) WOW !
As a drummer himself, Edison has plenty of insight into the subtlety of Charlie Watts' playing. I gotta be honest: I'm one of those non-drummers who always thought Charlie Watts was a just a strange man in the long shadow of Jagger/Richards. My beliefs have been challenged and corrected. Charlie does things no other drummer in his situation could do. He's an ardent, self-taught jazz drummer who was shoehorned into a crazy, loud, violent rock n' roll outfit at a tender young age. And he took to it with abandon, grace, and precision.
And besides: Charlie was a real mensch. By all accounts he has remained faithful to his wife Shirley since 1964. This despite being a flagship member of the band Edison likes to capitalize as THE GREATEST ROCK N' ROLL BAND IN THE WORLD. While Mick and Keith were ingesting mountains of drugs and sleeping with legions of groupies, Charlie was in his hotel room, sketching the furniture and relaxing. It may not be rock n' roll, but I like it.
If you're like me, you probably like the Rolling Stones but were never captivated by them. I saw them live in 1994 during their Voodoo Lounge tour and was unimpressed. Maybe they had a bad night. I dunno. But I thought they were a sloppy mess. A bunch of old guys doing a victory lap without the benefit of having put in a bit of practice first. My opinion of them plummeted.
This book brought me back into the fold. But It doesn't even matter if you love the Rolling Stones. If you love rock n' roll, READ THIS BOOK.
First of all, it reads like it was written by an adolescent fan boy, who still has a "DISCO SUCKS" poster on his bedroom wall. Second, he makes so many bombastic statements about Charlie's greatness, and (almost) everyone else's mediocrity, that it just doesn't square with reality. It's hard for me to take the author seriously when he makes such ridiculous claims.
Third, as his interest in the Stones' music dwindled on everything past Tattoo You, so too did his examination of Charlie Watts. The last 29 years of theirs, and Charlie's life and music, were given only a cursory glance. He raced through those three decades to get to the end.
The bottom line for me is - I cannot take the book or the author seriously when he writes in such an age-inappropriate way. I wasn't expecting a proper biography, the kind that Doris Kearns Goodwin would turn out, but I wasn't expecting a book that reads like it was written by "Beavis & Butthead" either.
This book does a disservice to Charlie Watts and to anyone who plunked down money for it.
Thank you Mike Edison for this mighty fine book. Thank God for Charlie Watts, the Gibraltar of Rock. . .
There's not enough I can say about Mike Edison's writing in this book. Virtually every sentence jumps off the page and is worth savoring - and that is praise that I would not use lightly. Edison is thorough in his discussion and never fails to entertain and inform - and he clearly had a great time writing this book, and that comes through on every page. He knows his stuff - but he wants you to appreciate the subject matter too and that comes across clearly in his highly engaging style.
Simply put, the book cannot be more highly recommended. It is written by an individual knowledgeable about what he writes, with clear passion and appreciation for his topic. Given how much I love Charlie Watts, I am thrilled that Edison wrote this book; but I also believe that anyone with an interest in popular music, in the amazing band at the heart of the book which has somehow survived for over 50 years now, or in how drums can play a critical and defining role in how a band presents itself, will find this a great read. Or maybe like me you just love Charlie Watts! That's good enough too. A great book.
However, anyone who read Lester Bangs' work in Creem magazine, etc. back in 1970s will recognize the writing style and that's what makes it a fun read, at least for me. The book is eminently quotable and gave me plenty of laughs. I probably should have bought the Kindle version since it's not a book I'm likely to read more than once, there's no real information in the book to make it much of a reference in the future and the photos are poor.
Edison has given me an even greater appreciation for the magnificent Mr Watts. With his breakdown of most every Stones track listed here. And granted me license to pursue my continuing drum education, by following up on his insights. Granting my aching, aging body more energy, and the promise of new life. Seeking to re-acquaint myself with perfecting that ever so elusive shuffle mastered by Charlie Watts, D J Fontana, and Mr Below.
Thank you Mike Edison, for an educational, enlightening read. One I’m glad I took the time to devour. And will no doubt return to many times over. More importantly, as all real drummers know. The click track, or metronome is no man’s master. Not in rock & roll. Not if you’re gonna get it right. Living within the song itself. Instead of being the hero of the song.