Wednesday, June 23, 2010

As Ringoes, so go the Beatles: his best moments at the drums

"John had the vision, Paul had the heart, George had the spirit, and Ringo had two fried eggs on toast, please."
- The New Rolling Stone Album Guide

A slap-happy drummer just can't get a break.

Just ask Ringo Starr, "the least-important Beatle," known for playing the drums, writing a small smattering of songs, singing the band's two, big novelty hits about undersea living, and being an all-around nice guy.

But, as we know, nice guys finish last: the poor guy has taken it on the chin so many times, even he apparently believes the hype.
"Whenever I hear another drummer, I know I'm no good. I'm no good on the technical things. I'm your basic offbeat drummer with funny fills. The fills were funny because I'm really left-handed playing a right-handed kit. I can't roll around the drums because of that."
  • The late comedian Bill Hicks blamed the drugs:

  • John Lennon's (lighthearted) answer to whether Ringo is the best drummer in the world:
"Ringo's not even the best drummer in The Beatles."
Weinberg backs Ringo

When I worked on the O'Brien show, I had a rare chance to make smalltalk with Springsteen/Conan drummer Max Weinberg - a great drummer in his own right - who told me that his favorite drummer is Ringo Starr.

I didn't have a chance to ask him a follow-up question - by that point, security was on me - but as a (so-so) drummer myself, I must concur with Mr. Weinberg that Ringo rules (with the exception of Keith Moon, who was the greatest rock drummer of all time - and he did it full of drugs, booze, and hamburgers).

I basically learned to play the drums by copying Ringo, and there's much to recommend: his tempo, timekeeping, power, and - most of all - the idea that drums should only complement a song, not take it over. To most drummers, that idea is a very hard sell.

To me, calling Ringo, "The least-talented Beatle" is akin to calling him, "The fourth most-popular person in the world," which ain't so bad.

And I happen to love Octopus's Garden AND Yellow Submarine!

Ringo's top-eight moments at the drums:

1. Slow down - it's all about the bass drum.

2. Long Tall Sally
- the great fill during the guitar solo.

3. I Should Have Known Better
- immaculate timekeeping.

4. Please Please Me
- that sweet, sweet backbeat.

5. The End
- can a drum solo be understated?

6. I Want to Hold Your Hand
- cymbalific and shambolic!

7. Rock and Roll Music
- Slap-happy!

8. Tomorrow Never Knows
- the Tommy Gun attack.


  1. May I humbly suggest the drumming on Rain?

  2. There's no way Ringo played on Tomorrow Never Knows. I'm betting it was McCartney and a tambourine overdub.

    No way in hell.

    And yes, there's the drummer's role of complementing the song, but in Ringo's case, it was ineptitude, not taste.

    Too bad, his son's a great player!

    James T

  3. Rain is a great song! I excluded it only because it duplicates what we hear in Tomorrow Never Knows - in my opinion only!

    What makes you say that Paul played drums on "Tomorrow?" Is there some evidence of this?

    Ringo's son is a great drummer!


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