Charlie Watts, the Rolling Stones drummer who died on Tuesday aged 80, had a little known but ugly experience with the Greek police during a concert in Athens in the 1960s.
Watts, regarded as one of the greatest – and most stylish – rock drummers of all time, travelled to Greece with the rest of the band for for a concert in Athens.
It was April 17 and at Panathinaikos football stadium 10,000 young Greeks paid a steep 120 drachmas (a newspaper or a souvlaki cost one drachma those days) to watch the sensational British rock band that rivaled the Beatles.
The concert took place during a period of political upheaval just four days before the April 21st, 1967 coup. It became the stuff of legend, as only five songs into the set police stormed the stage and stopped the show.
From people who were present, the atmosphere was electrifying and electrified as this was the first time a rock band came to play in Greece. Anticipation was sky-high for the event of the year.
Yet, the show was not to be remembered for the greatness of the music but for its disruption and the riot that broke out. Allegedly, during “Satisfaction”, Mick Jagger threw a bunch of red carnations at the audience. Police saw that and took it as a political act and stormed the stage to arrest the singer.
The show stopped, the audience started booing at the police officers, who retaliated by attacking the crowd and arresting several people.
At the time, the red carnation in Greece was a symbol of leftism and communism. It was a time of turmoil, with leftists and rightists sharply divided and fighting each other. Apparently, authorities took the Jagger gesture the wrong way.
Watts passed away peacefully at London hospital
It was perhaps an experience Charlie Watts, who propelled the band’s sound for nearly 60 years, never forgot.
A statement from his London publicist, Bernard Doherty, to the PA news agency said: “It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts.
“He passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family. Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also, as a member of the Rolling Stones, one of the greatest drummers of his generation.”
Earlier this month, it was announced that Watts was to miss the band’s forthcoming US tour as he recovered from an unspecified medical procedure.
Among those paying tribute was Ringo Starr, his opposite number in friendly rivals the Beatles, who wrote: “God bless Charlie Watts we’re going to miss you man peace and love to the family”. Paul McCartney said: “He was a lovely guy. I knew he was ill but I didn’t know he was this ill … Charlie was a rock, and a fantastic drummer … Love you Charlie, I’ve always loved you – a beautiful man.”