There is no doubting Quincy Jones’ extraordinary talents. After all, his work behind the production desk speaks for itself and has received a staggering 80 Grammy nominations, as well as masterminding countless hit records. Jones walks on musical water to the degree that nobody will dare question his outspoken opinion, but his derisory comments on The Beatles crossed a hallowed line for many, even if it wasn’t the first time.
It’s a tiresome myth that Ringo Starr was supposedly not the best drummer in The Beatles’, something John Lennon allegedly said during the band’s heyday. However, a quick search on Google, and you’ll soon learn that Lennon never uttered those famous words about the percussionist. The joke first circulated on a comedy series on the BBC in 1981 and has since been accepted as truth by many, hampering Ringo’s reputation by making him a laughing stock.
In this regard, however, it wasn’t just Ringo who was on the receiving end of Jones’ barrage of abuse as he labelled The Fab Four as “the worst musicians in the world”. The super producer arranged the track, ‘Love Is a Many Splendoured Thing’ for Starr’s 1970 debut solo album Sentimental Journey but seemingly held no affection for the band. The experience is one that Jones remembers vividly, albeit for the wrong reasons.
“They were the worst musicians in the world,” he said on The Beatles in 2018 to the New Yorker. “They were no-playing motherfuckers. Paul was the worst bass player I ever heard. And Ringo? Don’t even talk about it.”
Jones then touched on that infamous session with Ringo that drove him up the wall. “I remember once we were in the studio with George Martin, and Ringo had taken three hours for a four-bar thing he was trying to fix on a song,” the producer recalled. “He couldn’t get it. We said, ‘Mate, why don’t you get some lager and lime, some shepherd’s pie, and take an hour-and-a-half and relax a little bit.’
“So he did, and we called Ronnie Verrell, a jazz drummer. Ronnie came in for 15 minutes and tore it up. Ringo comes back and says, ‘George, can you play it back for me one more time?’ So George did, and Ringo says, ‘That didn’t sound so bad.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, motherfucker, because it ain’t you.’ — Great guy, though.”
These comments by Jones would have struck a nerve with almost every artist on the planet, to have such a producing talent comment so vehemently on your ability. However, when you’ve achieved what Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr have done, then it’s maybe a little harder to take it to heart.
After the comments went to print, they soon circulated everywhere and battle lines were drawn — Jones was at a crossroads. He had the choice to stand by his remarks or awkwardly try to explain himself to Paul McCartney on the phone. “So he rang me, and I’m at home on my own,” McCartney recalled to GQ in 2018. “And I’d finished work, so I had a drink, and now I’m grooving at home, I’m cooking, I’ve got a little bit of wine going, I’m in a good mood, and I don’t give a shit. So I get a phone call: ‘Is this Mr McCartney?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Quincy would like to speak with you.’ Because he’s always worked through security guys.”
Macca continued: “I said, ‘Hey, Quince!’ ‘Paul, how you doing, man?’ ‘I’m doing great – how are you, you motherfucker!’ I’m just jiving with him.” Son Jones was stating his case for misrepresentation: “‘Paul, I didn’t really say that thing – I don’t know what happened, man. I never said that. You know I love you guys!’
“I said, ‘If you had said that, you know what I would have said? Fuck you, Quincy Jones!’ And he laughed. I said, ‘You know I would say to that: Fuck you, Quincy Jones, you fucking crazy motherfucker!’ So actually we just had a laugh. And he was like, ‘Oh, Paul, you know I love you so much.’ ‘Yeah, I know you do, Quince.'”
McCartney’s refusal to replicate his love for Jones precisely explains his true feelings about the non-apology. It suggests Macca didn’t believe the claim that the publication had stitched Jones up but remained cooly nonchalant about the whole situation anyway. He was, after all, a Beatle.
Quincy Jones has worked alongside some of the most talented musicians who have ever graced the earth. He’s likely worked with musicians who technically possess more ability than The Beatles, in fact, it’s probably a certainty. But calling them, or any band as successful, the “worst musicians in the world” is utterly laughable. Paul McCartney was on the right track when he poetically said, “Quincy Jones, you fucking crazy motherfucker!'”