I’ve often thought Ringo Starr could be the most underappreciated musician in history of music. His runs, fills and occasionally idiosyncratic drumming style was, in many ways, The Beatles’ secret weapon.
Of course the Lennon-McCartney songwriting powerhouse took most of the glory from the Beatles — not unreasonably for a pairing many people refer to as the greatest songwriting team of the 20th Century.
And lovely, quiet, talented, sensitive George Harrison was a phenomenal guitar player and the composer of beautiful songs in his own right (“Something” being a strong contender for the most beautiful song ever written, in my view).
Ringo was the joker who took warring factions down the pub for a beer to calm things down when artistic sensitivities got out of hand. But his secret power was that he didn’t especially crave the limelight so everyone knew he had no skin in the game and trusted his advice. He was just trying to do what was best for the band.
It was the same with his drumming.
Songs like “She Loves You” exploded onto the scene with Ringo’s drums setting the tone for what was to follow…although inexplicably some versions of the song cut out Ringo’s opening drum break and just leap in — somewhat jarringly, I always think — when the vocal starts.
The unimaginably creative drums on “Ticket To Ride” which were about as far away from the conventional four beats to the bar as it’s possible to be…but to this day Ringo’s drums are the distinctive hallmark of that iconic Beatles track.
The restrained, to the point of near-invisibility, drumming interspersed with bursts of seemingly free-form intervention that Ringo lays down on “A Day In The Life” is nothing short of inspired.
If you’ve never done it before, pick up your favourite Beatles track and listen to it again, concentrating purely on the drum part. You’ll be astounded by some of the performances that pass most casual listeners by.
Part of the problem was that Ringo was always there to serve the song, not his own ego. Something of a clown away from the stage and the recording studio, he was all business when it mattered. There’s nothing clown-like about the talent he demonstrated on record after record for the biggest-selling band on the planet.
One of his earliest outings, at least as far as the bulk of the record-buying public was concerned, was on “She Loves You”.
This was by no means the Beatles first record…and it wasn’t even their first big hit… “From Me To You” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, amongst others, had been committed to vinyl before “She Loves You” came along.
But there’s always been something about “She Love You” that encapsulates for me the essence of the Beatles in the early to mid-1960s.
Of course it’s a great song. Lennon and McCartney were well into their groove by now and this is without doubt a classic. It’s also an interesting development as a piece of story-telling from a couple of very young, if hugely talented, songwriters.
Pop songs before “She Loves You” were usually told from the perspective of the singer — “I love you” was, and still is, a common foundation for many a pop song.
But “She Loves You”. That’s not me moaning about someone who doesn’t love me back to my mates down the pub. That’s me telling you a story. That’s me trying to help you out. That’s me trying to give you a few pointers to help you be happy again.
“She Loves You” isn’t a song about me, it’s a song about you. You’re not telling the story someone else is.
That deceptively simple switch in perspective adds a depth to “She Loves You” which “I Love You”, even sung to the same tune, would never have achieved.
The refrain of “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah” is one of the most instantly-recognisable lines in popular music, but there’s a lot more to this song than than a sing-along refrain…
You think you lost your love
Well I saw her yesterday
It’s you she’s thinking of
And she told me what to say
She says she loves you
And you know that can’t be bad
She says she loves you
And you know you should be glad
Paul McCartney would write many other phenomenal storytelling songs for the Beatles…his skills would develop further for hits like “Penny Lane” and “Yesterday” later in the decade. But “She Loves You”, despite being a much simpler song lyrically, is no less a work of genius.
A bit like Ringo’s drumming, the genius of “She Loves You” hides in plain sight. We all know about it, but it doesn’t often attract our attention to the extent it merits.
There’s a great video of the Beatles performing “She Loves You” live in concert…which to my great annoyance misses out Ringo’s distinctive drum break at the start of the song…but have a look here anyway… https://youtu.be/x7prHYwxWPY
I think this might explain why Ringo is so underappreciated. If you watch him from the chest up, you wouldn’t imagine he’s doing much. Hidden from the audience behind his drum kit, his lightening-fast hands, which do all the heavy lifting that propels “She Loves You” along, are pretty much invisible.
But if you concentrate on his hands, especially in the shot taken from behind the drum kit, you’ll see just how hard he’s working, and you can start to appreciate that “She Loves You” wouldn’t be half as good a song without Ringo working away, unheralded, in the background.
That’s something Ringo Starr does over and over again on Beatles songs. He does so much to make the Beatles one of the greatest bands in history, but you’d hardly know he was there unless you concentrate on what he’s doing every time those sticks hit.
So let’s take a moment to give the great Ringo Starr the appreciation he deserves…an insightful drummer who played a massive, if frequently underappreciated, part in defining the sound of the 1960s through the medium of one of the greatest bands there’s ever been.
“She Loves You” was, according to the Official Charts Company, the best selling single in the UK of the entire 1960s…which is quite an achievement, even for a band as prolific as the Beatles.
“She Loves You” was also one of five Beatles songs which set a US chart record by occupying all five of the top five slots on the Billboard chart in April 1964, when the “British invasion” was running at full throttle.
“She Loves You” broke the pop music mould of the early 1960s by telling a simple story really well from the perspective of a third party, rather than relaying a personal experience.
But more than all those well-deserved accolades, “She Loves You” defined the sound of the Beatles through the talents of one of the greatest drummers of all-time…fittingly, the very first sound you hear on the track is Ringo pounding those tom-toms.
That’s as it should be. He lead the Beatles’ performances, without ever dominating them. That’s a rare talent in any band. It’s even rarer in one of the biggest bands the world has ever known.
So for the person he was, and the talent he had, let’s just take a moment to enjoy Ringo Starr leading the way from the very first notes, and keeping the song hurtling along at full throttle all the way through to the final crash of the cymbals at the end. It’s the Beatles with “She Loves You”…
The video is below or, if you prefer, you can enjoy the song on Spotify here… https://open.spotify.com/track/0qsS2A3hwicJCLtcaR6JRQ
PS — just before we get to the video, if you enjoyed this article, please give it a “clap”…or even more than one if you’re feeling kind. You can also follow me on Medium (here) or Twitter (here) to get new articles as soon as they’re published.