Words by Nicholas Storey
Rock is still big and the biggest rockers are still with us; while sound-alikes, shakin’ their mics, are all the rage.
The oldest rocker of them all must be Janis Joplin’s sometime squeeze, Brazil’s own Sergei (that’s all of the name by which he is revered here), who is pushing eighty and, as he lives just down the road (in the Templo do Rock), I know that, tattooed up to the nines, he still goes the whole nine yards to dress like an original and unapologetic old rocker: in torn jeans and an armless vest. In fact, he once told me that ‘Rock is a whole way of life’. He is crowned with a shaggy, tangled mass of big hair and peers benignly at the world, through strongly-tinted contact lenses. Charlie Watts, of the Rolling Stones, cannot be that far behind him in terms of age but, maybe because Sergei uses Shanks’s mare and a bicycle (rather than a Lord-given Mercedes Benz), for facial cragginess, he could probably give Charlie a ten year head-start.
Here’s another difference: Charlie Watts is also a committed jazz musician, and his crisp dress reflects the dapper image that jazz musicians have often favoured. In fact, did they but know it (although the small down-side is that he cannot tilt a hat for toffee), since the death of George Melly (who could), Charlie Watts is probably the best walking, breathing, tub-thumping advertisement for Savile Row’s promotion, with the young, hip and trendy, that they have.
Sir Mick Jagger (I thought that even old rockers were supposed to be subversive) seems, just without the kipper tie, to have stuck with the tight-and-skinny, Tommy Nutter-look of his youth. Charlie Watts, on the other hand has, with evident and enviable determination, veered (and veered big time), towards Rocking the Classics, with a modern twist and, in doing so, has given them a real chance of survival.
Apart from coming, over the years, more and more to appreciate the truth behind the lyrics of She’s The Boss, I admit that I have never been a great fan of rock - but I’ll give Charlie Watts points for dressing as he does - and I do like jazz.
Photo: Stuart Wilson/Getty Images Europe
I wonder who has worn a grey Ascot frock coat since they filmed My Fair Lady in 1964. Here’s Charlie Watts wearing one (complete with recessed silk revers), in the Royal Enclosure in 2010.
He snazzes it up with cornflower buttonhole flowers. Maybe, a gardenia would have been more chic; perhaps, the shirt collar should have been a stiff turn-down; the hunting stockpin, through the small, soft collar isn’t great, and the hat is set much too far back (presumably, for the photograph - but still). However, what an effort of discovery, to find the coat style; what care in bespeaking, to find a tailor able and willing to cut and build it properly, and what evidence of self-confidence to wear it so effortlessly. The overall impact is beyond any fatuous, modern bling: “Here’s a real Rock Star in a proper Ascot frock coat. Let’s do it; let’s go and get one too!” Charlie Watts tells us that there’s hope yet for this magnificent garment; he tells us that it’s not all over until the thin man beats his drum.
Here he is again. This time he’s at an airport, in an Astrakhan-collared, short, overcoat and he is wearing it over a zip-up sports shirt but the classicism of the coat, basically settled (like most items of a modern man’s wardrobe), by the great Edwardian pattern-makers, shines through.
I raise my glass to Charlie Watts.
Long Rock The Classics!