From the Left



America Kissed Charlie Watts

Marc Munroe Dion on

I find America's lipstick prints everywhere, bright red bows of kisses on every culture.

Charlie Watts, longtime drummer for British band the Rolling Stones, died this week, leaving millions of men with tears soaking into their gray Fu Manchu mustaches, sometimes falling on the $500 wingtip shoes they wear when they go to their law firm; the Vietnam generation with store-bought teeth and a new hip.

The Stones were a band of unwholesome-looking degenerates, skinny from the war rations the Brits ate during, and for a number of years after, World War II. They looked as though they'd take your sweet daughter's virginity and, in the case of Mick Jagger, possibly your son's as well.

Not that it means much anymore. There are American rappers and rockers who are fearlessly searching for a romantic word that rhymes with "dismember." They have darker plans for your daughter.

The Stones, like the Beatles, spent a lot of their careers trying to sound either Delta blues Black or Jerry Lee Lewis white -- anything but working-class British.

This is because there is nowhere in the world where you can be musically cool without sounding like poor Black or poor white Americans. The junked-out American cool cat jazz musician. The young, hip-wiggling, pink socks, white trash Elvis. The Delta blues musician beating a steel string guitar, stomping one cracked shoe on a hardwood floor and asking a bad woman, "Where'd you sleep last night?"


Corina. Corina. Where'd you sleep last night?

She slept with juke joint, stand-up bass, razor fight America, and she came home with a new kind of baby in her belly.

Guys like Watts, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton started by playing skiffle music -- a British version of American blues and roots music. Learning "Rock Island Line" and "Goodnight Irene;" playing it on cheap guitars and washboards; kissing an American they'd never met; walking home from a gig at a grim brick workingman's club in London, or in the north of England, with a few quid in their pockets and the tune of "Smokestack Lightning" howling in their heads; chords from a hotter, sunnier place where you picked cotton by the hundred weight.

Jump down, turn around to pick a bale of cotton.


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