I was surprised by how much media attention the Charlie-to-quit rumor got last week. Some web site in Australia claimed that Charlie was leaving the Stones and that the band was already looking for his replacement. As soon as I read it -- a ton of people sent me the link -- I knew the whole thing was preposterous and not worth dignifying with a response.
But the story got picked up by media outlets around the world, forcing the Stones' publicist to release an official statement: "Contrary to a fabricated story that ran this morning on a small music web site in Australia, drummer Charlie Watts has not left the Rolling Stones."
I may not be in the Stones loop like I used to be -- and even when I was, the one Stone I never got to know was Charlie -- but I can tell you one thing: No single member of the Stones will ever unilaterally break up the band -- which is what would happen if one of the original three quit -- because no one wants that on their head.
Keith considers Charlie the "engine room" and would never step onstage as the Rolling Stones without him. If Charlie leaves, it's over. Same with Mick and Keith, of course. The Stones may have lost a member here and there in the last 40 years, but those three guys are the core. None of them will ever go to the others and say, "I quit, go on without me." If the Stones ever do officially announce a retirement -- which I personally don't think will happen -- they'll make that decision as a group.
As Keith likes to say, "No one leaves the Stones except in a coffin."