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(Credit: Press / @ringostarrmusic)


When Ringo Starr humbly crowned the greatest drummer in the world

In the movie Boyhood, Ethan Hawke passionately proclaims, “There is no favourite Beatle! That’s what I’m saying, it’s in the balance, and that’s what made them the greatest f—king rock band in the world.”Nevertheless, like a perfect Sunday Roast, people still picked put their favourites within the concocted mix that made the band tick. 

Kurt Cobain’s hero was Ringo Starr. “At a really early age, I wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll star,” the late Nirvana frontman once said. “Ever since I got my first Beatles record, I wanted to play drums. I wanted to have the adoration of John Lennon but have the anonymity of Ringo Starr. I didn’t want to be a frontman, I just wanted to be back there at the same time.”

However, that lack of attention was often mistaken as a subduing of the talents of Starr. This wasn’t helped by myths that rock ‘n’ roll contrarians clung to. No, it wasn’t John Lennon who said, ‘Ringo isn’t the best drummer in the world. He isn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles,’ it was the clownish British comedian Jasper Carrott.

The issue for Ringo was that it had a nice ring to it. Thus, the soundbite transcended the daft context in which it was spawned and suddenly this subliminal opinion that Ringo wasn’t a great drummer was borne. If anything, this proves a massive misconception about the art of drumming itself which sadly some sticksmiths have continued in their hyper-active playing: in short, why the hell would Ringo thunderously rattle off fills through something like ‘Blackbird’? 

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Less can be more behind the kit and Ringo sometimes proved this with a style that was individualistic all the same, and on other occasions, he rattled the rafters with the best of them. Thusly unperturbed by any of his critics, when Ringo was asked who the best drummer in the world was, he lifted up the crown and bestowed it upon his own ample head. 

“What brought you to the point where you can say, ‘I’m the best rock ‘n’ roll drummer in the world’? That’s a very confident statement Ringo,” the ‘Funny One’ was once asked. “I am,” he responded in the same matter-of-fact fashion that you might respond to a passport control guard asking you to confirm your identity.

Continuing: “I had that [the confidence] a long time ago, it’s just that they started asking me about it. At the beginning, because of the songwriters, which is a very powerful force in The Beatles and John and Paul mainly as the singers and I was just playing the drums and nodding my head so I didn’t get noticed.”

That was the new rock ‘n’ roll style that if anything Ringo helped to set in place and allow for other more forefront drummers to flourish once the rigid ways of early blues rhythms were broken up. “There was nothing really said about the drummer,” Ringo continued. “And you look at Charlie Watts in the Stones and there is nothing really said and he’s an amazing drummer but the drummers tended not to get the writing. The drummer is the driving force but when you have songwriters of that calibre and singers they much prefer to talk about the songs and the writers.” 

Indeed, for many people, those songs may well hold more interest than the beats that drive them, but Ringo was a creative playmaker who let the others grab the goals. As Paul McCartney recalled of his first audition in the band, “The first few minutes that Ringo is playing, I look to the left at George and to the right to John, and we didn’t say a word, but I remember thinking, ‘S**t, this is amazing’.”

His simplicity was a strength that let the band gel, as ‘Macca’ appraised: “Look, I love Led Zeppelin, but you watch them playing and you can see them looking back at John Bonham, like, ‘What the hell are you doing? This is the beat. You could turn your back on Ringo and never have to worry. He both gave you security and you knew he was going to nail it.”

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