The Rolling Stones song that was “Charlie Watts’ meat and potatoes”

The heart of every good song by The Rolling Stones comes down to the groove. Even though the band have been known for making some of the fiercest riffs from rock’s glory days, the key to making any good song work is to have a strong foundation in the backbeat. Although the group always had a solid pulse with Charlie Watts, Keith Richards thought that one song suited their drummer better than any other.

When working on their first handful of albums, though, it was clear the band were still finding their groove. Wanting to make the same blues music they had loved listening to at home, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards would soon turn themselves into one of the greatest musical duos of all time, with Richards often turning in riffs that became hooks on their own.

Outside of Richards’ steady rhythm guitar playing, Watts was a completely different animal. Being a fan of many different genres, Watts was known to put a healthy dose of swing into the group’s style, leftover from his time listening to various jazz groups. Although Watts could lay down a certain shuffling groove better than most, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the band started to truly shine.

After flirting with different musical styles across all of their 1960s albums, The Stones found their calling coming back to the blues on their album Beggars Banquet. From there, the subsequent few albums would see them working out different songs that turned their usual flavour of blues inside out, culminating in classics like Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed.

Although the songs may have been changing, that initial groove never went away, with Richards always keeping everything in the pocket when writing songs like ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Street Fighting Man’. Amid the rock classics in the group’s arsenal, Richards thought that one of the greatest showcases for their sense of rhythm came with the song ‘Bitch’.

Being one of the standouts from Sticky Fingers, the song is an exercise in minimalism for Richards, playing a bluesy riff in A and only using a handful of notes to get his point across. Although Richards admitted that the song was a bit of a workout for him to play, he knew that Watts would be onboard from the moment he heard the song.

As Richards would later tell Rolling Stone, he thought the song’s rhythmic heartbeat was the ideal sound of Watts’s style, saying, “It comes off pretty smooth, but it’s quite tricky. There’s an interesting bridge you have to watch out for. Otherwise, it’s straightforward rock and soul that we love. It’s Charlie Watts’s meat and potatoes”.

Then again, the style Watts plays here isn’t all that different from the push he gave most of The Stones’ uptempo material. From ‘Satisfaction’ to ‘Start Me Up’, Watts’s delicate way of moving the track along always toed the line between being forceful and tender, being able to bring across a ballad just as well as he could a blues scorcher. Rock and roll may be about making songs with a bad attitude behind them, but sometimes it comes down to having the right amount of swing to bring your point across.

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