Ringo Starr was always an underappreciated cog in The Beatles’ machine, and he was the special ingredient that made The Fab Four tick. Whilst he often was the butt of many jokes, Starr’s career is undoubtedly the stuff of legend. The Beatles just wouldn’t have been the same without him being the presence that glued the mercurial talent of George Harrison, Paul McCartney and John Lennon together.
Since The Beatles split in 1970, Starr has forged himself a prolific solo career, and it is still thriving now; he released his 20th studio album, What’s My Name, in 2019 and a new EP pencilled in for this spring. In 1990, the former Beatles drummer created Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, a supergroup with an ever-changing line-up usually led by Starr. This band has been the perfect vehicle for Starr to throw himself into and the love he still has for making music is tangible.
The same love he has for still creating music still exists for listening to music, and it plays an integral part in the life of Ringo Starr. “I love music,” Starr said to ABC News back in 2009. “You know, people say, ‘Your top 10.’ I don’t have a top 10, I have a top thousand or 2,000. Music has meant a lot, you know.” In the same feature, the former Beatles drummer gave the low-down on what he is currently listening to and this relies heavily on music that influenced The Beatles, which still means the world to him all these decades later.
The first track he spoke about was Elvis Presley’s hit ‘Don’t Be Cruel’. The track is one that Starr has a fond memory attached to back from his pre-Beatles days. “I was working in this factory and I took this girl to the movies because I had no money,” he said. “The only seats left were two in the front, and we’re in the front row and, haha, [I was] trying to impress her in the front row. She worked in the office of the factory I worked in, and, anyway, the date didn’t go well. And I snuck up into her office, and on the dictaphone I recorded ‘Don’t Be Cruel.’ So that’s an important song. And Elvis was the best, Elvis the King.”
‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ by Little Richard is another track with a special place in his heart, and the artist is one that The Beatles famously covered during the early days of their career. “Little Richard and his band was so great,” Starr said.” Little Richard was sensational. And the power of it, when you’re a kid in Liverpool, of this guy in a band, and he was so just like, ‘Whooo,’ so strong. And it was great. The whole thing about Little Richard was great. And rock ‘n’ roll is so important to me, and he is certainly an icon of rock ‘n’ roll. He’d probably say, ‘the icon.'”
It has been debated for years that the first meeting between The Beatles and Dylan impacted the way Lennon and McCartney went about their songwriting. On the flip side, others argued that this conversation played a significant and pivotal role in Dylan’s decision to ditch the acoustic guitar and somewhat controversially move to electric. Ringo’s words of adoration towards Dylan confirm that he was head over heels for the bohemian singer-songwriter when he burst on to the scene.
Speaking about the song, ‘When The Deal Goes Down’, Starr commented: “You just got to love Bob,” Starr said. “My old-time favourite lately is ‘When The Deal Goes Down,’ and it’s just a beautiful love song. It’s this beautiful love song, he’s very romantic in a lot of songs, everyone listens to his wacky dream stuff, which is great. He moves me on that record.
“That’s why I like it. If it moves me, it’s the sentiment of the record and how he says it. But no one else can say it like that. We met him in the ’60s in New York. We just sort of bumped into him ever since. He’s just an incredible artist that is well-placed in the musical history of American music and world music, so I put Bob down because of all of that. You couldn’t do a list without mentioning Bob.”
Starr then picked Taylor Swift straight out of left-field and her track, ‘You Belong With Me’. “Taylor Swift. I love Taylor Swift, that’s just how I am,” Starr said. “I love her, and you know you can’t doubt the Black-Eyed Peas, that’s pretty powerful. But there’s hundreds of bands out there. You really can’t, I can’t hear them all. I didn’t [hear] all the acts in the ’60s or the ’50s, you know, you have to listen to what you listen to.”
Ringo also couldn’t help himself from naming one Beatles track and who can blame the man? The drummer namechecked ‘Rain’ as the one song by The Fab Four that has the most special place in his heart. “‘Rain’ is great, because the drums are weird on ‘Rain,’ and I felt I only played like that on ‘Rain.’ Then I went back to playing like I play. It was faster, no one else knows, they just say, ‘Oh, they’re playing that.’ But to me the drums, I felt, had another quality.
“I’ve never played like that since I don’t feel. I was asked the other day about naming an obscure Beatle track, and I was saying, ‘Are there any?’ I don’t know. That was the best band in the land, and I was part of it, and the other three were incredible musicians, and I think we had more than that, where we understood what we were all thinking when we were making it.”
Ringo’s music taste provides a glimpse of his personality and offers an insight into the music that helped him become one of the finest rock ‘n’ roll drummers. Whilst his music taste doesn’t offer up the most incredible surprises, apart from Taylor Swift’s admission, it does confirm that the music that first introduced him to rock ‘n’ roll a teenager still holds a special place in his soul.
Ringo Starr favourite songs:
- Elvis Presley – ‘Don’t Be Cruel’
- Little Richard – ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’
- Bob Dylan – ‘When The Deal Goes Down’
- Taylor Swift – ‘You Belong With Me’
- The Beatles – ‘Rain’