Happy birthday Ringo

Happy birthday Ringo

14 days ago

Today, 7th July, is Ringo Starr’s birthday. Ringo makes a brief appearance in Dead Man Singing, when Dave is discussing his drumming with one of the other characters, who repeats the common misapprehension that John Lennon said Ringo wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles.

‘He never said that. And if that’s what he thought, why did he use Ringo on so much of his solo stuff afterwards? Go back and listen to Ringo again. He’s not a technician like Peart, but his sense of what a song needs, when to hold off and when to push, is second to none.’

As Dave says, Ringo wasn’t an explosive, pyrotechnic drummer in the mould of Keith Moon, or possessed of breathtaking, precise technique like Neil Peart; Ringo was all about feel. I recently listened again to the ‘Red album’ compilation of Beatles songs from 1962-66, and I was absolutely blown away by Ringo’s drumming. Endlessly inventive, compelling and always – always – serving the needs of the song. I once read an interview where Ringo commented that when the band was working on a song in the studio, for most of the session he knew that his job was just to keep time while the band were moving things around and fitting everything together. Once everything was in place, he could see where he had to keep out of the way and where he had room to add stuff. He always considered that his art was in the fills and flourishes added at that late stage. In fairness, his fills are always immaculate, but he’s underselling the invention that he brings to the basic rhythm tracks – just check out 'Ticket To Ride' or 'Come Together' (to pick just two of many good examples) if you need convincing.

It's easy to underestimate Ringo as a drummer, to be swayed by more exuberant, more explosive percussionists, but Ringo’s genius is that he listens and, as Dave Grohl puts it, he sits in the song. The bottom line is this: if you put any other drummer – any other drummer in the world – into the Beatles, they wouldn’t have sounded like they did.

Paul McCartney has spoken before now about how it felt the first time Ringo sat in with the Beatles when Pete Best was unavailable for a gig through illness, and about how they all knew that he brought something extra to the band. Ringo had helped to make Rory Storm and the Hurricanes the biggest band in Liverpool (they were bigger than the Beatles when he made the move) and then he helped the Beatles become the biggest band in the world.

Music is about opinions and you are, of course, entirely free to hold the view that Ringo wasn’t a good drummer. Just as I am entirely free to hold the view that if that’s what you think you don’t know what you’re talking about. Happy birthday, Ringo. Peace and Love.

Photocredit: Stockcake

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