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Ringo Starr: probably the world’s most underrated drummer

17 May 2017, 15:00

Jun Christian Villanueva, of Klangstof, on why Ringo's drumming is like a master chef at work, and the first time hearing it on a childhood road trip through Norway.

Together with a huge chunk of the worlds population The Beatles has played a crucial part in my life, and my musical upbringing. I still remember the first time I heard it.

I was probably 10 years old, strapped in the backseat of my parents car as we were driving along the ‘long and winding roads’ (pun unintended) of Norway. My father was the self-proclaimed DJ on these trips, this time being no exception. He popped in one of his many meticulously curated mixtapes (recorded on a MiniDisc, to be specific). Being a drummer himself, the general theme on these mixes were ‘great drummers’. Stuff like Steely Dan’s Aja and Chick Corea’s Nite Sprite, both with Steve Gadd on drums were the highlights of his track listing, and usually when he turned around to make sure I was paying attention to the drums.

For this specific occasion he had made a brand new mixtape for the car, simply named "The Beatles!". I had no real knowledge of The Beatles prior to this point, so I was not sure what to expect from this. The first track was "Something" from the Abbey Road LP. The drum intro came as no surprise considering the theme of every other mixtape my father made, but then the most cathartic experience; the drums fell back into a simple groove, giving plenty of room for the vocals to serve its duty. Throughout the mixtape I notice that I really had to concentrate to notice what the drums were doing on each track. On every song the drums blended perfectly together with the rest of the instruments, never claiming a designated space in the arrangement.

I was speechless. Amazed, yet confused.

I couldn’t stop listening to The Beatles. You could almost say it was an obsession. A lot of nights were spent in the basement of my parents’ house, on the floor listening to Ringo’s drums and drumming along on my lap, trying to figure out every drum part. "She Said She Said" off of the Revolver LP quickly became my favorite Ringo Starr performance, and it still is to this day. I find it almost impossible to resist the urge to air-drum along to this track whenever I put it on.

It is the most exquisite piece of drumming I’ve ever heard in a pop song. The track has basically three parts, perfectly glued together thanks to Ringo’s ability to adapt to every mood this song goes through. Even compared to Steve Gadd’s heavy and intricate drumming, I think Ringo’s drumming outshines him easily on this track.

To understand Ringo is a matter of looking (hearing) through the obvious, and trying to understand what he brings to the songs. In my opinion, individualism has no place in Beatles’ music, rather I think it’s a collective impact produced by every single member of the band. Ringo Starr’s musicality is comparable to a master chef’s ability to add the perfect amount of every ingredient to a dish without any flavors conflicting in your mouth.

Simply genius!

Klangstof play the Best Fit stage tomorrow, May 18th, at Brighton's The Great Escape festival. More information here.
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