The Man Who Put The Beat In The Beatles

Today is Ringo Starr’s 70th birthday.  He is celebrating with a private event at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City, followed by a concert at Radio City Music Hall.

I always thought Ringo Starr was a vastly underrated rock drummer.  Because he was a character who became known for his “Ringoisms”  — like “a hard day’s night” — I think many people considered him to be less important musically than other members of the Beatles.  When Lorne Michaels offered some ludicrously small amount for the Beatles to reunite and play on Saturday Night Live, he specifically said that the other band members could give Ringo a lesser cut if they wanted to.  It was supposed to be funny, but it was a cruel joke.

Sure, Ringo didn’t write many songs or have many singing hits when he was with the Beatles.  (Ironically, for a few years after the Beatles split up, Ringo had the most post-Beatles hits of any ex-member of the band, with songs like It Don’t Come Easy and Photograph.)  Nevertheless, he was the man who put the beat in the Beatles.  He had rock ‘n roll in his soul and never let showmanship get in the way of keeping the beat.  Listen to the ferocious drumming on, say, Twist and Shout and you will know what I mean.  Anyone who likes to dance to the early Beatles tunes — songs like Dizzy Miss Lizzie or I Saw Her Standing There — should tip his cap to Ringo Starr because his excellent drumming made those songs easy to dance to.  Even on his one drum solo — at the end of side two of Abbey Road — Ringo seemed to focus mostly on the beat, and not on technical flourishes or showoff riffs that detracted from the rhythm.  Yet within that guiding framework, Ringo also was capable of inventiveness.  Rain and Come Together are two pretty good examples of that fact.

I think it is safe to say that the Beatles without Ringo would not have been the Beatles.  Happy Birthday, Ringo!  Let’s celebrate with this video of Rain:

2 thoughts on “The Man Who Put The Beat In The Beatles

  1. Ringo is incredibly underrated.

    Here’s my list of Top 10 Best Ringo Drumming with quotes from various musicians taken from various interviews….

    “The fill is the art of the drummer, that happens in the moment. That’s always been the way with me. I can’t think about it. I don’t play drum parts. I have no idea how it’s gonna turn out. I don’t say, “Oh, 16 bars in I’ll do that.” I have no idea at all what I’m going to do, it just happens.” -Ringo Starr
    Strawberry Fields Forever: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T02iI0AVIg

    “There were quite a few drummers around Liverpool and I used to go home and tell Paul about Ringo. I often saw him play with Rory Storm. …With Rory he was a very inventive drummer. He goes around the drums like crazy. He doesn’t just hit them — he invents sounds.” -Mike McCartney
    She Said She Said: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b00VTswskFI

    “I consider him one of the greatest innovators of rock drumming and believe that he has been one of the greatest influences on rock drumming today… Ringo has influenced drummers more than they will ever realize or admit. Ringo laid down the fundamental rock beat that drummers are playing today and they probably don’t even realize it.” -Kenny Arnoff
    Rain: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPjDMZiuhbQ

    “Starr is vastly underrated. The drum fills on the song “A Day in the Life” are very complex things. You could take a great drummer today and say, ‘I want it like that.’ He wouldn’t know what to do.” -Phil Collins
    A Day in the Life: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfrvY8zAL4A

    “Ringo comes from a different kind of school, and I find that totally exciting and challenging. How he does what he does…it’s so different from what other drummers do. If somebody approaches music or their instrument in a way that’s unique, I want to be around that person. To me, there’s something to learn there. It was great being around him; he’s so inspiring.” -Steve Gadd
    Something: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wbi5uQr02Ik

    “Ringo’s tom fills really make the song, but funnily enough, he hated doing them because he could never remember what he was did one take to the next. I think that’s why his fills are so spectacular – he felt that he would never reproduce them, so he’d better get ’em right.” -Geoff Emerick
    Here Comes The Sun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7h1IphPfeU

    “Ringo is one of the greatest rock drummers. There were times when he’d get in the middle of a drum fill and not know how to get out, and that’s what made it great.” -Ken Scott
    I Me Mine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M88RXx8BudM

    “I don’t ever want to step on Ringo; he’s my favourite drummer. To me, he’s the greatest drummer in the world, and the reason I play the instrument is because of him.” -Gregg Bissonette
    Yer Blues: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05nV-c61pmk

    “Ringo Starr’s drumming is infallible, untouchable, and he is quite simply the greatest drummer in the history of rock n roll music.” -Steve Gorman
    Tomorrow Never Knows: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHaM0K_d5_Y

    “Ringo doesn’t dazzle with flashy technique and pyrotechnics. What he does is so much more elusive and difficult: He plays songs on the drums. Anybody who has sat down behind a drum kit in the last 45 years owes him.” -Elliot Easton
    She Loves You: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oOQROq3WN0

    Like

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