For much of his long and illustrious career, Ringo Starr has been struck with the ludicrous idea that, despite being part of one of the greatest bands of all time in The Beatles, he’s not actually a very good drummer.
It’s a theory that was started with the rumour that upon being asked if Ringo Starr was the best drummer in the world, his bandmate and friend, John Lennon, replied: “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, it’s certainly a myth that many still believe.
Yet, if you listen closely to the isolated drum track on The Beatles’ 1967 release ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, you will hear some of the most expressive and unique drum-fills rock has ever seen. Starr, in fact, was a colossal inspiration during his time with The Beatles.
Aside from his songwriting ability, the drummer also had an unstoppable flair for creating entirely unique and distinguished fills and patterns for the experimental work that was happening outside of the rhythm section. He allowed the band to flourish on albums Revolver and Sgt. Pepper with his transcending talent.
It is that experimental force ahead of Starr on stage, that has worked to overshadow 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.
On this isolated drum track, we can hear some of Ringo’s best work as he expertly navigates the spiralling music around him to keep the Good Ship Beatle on course. Taking the band from their pop beginnings to their new experimental waters with the comforting backbone such a trip desires.
Methodical and measured in parts, Starr’s real charm came from his authentic and natural style as he sometimes lazily slapped through songs. It may have hindered some bands but the drummer had something extra special.
Starr added something to drum patterns that others couldn’t touch. Like any truly great artist, Starr had a way of being both instantly recognisable but utterly unimitable. To this day, Starr remains one of the legends of percussion and on this evidence, nobody should ever question his credentials ever again.
Listen below to the isolated drum track of Ringo Starr on The Beatles’ ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’: