It all started with Ringo
I recently saw Ringo Starr’s first purchased 1963 “Ludwig” Beatles drum set at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Play It Loud” exhibit. It took me back to 1964, watching the American debut of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan TV show as a 5-year-old, who had been tormented by hearing rhythm in just about any sound I heard. I constantly beat rhythms out on every surface available, and on my lousy semi-toy kids’ drum kit.
Well, I was blown away by the look, the sound, the songs, the vocals, and the overall look and exuberance of that group. But, I was especially taken by Ringo and his drumming; joyful, steady, and he was driving that band with great control. When the TV camera moved in for his closeup, it almost felt like he was somehow communicating directly to me that I could somehow free myself from my humdrum childhood existence, just by playing drums. (LOL)
He instantly became my first drum teacher, and I learned to put together basic pop/rock drum beats through listening to his drumming on those early Beatles records. But, it wasn’t all basic playing. He added a lot of clever and interesting touches and maneuvers on the drums that were mostly overlooked and taken for granted, that further enhanced the songs of the Beatles. Above all, Ringo was always a dependable, rock solid timekeeper, in those old days, where there were no click tracks to rely upon.
Over the years, I have heard many drummers put Ringo’s drumming down; however, he never professed to be super technical on the drums, plus his heyday was long ago, even though he still plays great today, in his late 70’s. One can take drums as far as they want, and I’m not against technicality, but there’s something to be said for a simpler approach, “playing for the song” and creating a great “feel” on the drums, and communicating musically, while propelling a band. I believe Ringo consistently played this way in the Beatles, and is worthy of being recognized as one of the great early pop/rock drum pioneers.