‘Working class Oiks’ was how my boss, in the office I worked in London, saw the Rolling Stones who had just burst on to the pop scene to thrill those of my generation: they gave London in the early 1960s what the Beatles had given to Liverpool and the swinging sixties were well underway.
Oik was a nasty slang term often used by the English upper classes in a derogatory sense to describe a person regarded as inferior, ignorant, ill-educated, or lower-class. That didn’t worry us, we liked Mick’s swagger and the non-conformist insolence of the Stones.
Now Charlie Watts, their impassive drummer for more that half a century has died: he never said much and showed little emotion but he held together the Stones, Mick and ‘Keef’ Richards, Bill Wyman and all too briefly Brian Jones and later Ronnie Woods.
I didn’t know Charlie Watts but I was raised in South London in those post-war years and I went to school a few miles away from where Mick went to school in Dartford – we played his school team in soccer.
At that time in the early 1960s the sharp young blades around town were very much into flash suits, stove-pipe pants and winkle picker shoes. There was a certain East End Jewish tailor, off the Whitechapel Road as I recall, who had caught the eye of Charlie Watts and his mates and they had their jackets and suits made up there.
Word spread and I ended up getting a suit made by this same tailor – there was a photo of Charlie in the window of the shop modelling a suit. In those days the fashion was for two buttoned, short jackets, Bum-freezers as they were known.
Later in 1963 I took a ten pound assisted passage to Australia – best investment I ever made – the suit stayed at my parents home and probably ended up in an op shop as I married a Queensland girl and stayed in Australia.
Meanwhile, Mick and Keith opened up a corner shop in leafy Surbiton to see them through their retirement, just ask Michael Caine:
Farewell, Charlie Watts, you entertained us for a generation – not bad for a classy oik!
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