Ringo at the BB King Sessions in London, 1970
07/07/2021 By liddypool 0

happy birthday ringo – Ringo at the B.B. King In London sessions

Ringo at the BB King Sessions  in London, 1970
Ringo at the BB King Sessions in London, 1970

Elvis’ Drummer

“He never varied from that tempo. He had the greatest conception of tempo I’ve ever heard in my life. I have never heard anybody play that steady in my life, and that’s a long time.” D.J. Fontana (Drummer for Elvis and many more).

Like A Clock

D.J. Fontana’s recollection of two ‘jams’ (18 and 20 minutes respectively) recorded during the sessions for Ringo’s Beacoups Of Blues LP in 1970 were later echoed by B.B. King, who referred to Ringo as keeping time ‘like a clock.’ Yet despite being lauded for his legendary ‘feel’ and idiosyncratic drumming style, Ringo Starr is still undervalued by many for that most important of drumming skills – timekeeping. That is, after all, the most important job of a drummer. So how did that skill translate into the Beatles’ recorded output?

Many of the early Beatles releases were subject to extensive edits – the piecing together of different takes – or in numerous cases the ‘tagging-on’ of edit-pieces – the addition of separately recorded sections (usually endings) to the body of the main acceptable take. It is testament to Ringo’s ‘internal clock’ that he was able to recall the exact tempo of a performance, even after a couple of minutes of chatter had elapsed. 

The IIlusion of Perfect Timekeeping

Ringo was capable of keeping perfect time, but he was also the master of creating the illusion of perfect timekeeping. Occasionally he would also quite deliberately alter the timing of a performance, be it in the studio or more commonly, a live performance. Rather like gently tapping your foot on a car’s accelerator (gas) pedal, he would allow the music to shift tempo backwards and forwards, ever so slightly, as and when the song required it.

This can be quite some feat to achieve, the trick is to make the listener (or more importantly your fellow musicians) blissfully unaware of what has happened, but wondering just what has happened! When recently asked if he could pass on one piece of advice to any young, aspiring drummers, Ringo offered – “Speed up during the guitar solo!” – surely a piece of tongue in cheek advice? 

Ringo Starr and the Beatles Beat

Read more about Ringo’s legendary drumming style in Ringo Starr And The Beatles Beat, Ringo’s White Album, and Ringo’s Abbey Road – available from the Beatles Book Store!