1. He was the first drummer to use a drum-riser on TV; sales of sticks and kits went up about 400% the next day after his appearance on Ed Sullivan.
3. Ringo’s malapropisms, wit and rejoinders. He gave us the lines that fed into Eight Days A Week, A Hard Day’s Night and many more besides.
5. He called one of his solo albums, Time Takes Time
6. He never plays the bass-drum during his fills.
8. He was the funniest and best actor of all The Beatles in their movies.
9. He was in the brilliant satire, The Magic Christian
10. He was a poorly child from the war years, an only child from a broken home. He was a survivor.
11. He’s a band guy, through and through: “I’ve never been able to sit round on my own and play drums, practice in the back room, never been able to. I’ve always played with other musicians. It’s how I play, there’s no joy for me in playing on my own, bashing away. I need a bass, a piano, guitar, whatever, and then I can play”.
12. His insanely brilliant, upbeat, infectious pop drumming on so many things but for the intro tom fill to She Loves You alone!
13. He released the first solo album of conventional music after The Beatles broke-up – and its brilliant!
14. Both Sentimental Journey (above) and Beaucoups of Blues were released in 1970; both are brilliant covers collections and hint strongly that Ringo-the-Crooner was utterly a thing. He knew his way around a song, whether behind the kit or in front of the mic. His thing was always about communicating a song, celebrating it without ever getting in the way of it.
15. He was the first Beatle to quit the group.
16. He wasn’t just the pacemaker he was the peacemaker.
17. How Ringo takes the straight 4/4 feel of I Feel Fine and injects bits of mambo, and an obvious nod to Ray Charles’ What’d I Say.
19. Directing the movie Born To Boogie about his mate Marc Bolan and T.Rex. He appears in the film too – but it couldn’t have happened with Ringo.
20. He was the narrator for the Harry Nilsson film, The Point!
21. The way Ringo opens up the kit bit by bit on Strawberry Fields Forever, it’s a clever and complex song and he adds to the layers with his drumming. He’s like a painter.
22. His friendship with George was special – even when George was a bit shit to him at times.
23. He was a leftie playing on a right hander kit so he’d cross his hands over and lead with his left when playing fills, that rolling, tumbling feel that is all his own is because of things like this.
24. Part of the magic of A Day In The Life’s separate sequences – its two distinct parts by its two distinct writers – is in the way Ringo treats them as totally different songs and plays them with different feels; not only that he plays them with feels that specifically suit those moments and speak to the style of the writer. So it’s all impressionistic and percussive but time-free for John’s main part. Then it’s abrupt, strict, time-keeping for Paul’s jaunty little pop-rock end-piece.
25. He used towels on his drum skins. He was always thinking about ways to control and manipulate a distinctive feel.
26. Everything he does with Come Together – from triplet feels that dance across hi-hats and toms to just straight quarter notes on a floor tom.
27. In 1977 he lends his voice to the album for kids, Scouse The Mouse
28. This video of the “World’s Greatest Drummers” all trying to play like Ringo on a Ringo Kit is endearing. And insightful. And lovely. But none of them can actually cop his feel.
29. He was the first Beatle to appear as himself in an episode of The Simpsons. All the surviving Beatles would get there eventually. All the episodes they’re in are great. But Ringo was first. Season Two.
30. Watch interviews of The Beatles and Ringo was often the funniest, always the most natural.
31. The Ringo Starr All-Starr Band is the longest-running Beatles-associated project featuring someone from the band. Say what you want about being some sort of tribute to yourself but Ringo does it to spread joy and to have fun himself; he’s created lasting roles for footnote players and forgotten heroes – the rollcall of players that are in or have passed through the All-Starr Band is phenomenal.
32. Go back and check out Rory Storm And The Hurricanes – they were kickass, a proto-punk band and one of the top pop groups in England. Ringo knew what he was doing when he left them to join The Beatles. Expert instinct.
33. That he went most of his career without ever wishing to record any sort of drum solo is a big deal – and an important lesson for beginning drummers and drum fans of all ages and whatever stages.
34. Go and listen to his work on Please Mr Postman – a throwaway cover in the scheme of Beatles songs; he’s like the backing vocalists and an orchestra beneath the band all in one.
35. I talked to Ian Paice of Deep Purple. He said you could name any flash or big-name player from that era, and he dropped the likes of Mitch Mitchell, Keith Moon, Mick Fleetwood, John Bonham and of course himself. He said, “We all loved Ringo. We all think Ringo is amazing”
36. Listen to the tracks from Live at the BBC or any of the really early stuff – and the live cuts in particular – often there are just no drum fills at all, for minutes on end, even during a whole song. He knows it’s not needed. He knows he has to cut through. He knows showing off gets you lost and buries the song.
