If Jimmy Page is the world’s greatest rock guitarist, by virtue of being the guitarist in the world’s greatest rock band, then Ringo Starr must be the world’s greatest drummer. The last member to join the group (at the invitation of John), replacing Pete Best in 1962, Ringo was already a drummer of some renown, having played with Rory and the Hurricanes and Tony Sheridan. Although not conventionally handsome, Ringo soon became one of the most popular Beatles, aided in part by his comedic performances on Beatles films such as A Hard Day’s Night and Help!
Ringo was a rock-steady drummer with a flair for quick fills. He wasn’t a brilliant drummer any more than John Lennon was a brilliant guitarist or pianist, but he was the perfect fit to sit behind the kit. Behind the microphone, well, eh, maybe not so much; Ringo couldn’t carry a tune if it had rolling wheels on the bottom of it. That didn’t stop him from trying all the same, with occasionally winning results, both from the Lennon-McCartney camp (“Yellow Submarine,” “With A Little Help From My Friends”) and on his own (“Octopus’s Garden,” “Don’t Pass Me By”).
After The Beatles broke up, Ringo released a couple of unsuccessful genre exercises covering oldies (Sentimental Journey) and country music (Beaucoups of Blues), neither of which was well suited to his limited voice. He struck gold, however, with a couple of actual rock songs (“It Don’t Come Easy,” “Back Off Boogaloo”), followed by the popular Ringo (1973), which included three top 10 singles: “Photograph,” “You’re Sixteen” and “Oh My My.” Goodnight Vienna (1974) nearly repeated the feat. Both albums featured Ringo alongside his former bandmates and rock luminaries such as Harry Nilsson, Marc Bolan and Elton John.
Ringo’s revolving rock and roll party continued with Ringo’s Rotogravure (1976), although the album only produced one Top 40 single, “A Dose of Rock ‘n Roll.” Subsequent albums suggested that Ringo-mania had come to an end, with no more hits forthcoming. In the 1990s, Ringo revived his career in part through his All-Starr Band project, which found the former Beatle again joined by equally fading rock stars like Joe Walsh, Robbie Robertson and Billy Preston playing their hits (and Ringo’s) on stage. In between, Ringo released a couple of solid solo albums (Time Takes Time, Vertical Man) that traded on his legacy with The Beatles without selling it outright. If (as I had envisioned many, many years ago) Ringo turns out to be the last of the surviving Beatles, it is only fair that he have the spotlight all to himself for a little while.