Remembering the time Charlie Watts punched Mick Jagger in the face

Charlie Watts/Mick Jagger
(Image credit: Christopher Simon Sykes/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

As the news of Charlie Watts’ passing broke, we were reminded of the late Stones drummer’s shy, slightly retiring nature: never one to give interviews unless absolutely necessary, and - for the most part - unimpressed by the trappings of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.

However, that doesn’t mean that he was meek and mild 100 percent of the time, and while reverence is the go-to reaction at a time like this, some fans took to social media to remember the time that Mick Jagger’s rockstar persona became too much for Charlie, resulting in a fist from Watts to the most famous gob in rock.

As recounted by Keith Richards in his autobiography, Life, the incident occurred during a Stones trip to Amsterdam in 1984. With tensions running rife in the band due to Jagger’s magnified ego, and suspicion from within that Mick was brokering a solo deal for himself with the band’s label CBS, things were far from good.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back? It was, as Keef explains, much simpler. 

“There was a rare moment, in late 1984, of Charlie throwing his drummer’s punch - a punch I’ve seen a couple of times and it’s lethal; it carries a lot of balance and timing. He has to be badly provoked. 

"We were in Amsterdam for a meeting, Mick and I weren’t on great terms at the time but I said c’mon, let’s go out and I lent him the jacket I got married in. We got back to the hotel about five in the morning and Mick called up Charlie. I said ‘Don’t call him not at this hour.’ But he did, and said, ‘Where’s my drummer?’ About 20 minutes later there was a knock at the door." 

"There was Charlie Watts, Savile Row suit, perfectly dressed…I could smell the cologne! I opened the door and he didn’t even look at me, he walked straight past me, got 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. Mick fell back onto a silver platter of smoked salmon and began to slide towards the open window and the canal below…It takes a lot to wind that man up. 'Why did you stop him?' My jacket, Charlie, that's why!

Thankfully for Keef, he was able to retrieve his jacket, and thankfully for us, the bandmates clearly resolved the issue.

Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.