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Ringo Brings Heart to Beatles Anthology
By Mary Ann Shultz

“We really started to think we needed the greatest drummer in Liverpool, and that greatest drummer in our eyes was a guy , Ringo Starr..”

So says Paul about Ringo’s drumming. His opinion is seconded by John, “I love his drumming. Ringo is still one of the best drummers in rock.” George certainly agrees. “When Ringo was around it was like a full unit, both on and off stage. When there were the four of us with Ringo, it felt rocking.” Ringo’s drumming is always a delight and it’s good to know that John, Paul, and George were appreciative of what Paul describes as the “great noise and very steady tempo coming from behind you.” Ringo’s drumming helped set the mood for Beatles’ songs and gave them their pulse. In the same way, many of Ringo’s memories in the Beatles Anthology lend heart to the story.

“I felt with us four it was magical and it was telepathy. When we were working in the studio sometimes it was just ... it’s indescribable really. Although there were four of us, there was one of us, all of our hearts were beating at the same time. But the moment you think, “Oh, aren’t I playing well” then you turn into shit.”

The preceding statement is typical of Ringo’s contributions to The Beatles Anthology, a combination of thoughtful reverence, philosophical sentiment, loving memories, and down-to- earth frankness that Ringo’s fans have come to expect when he reflects upon his Beatle years. Throughout the book, Ringo’s reminiscences vibrate with the excitement and joy of his Beatles years. Ringo’s tendency throughout the book is to emphasizes the up-side of his tenure with the Beatles.

A quick perusal of any chapter will yield many examples of Ringo’s tendency to accentuate the positive. In the 1964 section, for instance, in speaking of Beatlemania and the ‘64 American tour, George complains that “After a while the novelty wore off and then it was very boring.” However, Ringo maintains that “I found the tour madness exciting. I loved it. I loved the decoy cars and all the intricate ways of getting us to the gigs. It was just so much fun.” As a counterbalance to John’s grousing that “We had these people thrust on us and we were forced to see them all the time,” Ringo recalls that, “We were meeting a lot of great people.” Paul’s big remembrance of the Hollywood Bowl performance is that the screams of the crowd “covered a multitude of sins, we were out of tune. It didn’t matter --we couldn’t hear it nor could they.” In contrast, Ringo remembers the thrill. “We played the Hollywood bowl. The shell around the stage was great. It was the Hollywood bowl--there were impressive places to me. I fell in love with Hollywood then.” Ringo’s upbeat style permeates the book. When George, John, and George Martin berate the condition of the recording studio at Apple, for example, Ringo recalls, “The facilities at Apple were great. It was so comfortable and it was ours, like home.” The adjectives Ringo uses most often to describe people, places, events, or circumstances are “fabulous,” “great,” “exciting,” and “fun.”

“I don’t think any of the decisions were made quickly. We’d all expressed them and moaned about them, laughed about them, and cried about them.”

There’s a humanity to Ringo’s stories that John’s, Paul’s, and George’s, at times, lack. While the others often seem more intent on justifying their actions, Ringo tends to concentrate more of his feelings. In his 1968 book The Beatles, biographer Hunter Davies recognized Ringo’s sentimental side. That characteristic is still readily apparent in The Beatles Anthology. Ringo is not afraid to share the rosy feelings or reveal the sad. He describes his disappointment at being overlooked by the British press, the insecurity he felt when the others went on to Australia without him, his devastation at being replaced by Andy White for the recording of “Love Me Do,” the misery of having to transport his drums in the early days without a car, his initial unease with the cheek- kissing at the London clubs, his desire that home and family never change, and a bull fight as, “the saddest thing I ever saw.” When speaking of his Beatle years Ringo says, “So the four of us were really close. I loved it. I loved those guys. We took care of each other...” Ringo admits , “My make up is emotional. I’m an emotional human being. I’m very sensitive and it took me till I was forty-eight to realize that was the problem!” Problem or not, Ringo’s sentimentality gives a depth to his remembrances. By revealing his heart, he adds a richer tone to the Beatles’ history.

“We were big enough to command an audience of that size, and it was love. It was for love and bloody peace. It was a fabulous time. I even get excited now when I realize what it was for: peace and love...”

Love plays dominant role in Ringo’s commentary. All four of the Beatles are proud of their message of love, but Ringo seems to have a special empathy for people. The others bemoan having to put up with the demands of Beatlemania, but Ringo is the one who understood that “people loved us.” He displays a genuine enthusiasm in recalling the interesting people met along life’s way. With only a couple of exceptions when Ringo speaks of others, he does so with warmth joy and love. This is especially true of his affectionate reminiscences of his fellow Beatles. Ringo’s appreciation and love of John, George, and Paul is inescapable. Ringo seems the most in tune with his former bandmates, rarely displaying the ego, annoyance, and pettiness that creeps into the narratives of each of the others. It’s fitting that in both the Anthology videos and the book Ringo’s closing statement is about “some really loving caring moments between four people.. just four guys who really loved each other.”

“We were also going to buy a village in England -- one with rows of houses on four sides and a village green in the middle. We were going to have a side each. That was what happened when we got out. It was safe making records, because once they let us out, we’d just go barmy.”

Ringo has often been described as the funny, down-to-earth Beatle. There are certainly many examples of these traits in the book. Ringo’s comfortably self-depreciating humor pops up throughout. as when he explains the source of his own Ringoisms. “I used to, while I was saying one thing, have another thing come into my brain and move down fast.” At times Ringo’s voice is absent for pages at a time, but when he has something to say it is generally delivered with Ringo’s inimitable mix of common sense and humor. After George’s particularly long-winded discourse on the cosmic consciousness-like properties of LSD, Ringo’s whimsical observation that acid makes you look things differently-- “and you dress differently too,” serves to ground he story as well as lighten the mood.

“So Andy plays on the “Love Me Do” single-- but I play later on the album version. Andy’ wasn’t doing anything so great that I couldn’t copy it when we did the album.”

All of the Beatles’ memories go faulty from time to time and Ringo’s is no exception as he still maintains that his version of “Love Me Do” is on the Please Please Me album. In actuality Ringo’s version was used for the first single, but White’s version was used for all successive releases, including the album. In the 352-page body of the text, there are a handful times when Ringo recalls an event differently from one or more of the others.. For example George says that he and John introduced Ringo to acid, while Ringo maintains that thought he would take anything, “George and John didn’t give LSD to me.” Another time Ringo insists that Neil Aspinall’s friendship with Pete Best resulted in Neil’s refusal to set up his drums the first couple of weeks after he joined. This is something Neil denies. All of the former fabs and those close to them contradict one another from time to time. The difference in memories is not unique to this group and can be put down to time and distance. However, the vast majority of the time Ringo’s recollections ring true. They certainly enhance and enrich the Beatle tapestry adding Ringo’s comfortable warmth, emotional shadings, and unique texture to the weave.

 

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© 2000 Mary Ann Shultz

   

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This page was last updated November 20, 2000.