Monday, July 06, 2015

Was Ringo the Greatest Beatle?

Ringo Starr in 1964
The Spectator

James Woodall claims that "Ringo's no joke[, insists that the drummer] was a genius and [that] the Beatles were lucky to have him" (The Spectator, July 4, 2015). Woodall further states:
I think Ringo Starr was a genius. The world seems to be coming around to the idea. Two months ago, he was finally accepted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - the last Beatle to be inducted. About time too. On 7 July he turns 75 . . . . He wasn't spectacular; he set the Beatles' backbeat and kept time, making up for a lack of upfront technique with his characteristic 'fills' - flicks and flashes across the drums between lyrics and musical phrases . . . . [P]roper focus on his musicianship reveals his indispensability to the other three [Beatles]. His rhythms were tight and infectious, shaping and shaped by guitars and voices: never obtrusive, always consistent. His thuds and whacks behind that bass drum helped create magnificence on nearly every track the Beatles recorded . . . . Many [fans] might suppose that 'She Loves You' (from mid-1963) opens with just those words, sung in chorus. In fact, it kicks off on a fantastically propulsive Starr tom-tom. Through a revolutionary two minutes 20 seconds he frequently plays off the beat. With thrilling use of hi-hat cymbal he opens dynamics and heightens decibels in a manner hitherto not heard on a Beatles record. Such percussive glee was a band war cry as, from 1964 into 1965, the Beatles shook the world . . . . Ringo got subtler the further the band left touring behind and the more experimental, from mid-1966, they became in the studio. Without him, there'd be no Beatles track like 'Tomorrow Never Knows', which ends the album Revolver. With its tape-loop screeches and Lennon's eerie vocal, the whole is held together by Starr's astonishing, off-the-beat control on slackened tom-toms. His drumming makes this piece of music shamanic and, still, utterly fresh . . . . Lack of close listening has disallowed Ringo from being considered as complete a musician as John, Paul and George. When the Beatles took him on . . . , Ringo was in fact a highly experienced performer, and had long been better known in Liverpool than the others put together . . . . Jonathan Gould . . . wrote: 'There is little question that the invitation to join the Beatles was the single luckiest thing that ever happened to Ringo Starr. But Ringo's acceptance of that invitation was also one of the luckiest things that ever happened to the Beatles.'
Well? What do you Beatles fans think? Is Ringo a genius?



At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Malcolm Pollack said...

As a drummer and recording engineer, I completely agree: Ringo was an absolutely brilliant player, and the Beatles would not have been the Beatles without him. He is vastly underrated.

Here's session guitarist Vinnie Zummo's homage to Ringo.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Malcolm, I was hoping for your expertise.

Jeffery Hodges

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