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The Importance of Being Ringo.


"From this..."

History has reserved its own penthouse for The Beatles; and rightly so. From the moment drummer for hire Ringo Starr replaced Pete Best as permanent stick-man in 1962, till the infamous breakup of 1970, the fab four crafted the bar of popular music to a level still unprecedented, four decades later. They also achieved this without any changes in personnel; a rarity in the inconsistent, fame and finance driven world, of an industry loaded with sharks and scumbags.

Of the four members, Songwriters and guitarists Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison, are justifiably credited as a trifecta of musical genius. Trouble is, the Beatles were a perfect square, and not a triangle. And sitting in an ignored corner of the square, sits a man often deemed unworthy of even being mentioned in the same breath as the others; when it comes to his contribution to rock/pop folklore. In this case, the unwanted honour belongs to drummer Ringo Starr; consider by many one of the luckiest journeymen in history, living off the talents of others.

These claims however, neglect the elements necessary for a perfect square to function; in that it is imperative each side balances out the other three. In the case of the Beatles, the square of Ringo deserves recognition, so I have decided to explain how I feel his contribution is represented, and the dominant portion of each members personality, which – Ringo included, helped turn a group of young Liverpudlian pop-pickers into the finest collection of 20th century Mozarts since, well, 18th century Mozart. 

John Lennon: The Brain
The group’s core thinker – and to some degree it’s social conscience, Lennon was as chaotic as he was creative; untouchable at his best, and uncontrollable at his worst. Possessing an invaluable ability to take the group's artistic direction to places the soul and spirit may have questioned; rightly or wrongly, without his level of thinking, the band may have still been knocking out twelve-bar pop-ballads, deep into the 1970's. While a highly intelligent set of individuals, his brain was far too curious, to be anything less than the dominant mind of the Beatles.

Paul McCartney: The Soul
The supposed William Campbell is often viewed as the hard-headed businessman and shrewd operator of the group. But under this banner, his passion for music is easy to forget. Without his soul, the desire to record material of the highest calibre throughout Beatlemania, may easily have dropped; leaving sub-standard rehashes of Love Me Do, or drifting into marginalised Radiohead territory, of music accepted by hardcore fans but hardly anybody else. When the brain rested and the spirit pondered, the soul continued to flourish
. McCartney is also the most commercially successful post-Beatle Beatle; releasing 24 studio albums, and still touring to this day. Even in his sixties he is still an awesome live act, by the way.

"...to this"
George Harrison – The Spirit
With two ruthlessly ambitious characters at the helm; both of whom openly sought and embraced fame, the Beatles needed a calmer, more peaceful personality interjected between the two. This was George Harrison; a man who carried the essence of a quiet, strong, and deceptively talented individual. His wisdom of peace perfectly offset the aggression of desire, and when times became heated within the unit, his internal calm would have proved vital in keeping feet on the ground, and ideology together. Not only this, his discipline made him an excellent guitarist, and in my view, grew the best facial hair.

Ringo Starr – The Heart
Which brings me to Richard Starkey. In every corner of a square – especially one functioning inside the eye of the fiercest media hurricane of an entire generation, there has to be one member consistent in their easy going nature. While brains are capricious, souls are wild, and spirits forever attempting to reach higher pains of the concious, the heart is the vessel which beats at a regular, comforting rhythm; this was Ringo. Humble, humorous, and professional, he was the perfect antidote for keeping flailing egos in check, never falling behind the others, and never getting ahead of himself. 

Had he been an attention seeking, Keith Moon type; jumping over the flares during a rendition of Day Tripper, he'd have fallen out with Lennon pretty fast. A delusions of grandeur Phil Collins; demanding a twenty-minute drum-solo on Rubber Soul? McCartney's boot is kicking him out instead. Ringo knew his fortune in being a Beatle, as much as the others knew his value in keeping them together; and both were respected. He is - in football terms, the undervalued holding midfielder of the music world; who you only notice is gone, when replaced by a less selfless personality. Not only was he the heart of the square, he was a well-meaning, priceless one at that.

Ultimately, all four members possessed a brain, a soul, a spirit and a heart, and to a degree, each would have come into play during the bands formative years. Yet without the consistent beating heart of Ringo Starr, and his self-contained strength inside a grounded personality? While we cannot know for certain whether the Beatles would have worked without his rhythm, there is without a shadow of doubt that with it, they sure did. Every long journey needs a heart to keep the vessel pumping oxygen; which is a tremendous talent of it's own accord. It wasn't luck which made Ringo the most recognizable drummer in history; it was fate. He was and still is, a vastly underrated stick-man.

Though it doesn't make me want to listen to Yellow Submarine, I must admit...

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6 comments:

Kate Morrison said...

Ringo definitely underrated by many who don't know much about the Beatles and know just the "typical story" that the press has generated typecasting each individual. I get what your saying Lee but doesn't the article above generate more of the same? Each person involved in the group had a set of individual qualities pertinent to the make up of the group but also to the individual. We are all more and less than how we appear to others. I saw Ringo in Christchurch in concert last year. Great humour, great show. He appeared to me to be a great guy - loved by the people he was working with. Also to me a better singer than credited by many. Lately I have read quite a few articles about his skill as a stick man. My view - maybe he was the oil that greased the squeaky wheels!

Lee Gunnell said...

Hi Kate. To a degree I am adhering to a type, and of course we are all complicated beings; and more than just a brain, or a soul, and so forth. But I believe in all groups each member has a dominant side within that framework, and this in my view where the fab four are concerned. Though in reality no one would truly know beyond the four themselves; and maybe a few close to them. Ringo's role is very undervalued, and I love your oil analogy! Thanks for reading and replying. I have a Facebook page, if you care to give me a 'Like'. :-)

Tillerman said...

Brilliant! One of the best explanations of the reasons for the success of the group and the unique contributions of each member that I have ever read. I think you have hit the nail on the head!

Anonymous said...

drumming is the glue that holds bands together

Lee Gunnell said...

Thank you Tillerman; I try my best. Glad you liked the article. :-)

Philip Murray said...

I believe Ringo is the only drummer that could handle the intricate fills and style the the band had to offer. He, to me is the best stick man I've ever heard. One can only copy his style, not his knowledge or expertise in making the Beatles sound as good as it is. I've heard a lot of people say "Well it sounds so easy" To me that means he is so good. You've got huge ego's in the room which want the best out of everyone, Ringo delivered every time.