There’s a trend in social media called “confess your unpopular opinion” where people say things like “I like mayonnaise on a hotdog” or “The Beatles are overrated.” I usually go with, “’Back to the Future’ movies stink.” Like most things on social media, this trend has zero significance. Disliking something popular isn’t “edgy.” Music and art is a matter of taste and if you don’t care for the Beatles, then that is a perfectly fine reaction to art but it doesn’t make them “overrated.” People love to use Carrot Top as an example of a hack comic. Hack comics don’t make $10 Million a year; they make your $5 Footlong at Subway.
A popular opinion among people who have no idea what they are talking about is that Ringo was a lucky bystander, swept up in the storm of Beatle mania and allowed to undeservingly succeed from it. Or if they were participating in the above trend, they would tweet “Ringo was great.” Ringo is great; you are the one who stinks.
Ringo wasn’t some sickly kid standing on the side of the road with a drum kit hitchhiking whom the Beatles happened to whiz by and pick up on their way to Ed Sullivan. Ringo was a successful musician before any of the other Beatles as a member of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. They were the class of the Liverpool and Hamburg rock scene. The Beatles wanted to be this band, so much so that they, you know, stole their drummer.
I don’t know these people who claim Ringo is overrated. Ringo is featured on some of the most popular and highest selling music of all time. Meanwhile, you can’t even get anyone to retweet your opinion of Ringo. I’m sure that you are successful and important in your small corner of earth, but I have a question for you: has John Lennon ever asked you to join his band? Appear on his solo albums? No? Then shut up.
I’m not a drummer, although every now and then I am deserving of a rim shot. (Hey, where are you going?) So, I’m in no position to break down Ringo as he relates to music theory. But there are truths about him that you should admit because he did anchor the most important and popular band on the planet. One being, he anchored the most important and popular band on the planet. Ringo not only kept time for the Beatles, he produced the percussion for three music geniuses. The Beatles were the first band to use the studio to create music for months. Ringo’s perfect tempo allowed the Beatles to use bits of 50-60 different takes to compile a song. The studio is where the Beatles’ made their most important mark on history and it wouldn’t have been possible without Ringo.
I think the main reason people have this dumb opinion of Ringo is because there isn’t a ton of evidence to the contrary that we can see. Sadly for many Beatles fans around the world, there aren’t many good live recordings of the group. You’re more likely to hear a woman screaming and peeing her pants during a live Beatles’ show than Ringo’s drumming. It’s also rumored that Paul would secretly go back into the studio and rerecord the drum parts to replace what Ringo had done. This is nonsense. If Paul wanted to replace Ringo’s work, why didn’t he just replace Ringo? Ringo quit the band a few times and each time they begged him to come back.
There are six Beatles’ songs that do not feature Ringo: “Love Me Do,” Back in the USSR,” “Dear Prudence,” “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road,” and “Wild Honey Pie.” George Martin chose to use Andy White on “Love Me Do” because he didn’t know Ringo because he had just joined the band. The rest of the Beatles made it clear that that would not be happening again and it didn’t. The rest of the songs appear on the White Album when the Beatles were barely speaking to each other and really doing their own songs their own way. You can feel the divide on the record.
“Ringo isn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles,” John Lennon said. Yes, he said this. I adore John Lennon’s work but the fact is, he was an asshole. John also sang in his song “How do you Sleep” about Paul, “The only thing you done was Yesterday.” He knew that these things weren’t true, but he was an arrogant anti-socialite who only kept one true friend his whole life. And he even cheated on her with a woman who looked like her for a year and a half. Look up “John Lennon’s Lost Weekend.”
Bernard Purdie is one of the greatest session drummers to ever live. He famously, crazily, nuttily, cuckoo birdily claimed that he was the session drummer on 21 of the Beatles’ songs in place of Ringo. First, he never named those songs, which begs the question, why? Second, he is one of the greatest session drummers of all time so if he is trying to take credit for Ringo’s work, then wouldn’t that mean Ringo’s work is pretty great? And third, in the words of Fred Sanford, “Are you crazy”?
Ringo deserves credit. There’s a reason he’s mentioned in the same breath as John, Paul and George. There’s only one Beatles and there’s only one Ringo; and there’s only one opinion that is correct.