By Alan L. Chrisman
Ringo is being inducted into The Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame by Paul McCartney on April 18, 2015. He will be the fourth Beatle to be recognized there as his own solo artist, besides the Beatles as a group.
Ringo always was portrayed as the “everyman” in the group, often overshadowed by the giant song writing talents of John and Paul and later, George Harrison. Lennon-McCartney tailored certain songs just for Ringo to sing on Beatles’ albums like “Help from My Friends” and “Yellow Submarine.” Otherwise, he mainly sang covers of his favorite country heroes like “Act Naturally.”
But Ringo was the consistent drummer on all their albums. Ringo had replaced Pete Best just after they had gotten their record deal in 1962. Producer George Martin, as was common in those days, hired a session drummer to fill in for Ringo on the Beatles’ first single, “Love Me Do.” Ringo had actually been in a more popular Liverpool group than The Beatles at the time, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes, but he had sometimes played together with the Beatles when they were both in Hamburg. But Ringo was always much more than just a drummer while in The Beatles, for he was an integral part of that mysterious chemistry that made the Beatles, uniquely, The Beatles. And he had that same kind of off-the-wall humor. Someone said once they were like a four-way marriage with all their personalities and talents plugged into each other. And Ringo always seemed to be the “grounder.” He not only kept the beat grounded, but sometimes the members’ egos too.
When the Beatles split in 1970, many wondered about his solo future. He had only written a couple Beatles’ songs, “Don’t Pass Me By” and “Octopus’ Garden.” So it was to everyone’s surprise when he was to have one of the most successful ex-Beatles’ solo’s albums with his Ringo album in 1973, with several big hits including the George Harrison co-written song ,“Photograph.” He would go on to have seven Top Ten hits like, “It Don’t Come Easy”, “Back Off Boogaloo “, “ You’re Sixteen”, “Only You’, etc. Even when the other ex- Beatles sometimes were still not talking with each other much , they would still continue to appear on his albums and he theirs.
Then in the 80’s & 90’s, he put together his own of several All-Starr Bands with well-known musicians who hit the road playing their hits and his. Ringo has continued to release albums over the years. And he has actually turned into a pretty good co-writer and songwriter himself. Particularly with albums like his 2008, album, Liverpool 8, it was noticeable his growing skill in that area too. Also with that album and song, he has been writing songs looking back at his Liverpool beginnings. Ringo has continued this on his new recently released album, Postcards from Paradise, with a song called “Rory & the Hurricanes.” It is Ringo’s 18th album.
He also has appeared in several films as well: Magic Christian Music, Candy, Caveman (where on set, he met his current wife, Barbara Bach, in 1981). I think his best role is in That’ll Be the Day, where he plays a working-class carny at a holiday camp (similar to the ones Ringo’s band, Rory Storm, would have actually played). It perfectly captures early 60’s England just before The Beatles hit. He is also an accomplished photographer and shot the covers for his friend, Marc Bolan’s T-Rex albums and directed a film on him. So quite a career and life for a sickly, poor, relatively-uneducated lad who only picked up drumming banging on biscuit tins with sticks in the beginning. Ringo himself, has never claimed to be a trained drummer.
Like has also been leveled at Pete Best (Cynthia Lennon told me, shy Pete didn’t have the ego to compete with John and Paul’s), over the years, some have even accused Ringo of not being the best drummer. But several other respected drummers have disagreed, crediting him with developing a whole “Ringo” sound, which many have copied. At one point during the making of The White Album, Ringo felt left-out and walked away from the sessions, but came back when the other Beatles sent him a postcard which said “You Are the Greatest Drummer in the World- Really.” Others have said he was just lucky to have been there at the right time. Paul McCartney has said they wouldn’t have stayed with Ringo, if they didn’t believe he was a good drummer. It’s hard, indeed, to imagine those Beatles’ songs without his distinctive back-beat rhythms.
John Lennon said: “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.”
The Beatles were more than just the sum of their parts. Ringo was and is much more than just a drummer, who happened to play in the best band in the world. He has his own personality and persona and talents and loyal following. Ringo still seems to be that same down-to-earth star that’s such a rarity these days, especially, with whom we can all still relate.
When McCartney and rock royalty induct Ringo into the Hall of Fame, it will be time and well-deserved. Paul and he are now receiving all kinds of accolades and still carrying on their great legacy and still performing.
Ringo has announced another tour starting in October with his All-Starr band line-up of the last 12 years to support his new album, Postcards from Paradise. I met his 1995 All-Starr band including Billy Preston, Randy Bachman (The Guess Who and BTO), and Felix Cavaliere (The Rascals). I’m very happy I was able to get tickets for his new show in October in Montreal, where I also saw Paul in ‘89 and George in ’74. I also saw Paul in Ottawa in 2013. We should still see these living legends while we still can, as they continue to put on great shows. Some things which are good, never change. And Ringo, as I said, is like that, or as he would say, like “Peace & Love” too.
Below Ringo doing his rocker, “Rory & the Hurricanes” about his beginnings, from his new album, Postcards from Paradise:
& Below Ringo on his new album and tour: