Charlie Watts beat more than just the drums.
The late Rolling Stones drummer, who died Tuesday at age 80, once got so perturbed with frontman Mick Jagger in the ’80s that he punched him square in the face.
Following news of his passing, bereaved music figures and fans swarmed social media to reminisce about the late, great rock icon’s life and legacy. But beyond his many accomplishments in rock ‘n’ roll, the infamously shy Watts slugging the singer in the kisser is a wild story that Stones fans can never forget.
This forgotten slice of rock history occurred in 1984 in Amsterdam, when the legendary UK group’s tensions were at an all-time high, the Grunge reported, many years after Watts joined the band in 1963.
In his book “Under Their Thumb,” Rolling Stones fanzine editor Bill German described how Watts was irked at remarks Jagger had made during a meeting in which the Stones were discussing whether they should break up.
“[Jagger said] something like: ‘None of this should matter to you because you’re only my drummer,’ ” German wrote of the “Start Me Up” singer’s remarks.
In his autobiography “Life,” Keith Richards recalled that an inebriated Jagger — who had displayed increasing megalomania at the time — had riled up Watts the night before by calling his hotel room and repeatedly shouting, “Where’s my drummer?”
Suffice it to say, the condescending slight didn’t sit well with Watts.
“[Watts] kept it bottled inside until he got back to his hotel room,” German described in his book. “He then clicked off his TV, put on his shoes, walked down the hall and knocked on Mick’s door. When the lead singer of the Rolling Stones opened it, his drummer clocked him on the jaw. Charlie then turned round and calmly walked away.”
Per Richards’ book, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame drummer had slugged Jagger so hard that he “fell back onto a silver platter of smoked salmon on the table.”
According to “Under My Thumb,” the Stones guitarist then encountered Watts in the hallway after the fact and asked where he had come from. German wrote that the legendary percussionist matter-of-factly replied, “‘I’ve just punched Mick Jagger in the face’ and kept walking.”
Of course, Watts and Jagger repaired their relationship over the years, as they continued touring up until COVID-19 took hold and forced them to postpone their latest dates.
On the Stones’ second live album, “Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out!” (1970), Jagger put the spotlight on Watts, saying: “Charlie’s good tonight, isn’t he?” Other members have lauded him as the rock over the years too, with Ronnie Wood saying in the 2003 documentary “Tip Of The Tongue”: “Charlie’s the engine. We don’t go anywhere without the engine.”
As the steady hands who kept the group rocking and rolling, he harbored no ill will as the drummer of one of the greatest bands ever — even many years later. Celebrating the band’s 50th anniversary in 2012, Watts reflected on how each of the members changed over the years.
“I suppose age has mellowed us a bit. Mick is a great person if you’ve got a problem,” he told UK publication the Daily Record.
And during a 2015 Q&A with the band, one fan boldly asked: “Are you sick of seeing Mick’s arse after all these years?”
Watts reportedly responded with a laugh: “No. It’s one of the finest views in the country.”
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