Beatles Week – THE Starr

We have two more posts and we will wrap this up Wednesday.

Here is my good friend Keith from giving some love to Ringo. Keith and I have emailed and talked on the phone for a few years now. I like asking him questions about his radio DJ days and life…Keith is a great guy. Go visit his site! 

The Starr of the Beatles

Keith 1

I was approached by my blogger buddy, Max, from the PowerPop Blog recently and asked to contribute something for his “Beatles Week” feature. In truth, it will probably go longer than a week as there are many talented writers participating with me. I think his original thought was to have each of us write about a favorite Beatles song, but then he allowed us to pursue something “Beatle themed.”

I think I have mentioned in the past that it would be extremely difficult for me to pick one favorite Beatles song. There are just too many great ones to choose from. I could spend hours talking about the fantastic harmonies of the group or the amazing songwriting contributions of Lennon and McCartney. I could also examine the way George Harrison’s guitar playing matured as the group got older. Instead, I chose to focus on the Beatle that I connected with as a young fan discovering the band – Ringo Starr.

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As a kid, I discovered the Beatles through their cartoon series (as well as albums that my dad had). While the boys didn’t voice the characters themselves, it featured many of their songs and put them in silly situations. Ringo always seemed to be the goofball and I guess I found him to be the funniest.

As I began to buy Beatles albums on my own, I often found that the “Ringo” cut of each album tended to really stand out as a favorite. Let me be clear, it is not that I disliked the other guys, the opposite was true. I loved them! However, the “Ringo” cut just really had a different sound to it.

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As many know, Ringo was not the original drummer for the band. Pete Best was the guy. The rumors were that he was pretty good looking and a fan favorite, so they got rid of him. How true that is, I don’t know. The boys recruited Ringo from another band (Rory Storm and the Hurricanes). Once the group got their recording contract and started sessions with George Martin, Ringo was dissed a bit. Martin felt that he was not a good enough drummer to do studio work. Eventually, Martin came around and not only was he in the recording sessions, he occasionally got to sing on a song or two.

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In total, Ringo Starr sang lead vocals on 11 Beatles songs. The first was “Boys,” which was a cover of a Shirelles song. The song was one that the Beatles had been playing in their live shows for some time. Pete Best used to sing it in shows. Ringo knew the song and had performed it many times with his previous group. When the band was in the studio cutting the 1963 album “Please Please Me” he sang it in one take.

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The group had been playing “Boys” for years before it was ever recorded. It was the only song that Ringo sang lead on and his loyal fans wanted to hear more. John, Paul, and George were getting tired of the song and when it was time to record their second album, Lennon and McCartney worked together to write a song for Ringo that would replace “Boys.” The song would be “I Wanna Be Your Man.”

Before they went into the studio, another British group approached Lennon and McCartney and asked if they had a song that they might record. They decided to give them “I Wanna Be Your Man.” That song became the first “hit” for Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones!

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Carl Perkins was responsible for Ringo’s next two vocal songs. First, was “Matchbox” which Perkins had a hit with in 1957. This song (and his next vocal) was responsible for the association of Ringo with rockabilly/country music. Word is that Perkins was in the studio while the Beatles recorded his songs.

For the 1964 album “Beatles For Sale,” Ringo contributed the lead vocal to Perkins’ “Honey Don’t.” Carl Perkins influenced a lot of Liverpool bands and Ringo was playing this one in his prior group before joining the Beatles. It was another song that Pete Best sang lead on in early live performances. John Lennon began singing it after Best left, but the band agreed that it was a perfect Ringo song for the album.

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Ringo had decided that he wanted to have a bit more input in the songs that he was to sing. During the recording sessions for “Help” in 1965, he came upon the Buck Owens song “Act Naturally.” He brought it to the band and said he felt it would be a great song for him. They all agreed and cut it. This would mark the first Beatles cover song that they had not already been playing at live shows.

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Ringo, while not best known for his song writing, did write a few for the band. By this time, John, Paul and George were all churning out songs. The three seemed to be doing everything and Ringo felt like he was being left out and maybe even someone who could easily be replaced. He went to the group and voiced his concerns. This led to his first song writing credit on a Beatles song. The song was What Goes On. The song was not all Ringo, as it was actually a song that John had originally written and Ringo tweaked and contributed to.

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Yellow Submarine appeared on the 1966 Revolver album. It was a big song for Ringo as it went to #1 in the UK and #2 in the US. In Alan Clayson’s book, “Ringo Starr: Straight Man or Joker,” he says that the song was “conceived as a song that would appeal primarily to children, while recalling the band’s roots in Liverpool.” The song was written mostly by Paul McCartney and it is said that Donovan also helped (while being uncredited).

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If you had to pick a “signature” song for Ringo, it would be “With a Little Help from My Friends.” The song is the second track on the Sgt. Pepper Album. The album itself was sort of a concept album where the band is playing … well, another band. In the album’s opening track, the character of Billy Shears is introduced. Even Ringo has stated that for the cut he is “taking on” the character of Shears to sing the song. The song was one that was written specifically for Ringo by John and Paul.

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Ringo’s next vocal feature was one that he wrote. “Don’t Pass Me By” was one that came to him while sitting at the piano. He claims to only know a few chords on the piano and guitar. He says that while he plays around, if a melody comes to him or some words, he just keeps playing around. This is supposedly how “Don’t Pass Me By” came to be. There is some confusion as to when exactly the song was written, and while it may have been written as early as 1964, it was never recorded and released until 1968 on the White Album.

