If you ask any Beatles fan what they believe to be The Fab Four’s finest song, you are likely to get a different answer from one day to the next. It wouldn’t be too great a surprise if it was the kind of answer that could even change by the hour. However, Ringo Starr is adamant about his number one, and it is a rarity that comes out of leftfield.
The Beatles were well and truly in their pomp by 1966 and had become an unstoppable force in the charts but, on a creative level, they began experimenting even further and pushing their artistic integrity to the fore. On the eternally adored album Revolver, the band kicked it up a notch and the album remains a high watermark even by their lofty standards.
The sessions in the studio from the time of the album’s creation would spurn the one recording which Ringo would classify as being the band’s magnum opus. However, the track would never even make it onto the album and, instead, become another classic non-album Beatles tune. ‘Paperback Writer’ was a different gem by The Beatles which, somehow, didn’t make it on to a full-length album and, instead, was released as a stand-alone release in May 1966. The track would act as the B-Side for Ringo’s favourite Beatles song, the best they ever created, ‘Rain’.
The track really does showcase the band on their A-game with a bass masterclass from Paul McCartney and a vocal performance of the highest calibre from John Lennon. To keep the experimentation going, the song even featured backwards vocals topped off with a rousing drumming performance from Ringo that creates a beautifully mesmerising result.
In Many Years From Now, the biography of McCartney, Ringo made the revelation to author Barry Miles stating it was his favourite recording of anything he’s played during the entirety of his career: “I feel as though that was someone else playing,” he said. “I was possessed!” It’s a remarkable idea and one which sees Ringo perhaps at his peak, delivering a drum pattern and style that is utterly unique and totally Ringo.
He then went on to detail what exactly he loved about it: “I was into the snare and hi-hat. I think it was the first time I used this trick of starting a break by hitting the hi-hat first instead of going directly to a drum off the hi-hat,” Ringo said. “I think it’s the best out of all the records I’ve ever made.”
Speaking about writing the song, especially the use of backwards taping, John Lennon said of the track around the time, “After we’d done the session on that particular song — it ended at about four or five in the morning — I went home with a tape to see what else you could do with it. And I was sort of very tired, you know, not knowing what I was doing, and I just happened to put it on my own tape recorder and it came out backwards. And I liked it better,” concludes the singer, “So that’s how it happened.”
Lennon also discussed the track with Playboy’s David Sheff in 1980 and how it was all a happy accident: “I got home from the studio and I was stoned out of my mind on marijuana and I listened to what I’d recorded that day. Somehow I got it on backwards and I sat there, transfixed. That one was the gift of God, of Jah, actually, the god of marijuana, right? So Jah gave me that one.”
‘Rain’ is a perfect encapsulation of The Beatles at their creative best, a time when they are not being overproduced which is exactly the direction that John Lennon would have loved the band to travel down more often. Listen to the track, below.