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Solo forums => Ringo Starr => Topic started by: LennonStarrFan on February 11, 2010, 09:50:20 PM

Title: Ringo’s Drumming
Post by: LennonStarrFan on February 11, 2010, 09:50:20 PM
Ringo’s Drumming Skills, Part 1
In the wake of the imminent release of the Beatles’ Rock Band and the newly remastered CD’s on September 9th, I’ve been hearing yet again the old adage that Ringo really wasn’t that good of a drummer. There are those who will tell you that his contributions to the Beatles were negligible. As a lifelong drummer myself, I’m here to tell you that Ringo Starr is one of the greatest rock drummers of all time. Don’t believe me?

Imagine  you’re a drummer in the 60s. Most rock and roll drumming is simple, bubblegum stuff. Then somebody—say, John Lennon—starts shaking things up by bringing in songs like She Said, She Said; Strawberry Fields Forever; and A Day In The Life. Songs for which there is simply no precedent in rock history. You then, as the drummer, come up with drum parts that are not just good, but so astonishingly innovative that it’s all but impossible to imagine the songs played any other way!

“Yes, but I can play anything Ringo played,” the detractors will say. To which I reply, “So can I. I can also sit down at my computer and retype Hamlet, but that doesn’t make me Shakespeare.” I mean, who’s the real artist here: the guy who can copy something note for note, or the guy who came up with it in the first place?

So on September 9th when you’re armed with your nice new Beatles remastered CDs, take a listen to this partial sampling of some of my favorite Ringo drumming:

» Ticket to Ride
» She Said, She Said
» Baby You’re a Rich Man
» Strawberry Fields Forever
» Come Together
» Something
» Tomorrow Never Knows

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Title: Re: Ringo’s Drumming Skills
Post by: LennonStarrFan on February 11, 2010, 10:35:56 PM
Saturday, October 21, 2006
In Praise of Ringo
Okay. So everyone knows that Ringo Starr is the most underrated drummer ever.

Actually, not everyone knows that. But they should. In reality, Ringo is, bizarrely, the butt of many jokes. Folks will refer to the Beatles as Two Geniuses, a Really Talented Role Player…and the Luckiest Man in History.

Which is absurd. For one thing, the Beatles might never have made it in the United States in the first place if it weren’t for Ringo; the funny-lookin’ dude with the big nose and the goofy name got a seriously disproportionate amount of the press in the early days—far more than the conventionally handsome singers. He was an easy hook for the press to go with. And keep in mind that American success was far from a given—no other British rock act had ever really made it big here before.

Then there’s the chemistry factor. When you’ve got just four guys, if any one of them isn’t quite clicking for whatever reason, even if it’s just that his sense of humor is off, it can destroy a band, or at the very least keep it from reaching its full potential. Which isn’t to say that a band has to be best friends, of course—Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey famously feuded for years, even coming to blows onstage. In fact, nobody in the Who really liked anyone else in the Who. Which is fine. That worked for them, that was their successful chemistry. Love may be all the Beatles needed, but clearly hatred worked better for the Who. And the Who’s not the only band with those kinds of anger management issues, not by a long shot. Different strokes and all that.

So Ringo’s non-musical contributions shouldn’t be overlooked. The interaction of those four personalities was a major key to the band’s success. But let’s focus on Ringo’s actual musicality.

I recall reading a Modern Drummer interview with him when I was about 13, where the pull quote was something like, “It took me years to accept the fact that I was the greatest rock drummer in the world.” And I remember thinking how absurd that was, and believing that, for pete’s sake, I was a better drummer than Ringo.

Which was half-right. I probably was able to play faster and more cleanly and more complicated time signatures. But to think for a moment that all that meant I was a better drummer is a sign, as if any were needed, of just how young and stupid I was. (Some things never change. Well, I’m no longer young.)

It’s my impression that most people think Ringo’s a great drummer, because he was the drummer in the Beatles, and therefore he must be a great drummer. Which seems like flawed logic, although it’s actually rock solid (so to speak).

Then there are the people who love music and are quite knowledgeable about it. This is the group of folks most likely to think Ringo sucks and to make disparaging comments about him. Another common comment from the semi-educated is “Ringo was the second-best drummer in the Beatles.” A little knowledge is a mighty dangerous thing. Paul McCartney is a brilliant musician and he’s recorded down some really fine performances on drums over the years. But there’s a big difference between doing that and being a drummer. As master drummer Rick Marotta once said, Paul’s never played an entire gig as a drummer, and until that happens, he’s a musician who sometimes plays drums, not a drummer.

