Bookworm: Get ‘Charlie’s Good Tonight’ and get some satisfaction

Read ‘Quit’ for that amusement or, if you need to know how to do the right thing

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

“Charlie’s Good Tonight: The Life, The Times, and the Rolling Stones: the Authorized Biography of Charlie Watts”

  • By Paul Sexton
  • c.2022, Harper
  • $27.99, 368 pages

The music really starts you up. The first few notes pull you onto the dance floor. Guitar strings speak to your feet, a drum seems attached to your hips and demands that you move to the song. It makes you feel so alive. You can dance, but though you can’t always get what you want, you can get “Charlie’s Good Tonight” by Paul Sexton.

“Charlie’s Good Tonight: The Life, The Times, and the Rolling Stones: the Authorized Biography of Charlie Watts” by Paul Sexton.

Born in the middle of World War II and raised partly by his grandparents, Charlie Watts was always a musician at heart. He grew up loving jazz on records and radio, but his “first faltering steps as a musician” were with a banjo. Later, when he was a young teenager, his father and grandmother bought him a second-hand drum kit.

That changed everything.

He practiced and found places to watch his favorite local groups’ drummers; by 1958, he was performing in jazz bands occasionally, mostly in and around North London. He went to art school, worked as a designer for an advertising agency, and he played the drums, almost always just for fun.

In 1959, he met Brian Jones, who soon introduced him to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and “Seeds were...sown.” Watts really didn’t have a passion for the stage but he “liked their spirit” and so he took The Rolling Stones up on their offer to join the band.

The secret was, says Sexton, that Watts hated traveling, performing, and being in front of crowds. He was “the studious one,” the collector who loved fine clothes, books, sketching, vinyl records, his wife and daughter, and the Arabian horses on his farm.

Onstage and off, he was unflappable, dependable, and constant, but Sexton says that Watts had his struggles. He might have been on the road performing but his heart was at home, in front of a warm fire. Briefly, he fought addiction. And yet, he stayed, played, faithful despite those personal troubles.

And when he died, it “prompted overpowering, long-lasting lamentation among millions of people who never even met him.”

In a very big way, “Charlie’s Good Tonight” is an outlier: it’s not filled with discography, too many little-known people, or gratuitous name-dropping.

That’s a nice lack, if you want to read a rock-solid – and rather curious – biography about another outlier: Watts, who was with the Stones for some three-quarters of his life and is said to have disliked it intensely. The surprise is that in author Paul Sexton’s account, Watts becomes somewhat of a sympathetic character.

Granted, he was wealthy and able to indulge in a number of peccadilloes, so it’s hard to feel too sorry for Watts. Still, insider tidbits and insights here paint a tale of reluctant fame that will make readers want to dust off their LPs and think twice about the realities of being in the limelight.

This book could be a nice cautionary tale for someone who’s pondering a life onstage. It’s a no-brainer for a Stones fan and will appeal to readers of musical bios. Get “Charlie’s Good Tonight and get some satisfaction.

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“Quit: The Power of Knowing When to Walk Away”

  • By Annie Duke
  • c. 2022, Penguin Portfolio
  • $27, 336 pages

It’s over. The last page is read, the credits are rolling, your plate is clean, you’ve said your good-byes for tonight, for this weekend, for this month, forever. It’s time to turn your back and walk away – or is it? In “Quit” by Annie Duke, learn when to say alright and when to say adieu.

Quitters never win, quit the process and you’re quitting the result, nobody said it would be easy, blah blah blah. Platitudes aside, you’re done messing with that thing and you’d like to throw in the towel but you’ve invested so much time and quitting is for sissies, blah blah.

“Quit: The Power of Knowing When to Walk Away” by Annie Duke.

We’ve all heard those sayings before but, says Duke, believe it or not, a premature ending can be the best thing that could happen sometimes... but not always. It truly depends.

Knowing when to quit, she says, is an important life skill but it’s not as glamorous as stick-to-it-iveness. People tend to remember those who persevere, no matter the outcome, but they don’t generally remember those who get off the merry-go-round before the music stops. Still, she says, if she was going to teach someone to make better decisions, “quitting is the primary skill” she’d pick.

“Trying something and having the ability to quit is vital to how we all live our lives.”

So how do you know when it’s time to stop the foolishness?

Learn to re-frame your decisions to determine whether it’s better to stay or go; if it’s a close call, the latter’s probably the better option. Remember that public opinion isn’t always right. Quit when you’re ahead if the future looks bleak and be aware of a nasty phenomena called “loss aversion.” Also watch for “sunk cost,” which can cause you to continue because you think things just have to get better eventually. They won’t.

Set a list of “kill criteria” before embarking on a project. Don’t be too optimistic. And remember that there’ll always be times when the choice to quit is yours, and times when “the world makes the choice for you.”

In the last almost-three years, you’ve probably asked yourself a dozen times why. You don’t need a subject, sometimes “why” is the entire question and “Quit” is the answer.

It’s not an easy one, though. Author Annie Duke breaks the dilemma down in four sections that help readers learn how to make the right decision, and that empower them to take a possibly-unpopular action. These are hefty sections, too, with meaty words for you and for your too-loud, often-wrong inner naysayer.

The lessons imparted are ones we all need to understand fully, but they’re not the only things you’ll find in this book. Duke bolsters her advice with pertinent anecdotes that are entertaining, even if you’re not in need of a coin to flip any time soon.

Read this book for that amusement or, if you need to know how to do the right thing at what looks like the wrong time, read it for instruction. Either way, “Quit” is good, full stop.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books. Read past columns at marconews.com.