Monday, March 10, 2014

"Everybody loves Ringo!"

Here's a recent cover story from Variety about Richie. Much to enjoy, including some astute takes on the ex-Beatle's legacy and speculation as to why other high-profile drummers from the '60s earned more plaudits than Ringo did. I also couldn't agree more about how well he's aged. It's remarkable. Ringo has no business being 73 and looking as natural and non-plastic-y as he does. Long may he record, tour, and fulfill his self-assigned duties as rock 'n' roll's senior good-vibes emissary to the world.
Extended excerpt:
Blue Note label chief, producer and musician Don Was, who has worked with Ringo repeatedly, calls him the most underrated drummer in rock history. “He changed the way rock ’n’ roll drummers approach music,” Was says.
If Ringo was overshadowed by the brilliant songwriting of his Fab Four mates, especially Lennon and McCartney, who, says Walsh, “commanded your focus with whatever they were doing,” the spotlight on his percussive gifts was further diminished by a group that stopped touring in 1966, concentrating on studio recordings that became ever more conceptual and inventive with each outing. This occurred at a time when jam bands like the Who, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Led Zeppelin started airing it out in arenas, giving ample room for their flamboyant drummers to shine in front of a captive audience.
“Being an ensemble player in a band is the most important thing,” Was asserts. “The Beatles were a great band because they listened to each other and reacted off each other very much the way a jazz group does. It requires subverting the ego and being part of a whole. The Beatles are an amazing example of that.”
Santelli goes so far as to call Starr the most important drummer in the history of rock. “The reason I say that is prior to Ringo, certainly there were rock ’n’ roll bands, but hardly anybody knew who the drummer was. Ringo comes along and changes everything. (He has) a very interesting and compelling sense of humor and personality, and we get to know him on a first-name basis.”
Anybody who knows the Beatles’ music intimately knows the tympanic accents and fills as clearly today as when they were recorded: the famous drum roll that launches into “She Loves You”; the shimmering incandescence of his cymbal work on so many of those early hits; the impressionistic free-form of “Rain”; the loping cadence and crispy snare of “Sexy Sadie”; the haunting, almost cinematic drama and rich texture behind “Long, Long”; the building, tour-de-force crescendo that leads up to the “The End” on “Abbey Road.”
“Here’s what I discovered in the very first session that I did with him,” recalls Walsh. “He came in and I said, ‘You want to see a chart on the song?’ And he said, ‘No, give me the lyrics.’ He responds to the singer. A great example of that is when he plays on the Beatles’ ‘Something’ and he does that fill that’s such a musical response it’s almost like a guitar player; there’s notes to it.”
Ringo himself says he brought time and openness to the table as the Beatles drummer. He would do things like putting tea towels on the drums. “The towels would deaden the sound, and give you depth,” he explains. “Until I got the Maple kit, which has the depth of real skin. So if you listen to ‘(She Came in Through the) Bathroom Window’ and ‘Polythene Pam,’ it’s like a tom-tom solo all throughout.”