Which brings us to the one group of people who virtually always give Ringo his props: drummers. Because drummers know just how damn hard it is to get exactly the right feel for any given song. They know how easy it is to play one of the same old patterns for a song, patterns which always work just fine, and how tough it can be to come up with something new, that’s not just new but also just right. They know how hard it is to practice restraint and not overplay.

And all that stuff is stuff at which Ringo excelled.

An example: the odd pattern he plays at the very beginning (and many other places in the song) of “Come Together.” There’s nothing particularly difficult about it. And yet I’m not sure anything like it was ever put on record before. It’s interesting and strange and tasteful and fits beautifully—a rare and magical combination.

Another example: the odd and restrained pattern he plays on “In My Life,” where he doesn’t play quarter-notes or eighth-notes on the hi-hat, as would every other drummer in the world. Instead he merely plays whole notes, hitting the hi-hat once per measure, just before the 4. So unusual, so tasteful, so perfect. No difficult, just rare beyond words, and yet absolutely ideal for the song.

“Rain,” “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Ticket to Ride,” “Get Back,” “Two of Us”—these songs have nothing in common save exceptional Ringo performances, imaginatively conceived and absolutely flawlessly executed.

There are dozens, nay, scores of other examples, but just listen to one of the most-neglected masterpieces in the Fab Four’s canon, “Long Tall Sally.” Ringo rocks so hard and so tight, it’s the drumming equivalent of a diamond’s atomic structure. Getting that half-straight/half-swing feel is an almost-forgotten art, and even back then it was incredibly hard to nail as immaculately as he did during this two minutes and three seconds (two minutes and three seconds!) of perfection. Possibly Paul McCartney’s greatest rock performance as a vocalist—if it weren’t for “Twist and Shout,” it might just be the greatest vocal performance on any Beatles recording—it’s not difficult to believe that Macca was spurred to such stratospheric heights by Ringo’s asskicking. This is one of those songs that is undeniable proof of their greatness—to cover a great song done extremely well by Elvis and brilliantly by Little Richard and somehow manage to top them both is practically inconceivable. And yet there ‘tis. An unsurpassed performance by the greatest cover band in history. The fact that the cover band was also the greatest collection of writers in rock history is merely proof that Allah exists and that He loves us.

I said up above that there was one group of people, drummers, who always gave Ringo his due. Actually, there was one other group. It was called the Beatles.

It’s no coincidence that after the break-up John, Paul and George all continued to work with Ringo on a regular basis. Even after all three of them had worked with other drummers, including magnificent drummers like Jim Keltner and Jim Gordon and the incomparable Steve Gadd—easily a contender for the shortest of short lists of Most Versatile and Just Plain Best Drummers Ever—they all kept going back to Ringo. These are guys who, it’s safe to say, knew something about creating great music, guys who knew how vital a drummer is to great music, guys who could not only afford but also had easy access to absolutely any drummer in the entire world. And yet they kept going back to Ringo again and again and again.

Maybe, just maybe, those guys were onto something. The Beatles was one seriously exclusive club. They didn’t let just anyone in—in fact, obviously, they let almost no one in. But they not only let Ringo in, they booted a long-time member to make room.

Ringo got in the old-fashioned way: he earned it, by being one of the greatest rock and roll drummers ever.

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Title: Re: Ringo’s Drumming Skills
Post by: LennonStarrFan on February 11, 2010, 11:14:22 PM
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Ringo Starr and I

If someone asks me- 'Had you ever thought of becoming a drummer, if you were a band member?', my answer will be - never, sir. But if there is a crisis, or a certain compulsion of dreaming myself to be a drummer of some dreamland band, then I would always look forward to emulating Ringo Starr.

Ringo has got a typical mix of sound booming out of his drum set. The beats are conventional, but undoubtedly they caste a solid rhythmic support to the basic structure of every Beatles song. His sticks don't have the intensity of John Bonham of the Led Zeppelin or the innovation of Keith Moon of The Who, but they definitely carry an identity of their own, that of a romantic vibe. In fact, the drumming of Ringo Starr has always circumscribed the musical journey of the Beatles. It is passive, but indispensable. It is recessive, but very organic.

Ringo's drumming has got subtle dimensions that only a handful of drummers have explored in their careers. He knows how to modulate his beat patterns, complying perfectly to the mood of the song. From early stages of the group, Ringo's drumming has evolved like a mountain stream, finding new avenues with the passage of time.

