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Music

The first time Ringo Starr recorded with The Beatles

Ringo Starr didn’t officially join The Beatles until August of 1962 after the band had been performing in various forms for almost half a decade. But Starr was well-known to John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison: he was the drummer for fellow Liverpool rockers and rival Hamburg act Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. 

During the early 1960s, both bands were trading gigs in Hamburg. The Hurricanes were the bigger draw, getting more money and top billing whenever the two bands would play together. Part of what was holding The Beatles back was their rudimentary drummer, Pete Best. While Best’s looks were an asset, his drumming wasn’t as refined or skilled as Starr’s. Eventually, this would cause Starr to join The Beatles full time, but in Hamburg, it simply meant that Starr would occasionally sit in with The Beatles when Best was ill.

In October of 1960, Hurricanes bassist Lu Walters wanted to record the George Gershwin classic ‘Summertime’. To do so, he assembled a makeshift band of musicians who happened to be around the Kaiserkeller club. Those four musicians were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. The four joined Walters at the Akustic Studio in Hamburg to record the track, pressing the recording onto six copies of acetate.

“We also recorded with Lou Walters,” Harrison recalled in Anthology. “He was Rory Storm’s bass player. He was a guy who thought he was a singer. He paid to have the record made himself, as we had done in Liverpool with ‘That’ll Be The Day’.” The whereabouts of those six acetate records that represent the first time all four Beatles recorded together are unknown and thought to have been lost or destroyed.

Only a month after the recording session, Harrison was deported from Germany for being underage and playing in clubs without a work permit. Less than two weeks later, McCartney and Best were also deported for reportedly setting a condom on fire and being charged with arson. Lennon returned to Liverpool to reunite with his bandmates, but bassist Stuart Sutcliffe was more hesitant, wanting to stay in Germany to pursue his art career and marry his girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr. Sutcliffe would eventually leave The Beatles to do just that, forcing McCartney to take over on bass.

With the lack of any surviving audio of the sessions, instead here’s Paul McCartney performing ‘Summertime’ for the Russia-exclusive covers LP CHOBA B CCCP in 1988.