The debate is over and it’s official, Ringo Starr was a much better drummer for The Beatles than you thought he was. We’ve all heard the joke but the truth is that Starr was not only a genre-defining drummer but he did it all with the nonchalance of a genius percussionist.
Perhaps no better is this shown than in the isolated drum track for the John Lennon-penned song for the band’s album Abbey Road, the wonderful ‘Come Together’. The track has always possessed a certain charm and looking back we’re sure it’s all down to Ringo’s unique style.
The idea that Ringo Starr isn’t a very good drummer can be traced back to a rumour that upon being asked if Starr was the best drummer in the world, his bandmate and friend, John Lennon, replied with a snigger: “Ringo wasn’t the best drummer in the world… Let’s face it, he wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles”
Though one can’t actually attribute the joke to Lennon himself, having recently been discovered to have featured first in a 1981 radio show and not that of comedian Jasper Carrott, it’s certainly a myth that many still believe. But when you revisit the isolated drum tracks of some of The Beatles’ best songs they all have something in common—Ringo is turning it up a notch.
The drummer was famed for providing beats and fills which were not only foundational, allowing for Paul McCartney, Lennon and George Harrison to do their thing, but subtly experimental. The contribution he made to The Beatles and the influence he had on countless rock drummers to come. From the change of stick position (moving most modern drummers from orthodox grip to matched grip—no small feat) to his always powerful percussion, Starr changed a lot of minds along the way.
Perhaps one of the drummer’s crowning moments comes on the John Lennon’s song ‘Come Together’. The track was written primarily by Lennon but, like most of their material, is credited to the Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership. It acts as the opening track on their 1969 album Abbey Road and was also released as a single coupled with ‘Something’. The track would reach the top of the charts in the United States and peak at No. 4 in the United Kingdom. It’s known as one of the band’s best singles.
In fact, it was one of the few songs on Abbey Road that John Lennon actually liked, famously saying: “I liked the A-side. I never liked that sort of pop opera on the other side. I think it’s junk. It was just bits of song thrown together. And I can’t remember what some of it is.”
Still, it remains one of the Beatles’ fans ultimate Fab Four favourite songs and we’re given even more room to appreciate the track through Ringo’s expert style. Seemingly casual and in control, Ringo’s shoulder-slinging style has always offered the band a swing that other pop acts of the time could match.
Even on ‘Come Together’ Starr shows off a degree of lefty-style, descending through his toms and even producing some muted notes that computers would be happy if they created. Below you can listen to the entire thing and firmly put an end to the debate. Ringo Starr was a drumming genius.