Ask anyone who is the most underrated Beatles member, the answer will be one common name - Ringo Starr. He did not concentrate on glamourizing himself as the drummer of the topmost rock band of the world, but instead concentrated on his art with a thoroughly creative bend of mind. He also considerably rendered his valuable inputs to the songwriting of the group.

The drumming style of Ringo Starr, as hinted before, can be best termed as romantic and youthful. It continues to captivate listeners like us. Without the dancing drum sticks and innocent smile of Ringo Starr, the Beatles could not have been the Beatles. And yes, Ringo spares me of not unconsciously using 'past tense' throughout the major portion of this writing, for he is presently having a nice time at his Liverpool residence.
Posted by sayantan at 12:07 PM

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Title: Re: Ringo’s Drumming
Post by: LennonStarrFan on February 11, 2010, 11:17:09 PM
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Severely Underrated

I did myself a huge favour this morning, and I listened to The Beatles on my iPod on the way to work. I love their music. Absolutely love it. Even the songs I didn’t really care for when I was younger, like “From Me To You” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” I just can’t help but love them. I even know all the words.

I know none of the four people that actually read this blog would really raise much argument with me, but I’m going to pretend I have a thousand readers here, and say that Ringo Starr is probably the Greatest Drummer You Don’t Really Think Is That Good. I was really listening to his drumming today (as I always do) and was amazed by how deceivingly complex his drum fills sound (as I always am).

Even if you can’t stand the song, just listen to “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Ringo’s drumming is so laid-back, that if you aren’t paying attention, you won’t even notice it. If Buddy Rich’s drumming is like the loud, funny guy at a party, Ringo’s style is like the quiet, deadpan guy who will say a killer one-liner, and if you miss it, you’ve missed a great joke. On the other hand, he could really hammer on his drums too. The other Beatles always said he was a great timekeeper. Even George Martin, the producer of their albums, said that Ringo’s sense of time was uncanny.

Lets compare Ringo to another of his contemporaries, Keith Moon. Keith was another drummer who was very solid, a driving force for The Who’s music. Obviously, he’s considered one of the best of all time, and I’m not going to dispute that. But as well as being solid, he was flashy. He had fills that were out of this world. Compared to him, Ringo seemed pretty tame. But also compared to him, Ringo seemed pretty simple, and that is definitely not the case.

One night at John Dennis’s drum kit, I thought I could figure out Ringo’s fills pretty easily.

I soon learned otherwise.

Listen again to “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Towards the end of the song, after John sings “Strawberry Fields Forever” for the third time, and right around the time that George comes in with his little guitar lick, listen to the competent flurry of drumming that backs it up (if you’re listening in stereo, listen to the left channel, which has at that point has just vocals and drums). Really makes you take notice if you’re listening for it, but you may not even notice it otherwise.

Or take “Get Back.” The drums carry the song, with its locomotive chugga-chugga pattern and tempo. I love the simple “tom-snare-snare-tom-tom” fill right as Paul says, “Get back, Jojo.” He plays it again when they come back from their false ending. Gotta be one of my favourite fills of all time.

You can tell that, for Ringo, it’s not about him or his playing. It’s all about the song, and the overall quality of the song. If you play a wicked awesome fill, but the song sucks, it won’t be the drumming that gets remembered, and it won’t get played on the radio, and people won’t hear it, and you won’t make money. Too bad more rock drummers find it so hard to think like that (Lars Ulrich of Metallica, for example).

If I could be half the drummer Ringo is, I'd be happy.

And now that I mention it, I would like to have a Beatles tribute band. Not one where we look just like the Beatles, because I'd want to wear what I want and look like me. One where we sound like the Beatles. And I, of course, would want to play drums, because I know there are others out there who sound more like the singing Beatles than I do.

Enough for now. Cheers!

posted by Grahame @ 8:59 AM

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Title: Re: Ringo’s Drumming
Post by: alexis on February 12, 2010, 03:11:45 AM
I had a great time reading these, LennonStarr fan - thanks!

BTW - who was the author?
Title: Re: Ringo’s Drumming
Post by: Almighty Doer of Stuff on February 12, 2010, 03:51:03 AM
Each post is from a different blog, with a link at the bottom, in case you missed them.

Very interesting, anyway.
Title: Re: Ringo’s Drumming
Post by: georgeharrisonluver on February 12, 2010, 04:22:22 AM
very interesting, thanks!
Title: Re: Ringo’s Drumming
Post by: LennonStarrFan on February 12, 2010, 04:02:22 PM
I had a great time reading these, LennonStarr fan - thanks!

BTW - who was the author?

I put a source with a link on each article, so you can see the original sources and authors.