Ringo Starr is one of the most underappreciated drummers of all time, he was the glue that held The Beatles together and is often overlooked as an integral part of the Fab Four. While that is largely down to the greatness of his peers Paul McCartney, George Harrison and John Lennon rather than a lack of quality on Ringo’s part, it still doesn’t equate to his lower standing in the annals of music history. ‘Ticket To Ride’ is a perfect example of what Ringo brought to the table and his isolated drum track is nothing short of splendid.
The idea that Ringo Starr isn’t a good drummer doesn’t come from a time when The Beatles were together, but can be traced back to a humour rumour originating allegedly from John Lennon. Upon being asked if Starr was the best drummer in the world, his bandmate and friend jokingly replied: “Ringo wasn’t the best drummer in the world… Let’s face it, he wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles.” However, it turns out there is no truth to the joke and Lennon never actually uttered these words.
It was recently discovered to have featured first in a 1981 radio show and not that of comedian Jasper Carrott, who said it on the BBC in 1983, but it’s certainly a myth that many still believe. This isolated drum track for The Beatles classic ‘Ticket To Ride’ is a masterful performance of the absolute finest calibre by Starr, one which proves any potential doubters wrong about his excellence.
‘Ticket To Ride’ is a pioneering song and it is truly astonishing to think it was released in 1965, as it sounds so ahead of its time and fresh even now. That is a feat, in part, down to Ringo’s emphatic drumming. John Lennon went as far as proclaiming that this classic Beatles song was “the first heavy metal record”, despite many people attributing that label to their song ‘Helter Skelter’ released three years prior to this one.
The number does sound rather tame in comparison to what is expected from metal music today but make no mistake about it, upon its first release, this song was groundbreaking. The genre didn’t even exist back in 1965 and there is more than a slight glimmer of truth to the bespectacled Beatle’s claim. There are elements of the track, as it begins to wind down, which sees the song flipped from pop ditty into chaotic madness. Ringo is at the helm of that transformation. It may seem like nothing now but this was unprecedented 55 years ago.
“It’s a heavy record, and the drums are heavy too. That’s why I like it,” Lennon suggested in 1970, which he would echo once more a decade later to Playboy’s David Sheff in 1980: “That was one of the earliest heavy-metal records made. Paul’s contribution was the way Ringo played the drums.”
‘Ticket To Ride’ was later described as being ‘radical’ by Paul McCartney: “I think the interesting thing is the crazy ending instead of ending like the previous verse, we changed the tempo. We picked up one of the lines, ‘My baby don’t care,’ but completely altered the melody,” Macca said in 1994 before adding: “We almost invented the idea of a new bit of a song on the fade-out with this song… It was quite radical at the time.”
MacCartney, of course, is right, it was radical even if it doesn’t feel like it now. The truth is though, because of tracks such as ‘Ticket To Ride’ smashing the rock ceiling, the progression allowed others to turn it up to eleven and follow on from where the track leaves off. Ringo’s drums are phenomenal, they add an extra level of dynamism to the track which helped make it become one of the band’s most beloved tracks.
The isolated drums will leave you in total awe of Ringo’s mastery but, more importantly, it dispels the myth that he’s not even the best drummer in The Beatles.