Visiting the Memory Motel With Charlie

Charlie Watts in all his sartorial splendor.

The death of drummer Charlie Watts hit hard last week.
Yes, he was 80.
Yes, we knew something was up when The Rolling Stones announced that he would not be joining them on their upcoming North American tour.
But Charlie was an icon and the Stones are timeless. How can this happen?

Of course, we know why. Our heroes are mortal. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less.

Growing up in the 70s and early 80s, I was raised on what is now called ‘classic rock’.
We listened to WNEW and WPLJ in New York and Long Island’s very own rock station WBAB in Babylon.

It was an amazing era for music and I never had enough money to buy all of the albums I wanted to own. We went to Sam Goody’s and Korvettes for our record fix and on occasion we drifted into the city where— magically— my friend David knew where we could get European imports and bootlegs in Soho and the village.
Hey wait a minute…how did he know where to go?  We were only 11 or 12?

We went to see our favorite acts at Madison Square Garden , Jones Beach, Westbury Music  Fair and the Nassau Coliseum. The Kinks, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Foreigner, Billy Joel, The Doobie Brothers, Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Beach Boys, The Cars, The Police and more.

It was a golden era and I spent hours listening to Bruce Springsteen, Simon & Garfunkel, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Elton John and scores of other amazing artists.
But at the top of the pantheon were the Big Four: The Beatles, The Stones, Led Zeppelin and The Who.

One of the radio stations, I can’t remember which, would have Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, Who days—when the entire programming was devoted to those four bands. I listened all day and all of the night. (Kinks reference for you amateurs).

Those classic bands and so many others meant so much to me and my friends. So much to my generation and others too.
For my money, the 60s, 70s and 80s produced the best music ever made. Music that moved us, raised us, made us move and shaped how we viewed the world.

Is there a better love song than “Something?”

Is there a better guitar solo than the one in “Stairway to Heaven.”

Is there a better album than “Who’s Next” released 50 years ago this month.

Is there better rock music or more catchy riffs than the songs recorded by the Rolling Stones?

And now Charlie Watts is gone.

The steady beat driving the worlds greatest rock band has joined John and George, John Entwistle, Keith Moon and John Bonham in the hereafter. We’ve lost so many great ones. In recent weeks, we’ve lost Nanci Griffith, Poco’s Paul Cotton and Tom T. Hall, one of the truly great story songwriters (Harper Valley PTA). If you want to feel something just listen to Nanci Griffith sing about love on a late night in a grand hotel or take another listen to Poco’s “In the Heart of the Night.”
All will be missed.

Still, Charlie’s loss hit hard.
Delray’s Max Weinberg, a hall of fame drummer, called Mr. Watts a personal hero. He said he was devastated by the news.

When you love music, the players who create these magical sounds assume on an outsize influence on your life.
They are magical in so many ways because they  play notes that make you feel fully alive.
So when you lose someone who can do that…well, it stings. It really, really stings.


  1. Thank you for this poignant walk down memory lane. I still have many of my original 78’s and 45’s from this era. I loved the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Music breathes into the soul. It becomes a part of our beingness. I spent nights at an apt near the Dakota just nights after John’s death and saw George’s home in Maui from above in a helicopter. Always in my heart.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Thank you for sharing Kathy.
      My friends and I went to the Central Park vigil for John…it’s a memory I will never forget. Such a special time to be alive.

  2. We’ll said Jeff. The music released during those decades left an indelible mark on many of us who were so fortunate to grow up listening to those songs and Bands. Although I know those decades were filled with many social ills and political strife like we see today, the music of that time had a way of taking you far away from the madness and making everything feel alright. R.I.P. Charlie, it was fun while it lasted.

  3. Laura Bridges says

    You nailed it.. These artist are to me like a constant friend, their music was always playing in my life. I feel like I’ve lost a member of my family and your right, it stings it, stings alot. And I’m left with the most fantastic memories of their concert. Thank you for the memories.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Thanks Laura. I love the way you describe your love of the music. Those songs will endure. But yes it stings.

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