Just as invariably, the person making that claim will be a less than accomplished musician himself (and let’s face it, it’s mostly guys).
I used to just laugh and change the subject, but lately all this continued Ringo bashing has started to bother me. Now, whenever I can, I take the opportunity to defend Ringo’s drumming honor (not that he needs my help), and try to enlighten those who are so misinformed.
I own a Drum Shop. I was a road rep for LP/Noble & Cooley/Zildjian/Pearl for 17 years. I’ve been a drummer all my life – in fact, roughly since February 9, 1964. It’s really all I’ve ever done: play and sell drums. I’ve conducted or hosted clinics with many of the world’s top drummers. I’ve had them in my car driving between cities, had meals with them, gotten drunk with many of them, stood in the wings during literally hundreds of performances.
Without exception, everyone who is anyone in the drumming world admires Ringo. Strike that; they WORSHIP Ringo. As well they should.
First, what constitutes a good drummer? I humbly submit, in order of importance:
· *Good time. Clearly this has to be at the top of the list
· *Ability to follow musical direction, and play what’s called for, both explicitly by the song-writer and implicitly by the musical muses
· *Technical ability commensurate with the musical style
So where was Ringo lacking? NOWHERE!
Ringo’s time with the Beatles was impeccable. Remember; all the Beatle recordings were done years before studio click tracks. Ringo WAS the click track. They would often play hundreds of takes of a song – doing it all day long. Ringo’s time was such that George Martin could splice together different versions, and no one was the wiser. Could you do that without a click? Could you have done it when you were 23-years-old?
Did someone say “Play for the song?” Ringo OWNS that concept. Honestly, if you’re one of those people who call his drumming “simplistic,” would you change ONE NOTE?? Which ones? Why? Ringo’s drum parts – never mind if he was directed by Paul or John, or George Martin – were always perfect for the song. He played the part, and it was right. Often dozens of times in a row. Again, would you change anything?
Okay, Ringo is not the most technically gifted drummer in the universe. So? Neither is Steve Jordan, and he gets plenty of work (and he’s a HUGE Ringo fan, just ask him). Are there drummers faster than Ringo? Sure, hundreds of them in any city in the world. Same with Steve Jordan, or Steve Gadd, or Steve Ferrone (but maybe not Steve Smith). Again, is there just ONE instance of a drum part in a Beatles song that you would change? Precisely where do Ringo’s technical limitations hinder the final result? What good would Vinnie-like chops have done the Beatles?
Like many others, I’ve poured over all the Beatles’ recordings. There are clams galore, especially in the earlier records. John sings the wrong word and fouls up the chords, Paul sings wrong words (though I’ve found very few errors on bass), and George plays wrong notes or even wrong chords. But Ringo? You can’t find one clam in all those drum parts. Not one. If you know of any, please point them out. Be specific.
And again, I’ll go back to all those hours of live footage. You might be able to find a Ringo mistake, but they are rare – much rarer that those of the other three lads.
Yet Ringo still takes all the “luckiest drummer on Earth” guff. With the exception of Paul, none of them was virtuosic in any respect. No one ever says George wasn’t a very good lead guitar player. But if you listen to his early leads, he wasn’t exactly stellar (granted, he improved a lot over their reign). Ringo was doing a better job musically out of the gate.
I can understand if someone doesn’t care for the Beatles. Everyone is different and has different tastes. But you cannot deny the impact they had on the musical world – the ENTIRE musical world. And to deny Ringo’s crucial part in that is downright ignorant, and displays a fundamental, willful misunderstanding of what makes music magical -- completely missing the point of music as art, not a competition. To bash Ringo demonstrates no understanding of the fact that when the magic happens, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The Beatles are music’s most shining example of that (though others abound). Plug in any other drummer into the Beatles, and the magic wouldn’t have happened.
Don’t get me started on Bernard Purdie…