37. Honey Don’t is one of many examples of how Ringo was such a great country/rockabilly singer. Or could have been.
38. Act Naturally is another of many examples of how Ringo was such a great country/rockabilly singer. Or could have been.
39. I haven’t ever met or interviewed Ringo Starr. And that won’t happen. But I got to sit and chat with Greg Bissonette who has met and plays in the band now with Ringo Starr and is a total Ringo Starr disciple (he saw The Beatles when he was about 8 years old and has been a fan ever since). And we talked about Ringo Starr!
40. That goofy-foot, wrong-handed, motherfucking octopus voodoo witchery shit opening drum fill to Drive My Car, yo!
41. Ringo is part of the “Supergroup” that played on George Harrison’s Cloud Nine in 1987. And that’s a mighty fine album.
42. In case I never mentioned that Ringo could have been a great country/rockabilly singer then What Goes On is (yet) another example.
43. Thomas The Motherfucking Tank Engine!
44. Good Day Sunshine is a masterclass in musical empathy. Support. He brings the song up. Helps to introduce it. Then just hides back and holds the light on it.
45. Don’t think Ringo was funky? There are many examples of it – but how about two of the greatest sample-heavy albums of all time – for me at least – are Paul’s Boutique by The Beastie Boys and The Grey Album by Danger Mouse. Both couldn’t exist without Ringo.
46. Plastic Ono Band is the greatest solo album by any Beatle (and y’all know what a Paul McCartney fan I am). And Ringo is the drummer. And Plastic Ono Band features some of his most ferocious and most thoughtful playing. Sometimes in the same song.
47. Photograph is such a great song. One of the best post-Beatle singles from any of the band. And it’s just so quintessentially Ringo.
48. The times when you saw Ringo singing and playing drums live he was cool-af. That beard was killer-good too!
49. Back in 1964 Ringo plays the drums on It’s You by Alma Cogan. GOOD SONG!
50. Doris Troy’s self-titled album (Doris Troy) was produced by George Harrison. Ringo is the drummer and he co-wrote a couple of tunes. It’s a fucking classic album. Just a snotty, gritty, funk-soul/psych-rock masterpiece. And Ringo is good on there. As good as he ever was in some ways. It’s certainly some of his best pure rock drumming. With further proof he could be funky.
51. The cymbals – and the drum fills – on She Said She Said. Doesn’t often get mentioned in all the great Beatles drum takes – so I wanted to mention it. Brilliant playing.
52. As the band got more experimental with Sgt. Peppers – working for the studio, giving up live, Ringo started to explore things like conga drums, tambourines, tubular bells, maracas and handclaps. He always thought like a percussionist but he was so often confined to just the kit. He starts dabbling with piano – and adds some harmonica here too. He’s getting out the guitar in his spare time. He’s taking it seriously, the idea of being more musical in his approach. He was already one of the world’s most musical drummers in his approach.
53. There are many great examples of how Ringo was a superb blues/RnB drummer. He was on albums by B.B. King and Howlin’ Wolf, Doris Troy and Bobby Keys. Here he is playing Hurtsome Body by Leon Russell.
56. Blue Jay Way is another great drum performance from Ringo that barely ever gets mentioned – since there are so many. I said before that George was a bit of a shit to Ringo – and he was – but they also looked out for one another. George wrote a few songs for Ringo. He created a few spots for him to shine. Ringo turned up on several of George’s albums.
57. Speaking of George doing the work with – and for – Ringo. He basically gave him the song, It Don’t Come Easy. It’s probably the best solo song by Ringo Starr. Certainly a shining highlight of his early solo career eh.
58. Ringo was often the highlight – or at least a happy, smiling face – as talking head in so many great rock docos and music movies. There he is in The Kids Are Alright, and The Last Waltz, he directs Born To Boogie (as mentioned already), he’s in cult madness (200 Motels and shlocky nonsense (Lisztomania). He even turns up, out of loyalty to Macca, and mugs about when nothing is happening at all in Give My Regards To Broad Street.
59. I’ll go in to bat for Don’t Pass Me By. I like it. I like its country/carnival arrangement and feel; I like Ringo’s lead vocal, the splashy drum fills – that big sound. I like that Ringo sat on this song for half a decade, like it might be something. Rumour is McCartney mocked him about it as early as 1964. Like Macca himself hasn’t written lyrics as twee as “Don’t pass me by, don’t make me cry”. Good on ya, Ringo. You stuck to your guns. You waited. You didn’t want to let the moment pass you by.
