Keith Richards on Charlie Watts: "You took Charlie, everything fell apart"

Charlie Watts tribute
(Image credit: Will Lester/MediaNews Group/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin via Getty Images)

Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has opened up about the loss of Charlie Watts and the crucial role Watts' drumming played in the band, as well as reservations the surviving members had about continuing after the iconic drummer's passing in August

Speaking to Strombo on Apple Music, Richards admitted that "the last thing I wanted to do was a Rolling Stones tour without Charlie," referring to how the drummer had been advised against touring on doctor's orders earlier this year. "For a band of our longevity to suddenly have another man in the drummer's seat is a leap in the dark," Richards adds. 

"But you know, Charlie said, 'Look go on with Steve' [Jordan, drummer in Richards-led side-project X-Pensive Winos]. Charlie Watts was our mainstay... You took Charlie, everything fell apart, and to be able to transition this thing and also feeling Charlie's presence in a way via Steve. Steve loved Charlie to death and they were good friends. So it's almost like a transitional thing that we all have to deal with when we get up there every night. But so far, so good. Great energy, great fun."

Speaking in early August, Watts himself was disappointed to not be out on the road with the band but gave his blessing for Jordan to fill the vacant drum-stool for the band's US tour. "For once my timing has been a little off," said Watts. "After all the fans’ suffering caused by COVID I really do not want the many Rolling Stones fans who have been holding tickets for this Tour to be disappointed by another postponement or cancellation. I have therefore asked my great friend Steve Jordan to stand in for me."

The Rolling Stones returned to the stage on September 20th at the Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, dedicating the show to Watts. The band currently have dates across the US lined up until November 20th, when they will play an intimate show at Hard Rock Live in Florida to close out the tour. 

Speaking to Strombo about his relationship with the rest of the Stones, Richards also revealed that he never felt closer to singer Mick Jagger than when the pair were on-stage. "It's almost indescribable," he says. "When Mick and I are out there working, we both know that, ‘Hey, I'm counting on you.’ And there's a beautiful jousting and also like a support. That's where I feel my friendship with Mick more intensely than at any other time he's on stage. You know, I have his back. He has mine. It's an interesting piece of improvisation goes on every night and it's like, how far do you want to push it? And that's half the fun of it. It's never the same, this show, there's no script."

The 40th anniversary reissue of Tattoo You is out now. 

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.