Alan Clayson says in his book that Ringo had unknowingly plagiarized music from a Jerry Lee Lewis song. It was only when George Martin was experimenting with different effects and orchestration that the song was able to be released (now sounding very musically different from it’s original version).

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The song “Good Night” from the White Album was written by John Lennon. He wrote it for his five year old son, Julian. Lennon was very insistent that the song be sung by Ringo. What is interesting is that Ringo is the only Beatle who performs on the song. The music is provided by classical session musicians under the direction of producer George Martin.

Ringo’s last songwriting credit for the band appears on the 1969 album, Abbey Road. Many compare “Octopus’s Garden” to “Yellow Submarine.” Other’s compare it to an amazing and peaceful under-the sea world. This song, however, was written by Ringo at a time when things were less than peaceful with the group.

The story goes that Ringo was so angry that he walked out of a recording session because he was angry at Paul McCartney. Paul had reportedly been making comments about Ringo’s drumming, and so he left. He spent time relaxing on the Italian island of Sardinia. While there, he became fascinated by the ocean and sea life. This led to him writing the song.

When Ringo returned to the Abbey Road studios, he found that the rest of the band had decorated his drum set with flowers and found a gift from John, Paul and George as an apology. He showed the song to them and George Harrison worked with him to get the song ready to record.

After the Beatles broke up, each went on to have solo hits. Ringo enjoyed success with “Back off Boogaloo,” “Photograph,” “You’re Sixteen,” “The No No Song,” and “It Don’t Come Easy.” He continues to tour with his All-Starr Band and sells out venues.

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“Peace and Love” – Ringo Starr

Perhaps if world leaders, politicians, and people, in general, listened to Ringo, the world would be a better place.


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

26 thoughts on “Beatles Week – THE Starr”

  1. I like to see Ringo get some love. He is an excellent drummer and probably inspired more kids to pick up drum sticks than about anyone else. He doesn’t get enough credit at all. He played for the song…not for himself.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Good job Keith! Would be hard not to like Ringo! the more I listen to the Beatles as i get older, the more I realize he was a good, and thus under-rated drummer, he doesn’t deserve the dissing he seems to draw. And as Lisa suggested some time back in this feature he was the ‘flour’ of the Beatles cake, the foundation that kept it intact. He seems like a really affable guy everyone gets along with.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. What some people want is Moon-Bonham fills…they just won’t work in Beatles songs…no more than they would have worked with the Stones. Starr and Watts played for the song.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Great post! I’ve always liked Ringo too. In fact, “Photograph” was the Number One song in the US the week I was born, so it’s like my Starr sign. My wife always says that the Beatles broke up because John found someone he loved more than Ringo.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. lol…the only member John didn’t bash…was Ringo.
      Someone attributed the quote “Ringo wasn’t the best drummer in the world… Let’s face it, he wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles” but he never said that but it got into the public and a lot of people think that Lennon did.
      It’s finally been tracked down to a BBC comedy called Radio Active in Oct 1981 when it was first said…almost a year after John died.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I just watched the ridiculously over-long Peter Jackson documentary and there was more than once that McCartney seemed to think it was his band and at least two of those other three guys were his hired help – particularly telling Ringo how to drum and George how to play guitar.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Paul could be bossy…when Brian Epstein died it really started…but I’m different on the doc…I remember reading when I was 10 there was 56 hours of film…and yes…it’s sad but I would watch it all if I could.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Ringo has his critics about his drumming, he has more about his singing but nobody seems to have a bad word about Ringo. I’ve said it before, but people line up to play in his All Starr Band, and most just want to play WITH him. It’s not about exposure or showing off their talents, they just want to be there.
    Never knew the bit about Sardinia ‘and Octopus’s Garden.’ (PS I just recalled I painted an inside panel of my bedroom door with an ‘Octopus’s Garden’ tribute/inspired painting. At least Dad, when he eventually saw it, didn’t demand I paint over it. Most other Dads or art critics would have!)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ringo is a damn good drummer. I can’t imagine another drummer on their songs. I love Moon…but can you imagine Keith Moon or Ginger Baker on “In My Life?” He was the perfect drummer for them.
      For what you said…he has charisma to spare. Glad you paid tribute on a panel!

      Liked by 3 people

  6. One thing about Ringo is that he is STEADY, and both the drumming and the emotional balance in the band demanded Ringo be the great steadier between the other 3 creative genius egomaniacs. Keith this is a fantastic write-up on The Beatle I see as always having to stand in shadows to let the other guys shine. I had never compiled the # of songs Ringo sang and/or wrote. More than I would have thought. I think the last song is my favorite Ringo-written tune. I think all 4 of them have distinctive, beautiful voices that mesh so well together.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Nice take on the topic. When I was younger so much younger than today, I didn’t appreciate Ringo as much as I do today. To me, he’s the kind of guy I would want in my band. It’s never about him. It’s always about the band and in service of the song. The concept of Ringo’s All-Starr Band is a perfect illustration of his soul.

    Yes, I guess from a strictly technical standpoint, Ringo may not be the best drummer in the world, but his drum work for The Beatles definitely was quite distinct. You can recognize many Beatles tunes based on just their drum parts without any other music or vocals. Think about this for a moment, that’s pretty cool!

    In terms of tunes Ringo sang, my favorite cover is “Boys” while my favorite original is “Octopus’s Garden”. I also think “It Don’t Come Easy” is one of the best songs released by an ex-Beatle.

    Liked by 2 people

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