Is Ringo Starr a Good Drummer?

I’m tired of arguing the point. Ringo Starr was great, end of story. Sure, he wasn’t as flashy as Ginger Baker or Keith Moon and doesn’t have the technical aptitude of Neil Pert but, geez, the guy could play and was able to masterfully blend a drum arrangement into the song as opposed to simply laying down the back beat. The true mark, for me, is if you can cover a Beatles tune without lifting some of Ringo’s licks. Can you play Something with out copying his drums? How about Strawberry Fields? There are certain fills and grooves that have become as important to the song as the melody and without these specific fills, the song sounds incomplete.

While wasting considerable time on YouTube, I found a guy who records faithful covers of Ringo Starr’s drum parts. I have the transcriptions to every Beatles song ever recorded and can tell you that these recordings are note for note what Ringo is playing. To state my case one final time, I’d like you to watch these videos (since most of these tunes were recorded in the studio without a webcam) and tell me that Ringo didn’t have it going on. Was he the best drummer in the world? Not hardly. But was he the perfect compliment to the songs written by three of the greatest songwriters of the past 50 years? Absolutely. These songs in the hands of another drummer would be drastically different and be missing The Beatles sound, which I attribute to the playing of Ringo and Harrison more than the songwriting of Lennon and McCartney. Oh, and did I mention that he had perfect time? If you listen to several takes of the same song, you’ll hear no rhythmic shift in tempo between takes which helped George Martin (their producer) splice together different takes with eases. Enjoy these.

The first one I’m posting is, for me, the most important of his tracks. Ringo always cites Rain as his best drum work but, for me, it doesn’t get better than I Feel Fine. Opening up with the latin drum beat and a crazy fast right hand ride pattern and then jumping into a straight rock groove with such precision is pretty awesome.

The next song, She Said She Said was recorded around the same time as Rain (Ringo’s self-proclaimed finest work) and features some of the most creative rock fills to date. It’s pretty easy to see why so many drummers cite Ringo as an influence here.

I never noticed how good the drumming on Please Please Me was until Beatles Rock Band came out and I was forced to focus on it. Sure, it’s a simple rock beat now but, for its time, this was some inventive drumming. This is Ringo writing the book on how to drum in rock bands for the next three years until he rewrote it again on Revolver.

I suppose I should include Rain, since he spoke so highly of it. It’s great, the song is great but it’s not my favorite by a long shot.

And, finally, I present the epitome of “Playing to the song”, Strawberry Fields. There are so many iconic moments in this song and if you were to record your own version, you’d have to include a lot of the accents and fills that Ringo plays or it’s not going to sound like the same song. He leaves space for John’s vocal and loses his mind on some of those fills and when the song grooves, it grooves hard, especially considering that this is something of a soft ballad. Obviously, there are some studio tricks, over dubs and reverse tracking on this song that can’t be replicated live but the meat and potatoes of Ringo’s part is presented here, including the fade out.

Now that you’ve wasted some time here, leave me your comments as to why you disagree. I will assume that a lack of commenting is a blanket approval for everything I have stated here today. Thank you.