Containing Multitudes Since 2004
Nothing would probably compare to the distress Pete Best probably felt as 1963 progressed. If only he had combed his hair down like the others, in imitation of their German pals. . .
Little Steven's Underground Garage (syndicated radio show and also available online) was celebrating Ringo's 70th birthday this week. They replayed an Ringo interview from 2005 and Ringo had a neat story:Ringo said how he spent about a year filling-in for Pete Best whenever Best could not make a Beatles show. One night Ringo's band (the Hurricanes?) were on a bill with a couple other bands and Ringo was the only drummer to show up. Ringo played for all three bands, six sets, and had to change jackets between each set to match the rest of the band he was on stage with.
Rumors had it that Best had more success with women around the band to the point that the other mops took it badly.Who knows...
Trader--I heard that version. Best was, allegedly, serious competition for Macca as "cutest" in the band. And a Pete Best documentary quoted those from back in the day frankly admitting that Ringo was not that) much better a drummer than Best. Phillip Norman in Shout, for example, states the case plainly--Ringo's personality meshed with the other Beatles. He was their kind of bloke. Best was aloof, sitting apart from the others between sets and, at times, being a nasty SOB. In this regard, he may have competed with Lennon for the title of biggest pr--k in the band (they were partners in crime in their Hamburg days). The Beatles never definitively (as in, come clean, guys) explained their dismissal of Best, and the Anthology merely reinforces this, particularly with Macca's too-glib labeling of Best as too much of a bad boy for the Beatles--who were allegedly badder in real life, at times, than the Rolling Stones (e.g., Lennon and Best pissing on the heads of two nuns?). Harrison (R.I.P.) merely shrugs it off as this-side-of-irrelevant. As for Sir George Martin's saying, I don't care what you do with him [Best] on stage but we'll have another drummer for the sessions, the truth was, Martin never thought highly of Ringo, either. And during the White Album sessions, for example, McCartney, who is an excellent drummer (according to Emerick), redid all Ringo's tracks on the songs he (Macca) had written. So, WTF? And Ringo, who can be an arrogant little sh-t, lucked into what Norman called "the greatest bit part in the history of show business." I don't care what anyone says, Best got the dirty end of the stick, big time. It was arguably the greatest act of spite in the history of entertainment. Can anyone truly say (and, yes, I know this will invite brickbats) that The Bestles would NOT have been the Beatles without RINGO? That's like saying the Stones just wouldn't be the Stones without poor old Charlie Watts. Sentimentality aside, even their most diehard supporters have got to suspect the truth, deep down.
All of that said, Tommy, Ringo Starr was still a very underrated drummer. The musicality of Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison are sort of taken for granted. But I've spoken to drummers (I'm not one) who tell me that Ringo's drumming was always very distinctive, not easily immitated, and actually fairly sophisticated. Listen, for example, to his drum line on "A Day in the Life" from the Sgt. Pepper's album. Really excellent work. Very syncopated, very irregular, but also very ethereal and original. It's really the backbone of the whole song.
Happy 70 Ringo. I don't care what the others say, I like you Best (pun intended). Two things about Richard Starkey. First, his distinctiveness had a lot to do with being a lefthander playing a righthanded set of traps (he explained this on an HBO show a few years back). Second, I think his humor was vital for helping the Beatles break out from just being a great rock band (like the Kinks, Yardbirds or other of their contemporaries), to being the most famous musicians of their time, accepted by a worldwide audience (like Elvis or Frank).
Tend to agree with Fred, about the Ringo's healthy attitude.Unfortunately, in other Beatles' eyes, sometimes, it looks like he's been underestimated.Just a feelin' about it, after seeing some documentaries about the Beatles.
I'm coming in late to this but I know everyone has different views of what a great musician is according to each instrument and objectively we can all agree that anyone who can keep time and provide a backbeat is a sufficient drummer. As a drummer myself I can tell you that keeping time is not just instinctive but, especially during long sets of playing, as much focus, concentration and endurance as anything else. So, it takes work to be a good drummer.That said, for me, a drummer that stands out is a drummer that creates a distinctive style that not only sounds different but, and this is important, works for the music being played. It is in this area that Ringo Starr trumps most drummers in rock. Overly tightened drumkits and the same old goddamn snare roll fills are what you hear all the damn time! Except from Ringo. John is absolutely right to bring up A Day in the Life but another to listen to is Strawberry Fields Forever, which ends with a glorious fill/roll of Ringo on the toms that no other drummer would have had the balls to do. They would have kept it sharp and tight because that's what rock and roll cliche demands. Loose, echoing toms are not. Ringo suited the song styles of John, Paul and George perfectly and, I'm sorry to say, but Tommy, no, they wouldn't have been the same without him. They really wouldn't have. They would have still succeeded, yes, you are correct. But they wouldn't have been quite as different, unique.
How about this: imagine A Hard Day's Night and Help with Pete Best instead of Ringo.
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