Rolling Stones Say They Didn’t Expect Charlie Watts’ Illness to Be Fatal, Discuss Continuing to Tour

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In a new interview, members of the Rolling Stones say they thought Charlie Watts was recovering from illness and would eventually rejoin them, even after Steve Jordan was announced as a fill-in drummer for their current tour as Watts seemingly convalesced in the hospital.

“We watched horse racing on TV and just shot the breeze,” guitarist Ron Wood told the Los Angeles Times of being the last member to visit Watts in the hospital, a few weeks before the drummer’s Aug. 24 death. “I could tell he was pretty tired and fed up with the whole deal. He said, ‘I was really hoping to be out of here by now,’ then after that there was a complication or two and I wasn’t allowed back. No one was.”

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Wood told the newspaper that the hospital room Watts ended up in was the same one where he’d been treated for cancer in 2000. “We call it the Rolling Stones suite,” Wood joked. The exact nature of Watts’ affliction still hasn’t been publicly revealed, but the Times article says the group believed Watts was “on the mend after an earlier medical procedure.”

Keith Richards had little to say about Watts’ death in his part of the interview: “I’m still trying to put it together in my head. I don’t think I can be very erudite on Charlie at the moment.”

The Stones are back on tour, with upcoming shows including two nights at L.A.’s SoFi Stadium on Oct. 14 and 17, following the resumption of their long “No Filter” tour Sept. 20 — their first gigs since August 2019, when Watts was still on board, and the pause in touring was expected to be a far shorter one.

Mick Jagger scoffs in the story at the idea that there are very many Stones fans who think the group should not continue on without Watts. Asked how he responds to those comments, the singer said, “I don’t, really — I think you’re exaggerating. … Maybe one or two do (think that). But I don’t think that’s a movement.”

Added Jagger, “When you’re a band for this long, it’s unlikely you won’t have any changes. Of course, this is probably the biggest one we’ve had. But we felt — and Charlie felt — that we should do this tour. We’d already postponed it by a year, and Charlie said to me, ‘You need to go out there. All the crew that have been out of work — you’re not gonna put them out of work again.’ So I think it was the right decision to keep going. The band still sounds great onstage, and everyone’s been really responsive at the couple of big shows we’ve done so far. They hold up signs saying, ‘We miss you, Charlie,’ and I miss him too.”

The member discussed the state of an unfinished album that was begun prior to the pandemic, which would be their first of new material since 2005. One song from the sessions, the COVID-themed “Living in a Ghost Town,” was completed and released last year and figures into the current live setlist. Watts had put down parts for “a number” of songs, the story says. “Let me put it this way,” Richards said. “You haven’t heard the last of Charlie Watts.”

Read the rest of the Times interview — which also discusses how many songs they rehearsed for possible inclusion in the current tour (and the status of the not recently performed “Brown Sugar”) — here.

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