Ringo, George, John and Paul at Abbey Road
04/09/2021 By liddypool 0

Beatles Drummer Disaster with George Martin

Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney at EMI Studios
Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney at EMI Studios

4th September 1962: The Beatles at EMI Studios

September 4th marks the 59th anniversary of Ringo Starr’s first recording session with the Beatles. Having endured one disastrous ‘test’ session on June 6th (with Pete Best behind the drum kit), the Beatles, with new drummer Ringo Starr, made an attempt at recording a potential first 45rpm single with Parlophone. 

The session was once again a disaster for the Beatles’ drummer. Perhaps overly nervous, and keen to impress after Pete Best’s rejection by George Martin and his assistant Ron Richards, during the rehearsal of Please Please Me, Ringo had a rush of blood to the head.

“I was playing the bass drum and the hi-hat, and I had a tambourine in one hand and a maraca in the other, and I was hitting the cymbals as well …… trying to play all the instruments at once”.

Recording!

Ringo was susceptible to a deadly trap a studio ‘ virgin’ could fall into, namely the dreaded ‘red light syndrome’. The new recruit appears calm and collected, until suddenly the studio red light flashes on, and a voice from the control room booms – ‘RECORDING!’. All of a sudden, bowels churn, you break into a cold sweat, your mouth is dry and miraculously, your sticks turn to rubber. After all, this could be your one big chance and now you are about to ruin it for everyone. You just freeze. Once again, at the crucial moment, the Beatles’ drummer had come unstuck, and his card was marked.

“How Do You Do It?”

The Beatles soldiered on, and begrudgingly recorded Mitch Murray’s How Do You Do It, turning in a workmanlike yet professional performance. Love Me Do however, took 15 takes to record, requiring a lot of editing to create the final, coherent version. As a result, the session over-ran. A further session was scheduled exactly a week later. 

“Love Me Do” with Andy White

Love Me Do was now being recorded for the third time – such a luxury could not be tolerated, especially as this session was to last no longer than one and three-quarter hours, half the time usually allowed. The song had to be recorded professionally and swiftly. This time, Martin was taking no chances – he had booked session drummer Andy White to take Ringo’s place. White was one of the country’s top drummers, and was well aware of the demands and constraints of the recording studio environment.

A session musician would have to be able to perform perfectly and precisely with discipline, control and without error. Ringo however, was a different animal, the studio being alien to him. With a session man behind the kit, Richards knew he could rely on White to lay down the drum track with minimum fuss, and maximum results. And so it proved, White earning his £5.15s session fee with consummate ease.

Ringo on Tambourine

This remake of Love Me Do was completed with Ringo playing alongside White on tambourine, this being the easiest way to distinguish which version has Andy White on drums. It certainly has a punchier feel to it than Ringo’s version, due to the fact the rest of the band were more familiar with the song and had probably rehearsed it in preparation for their third attempt at recording it. There is a more confident, professional presentation, due mainly to the added luxury of a tambourine. 

“Love Me Do” master destroyed

Oddly, Ringo’s September 4th recording of Love Me Do was released as the Beatles’ first single, the Andy White version being included on the Please Please Me LP, and becoming the official version for all future releases – the master tape of Ringo’s version was either destroyed, or more likely recorded over. Future releases of the Ringo version (from a 1982 anniversary release onwards) were taken from a pristine copy of an original single.

Read more about the stories behind the beat of Love Me Do, Please Please Me, and all of the Beatles’ releases in Ringo Starr And The Beatles Beat, available in the Beatles Book Store.

Alex Cain