60. Hey Jude is another song that’s not often mentioned as one of the great drum tracks. I reckon it is. Listen to it again and focus on Ringo’s tambourine playing. He basically switches the roles here. His drum-kit work is like a percussionist adding colour (it’s sublime of course). And his tambourine playing is like a steady-as-all-fuck ride cymbal. It’s the real ‘drums’ of the song.
61. The Abbey Road medley is one of The Beatle’s great triumphs, one of Paul’s great triumphs of course. But also, it’s one of Ringo’s great triumphs. He knew it. You know it. It’s true.
63. Ringo’s 1978 TV special called “Ringo” features him in two rolls, as himself, and as Ognir Rrats, a poor-man’s lookalike version. The 45-minute ‘film’ is narrated by George Harrison. It’s fucking weird. And a bit fucking silly. And fucking great!
64. The Ringo Starr drumkit is all you need. There are replicas galore. I’d love to get one, or make one. It has all the components you need. I’ll never play like Ringo but I’d love to give it a try. I’d love to have the exact components of a kit like his and no more besides.
65. “Before Ringo, drum stars were measured by their soloing ability and virtuosity. Ringo’s popularity brought forth a new paradigm in how the public saw drummers. We started to see the drummer as an equal participant in the compositional aspect. One of Ringo’s great qualities was that he composed unique, stylistic drum parts for the Beatles’ songs. His parts are so signature to the songs that you can listen to a Ringo drum part without the rest of the music and still identify the song”. – Steve Smith.
66. Ringo’s book, Postcards From The Boys is more proof that he was a fan of the guys he worked with; he was their friend too. He valued the friendship – he cared about the camaraderie.
67. Ringo’s book, Photograph, shares even more memories and shows Ringo took a good photo too, on either side of the camera.
68. All three of the other Beatles wrote songs for Ringo to sing – they also wrote songs for his solo albums.
69. Ringo turned up to play on tunes by all three of The Beatles across their solo albums.
70. Ringo’s third solo album, Ringo, is bloody good!
71. In his drinking days Ringo kept some pretty amazing company – the whole Hollywood Vampires thing, sure – but he was super tight with Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson among others. He couldn’t help save them. And they couldn’t save themselves. I’m not condoning such hedonistic drinking – but man they must have had some parties.
72. Ringo’s sobriety is one hell of a success story, an inspiration. And his now brother-in-law Joe Walsh credits Ringo with helping to keep him sober. Remarkable given the way they both used to live.
74. Ringo had great taste in other drummers. He used a lot of great drummers on his solo records – he always said his favourite drummer was Jim Keltner. And that’s a correct answer right there!
75. Back Off Boogaloo is a pretty good solo Ringo tune too. Really good actually.
76. He was the first drummer I knew. The first name. My first favourite drummer.
77. When John Lennon died Ringo jumped on a plane to go and see Yoko Ono. He just figured he had to see her, comfort her, be there.
78. People love dropping out that nonsense yarn that John Lennon said Ringo wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles. It’s a bit by comedian Jasper Carrott. He said it in 1983. Lennon wasn’t around to defend himself nor Ringo – but it’s really a dig at Lennon rather than Ringo. And, for the record, in the months before he died, Lennon had this to say about the best drummer in the Beatles:
“Ringo was a star in his own right in Liverpool before we even met. Ringo was a professional drummer who sang and performed and was in one of the top groups in Britain, but especially in Liverpool. So Ringo’s talent would have come out one way or the other … whatever that spark is in Ringo, we all know it but can’t put our finger on it. Whether it’s acting, drumming, or singing, I don’t know. There’s something in him that is projectable and he would have surfaced as an individual … Ringo is a damn good drummer.”
79. That bit – it cuts me up a bit every time – when Paul and George and Ringo are sitting around in their 50s reminiscing about The Beatles for The Anthology series. And Paul and George are on the ukes. And Ringo’s just slapping his jeaned-up thighs on the grass, tapping along and crooning a bit (as always he doesn’t want to get in the way, just wants to help to make it happen, and wants to be there). And they’re talking about getting together some time again and about how it was nice to get together to play some music, that sort of thing. And Ringo says that he just likes hanging out with his mates. He says he misses them. He says he likes being around them. You get the feeling he was the only Beatle that ever truly felt like that.
80. The End!