Monday, July 8, 2013

Peace & Love with Ringo Starr: Rock's Greatest Drummer Rocks On!

PEACE & LOVE WITH RINGO STARR: ROCK'S GREATEST DRUMMER ROCKS ON! -- The rock music world owes so much to Richard Starkey -- better known and beloved to millions for more than five decades as Ringo Starr.  This native of Liverpool, England came into our lives in 1962 as the drummer of the best band ever -- The Beatles -- but Mr. Starr went on to become a star in his own right, releasing solo albums (beginning in 1970) which unleashed a series of hit songs that remain popular to this day -- did you know that Ringo was the first solo Beatle to score seven consecutive Top 10 singles? And in the 1990s, he assembled the first of his All Starr bands, an act consisting of some of rock 'n roll's top musicians (Joe Walsh, Billy Preston, Jack Bruce, Peter Frampton, Greg Lake, Todd Rundgren -- and so many more over the years). With "Peace & Love" as his official mantra, Ringo continues to spread the word with his music and lovable presence.  But those in the know (which includes you -- our ever-stylish reader!) are well aware of Ringo's role in history of rock ' n roll music as the greatest drummer in the genre! Yes, it's so very true -- especially in a field which includes such amazing drummers as Ginger Baker (The Cream); Keith Moon (The Who); John Bonham (Led Zeppelin); and good ol' Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones!  Now that's quite a field of drummers -- but still, it was Ringo who actually changed the way rock music was played and heard on the drum set (or kit as it commonly known) -- yes indeed, kids! At the time that Ringo joined the Beatles in 1962, most drummers were playing in a style left over from the swing and jazz eras --and when rock 'n roll came along in the 1950s via Little Richard (the true King!) and Bill Haley, drummers had to take those previous styles and pump up the volume. And drummers back then dressed in suits, always stayed in the background and, most often than not, held their sticks in the traditional jazz/swing way: the left stick was held like a chopstick (think of military drummers beating an angled snare drum, and you'll see where this hand position originated).  Ringo, instead, held his sticks like flyswatters (technically called a "matched grip") which allowed him to really beat the rhythm out with full attack (not to mention giving his open high hat a thorough thrashing -- another distinctive Ringo technique!). As with all things Beatles, other drummers began to imitate Ringo and his style, which has become the standard for rock drumming since! Another Ringo first was elevating the drum kit on a riser -- so common in rock music acts today. But back in the day, drummers were supposed to be heard -- but not seen in those early days of rock 'n roll.  Can you imagine Elvis being outshone by his drummer being seen overhead? Never! But the Beatles were stars individually -- and Ringo's status in the band was equally elevated with his riser platform so that all those screaming girls could see his mop top swinging in time to the music. And then (this is the part where there is a big drum roll, please) came Ringo's groundbreaking drum work that actually made history in rock music. You see, as John Lennon and Paul McCartney began writing more and more songs leading up to the revolutionary Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band LP released in 1967, the type of songs they were writing had no musical precedence -- and thus, Ringo was free to find a new way of playing drums to fit this new musical vocabulary.  In fact, if you listen to Beatles albums starting with 1966's Revolver and going forward, you'll hear how Ringo's drums become more and more prominent and integral with the music -- no longer just relegated to keeping a beat behind the guitars and keyboards. At long last, the drums are as musically important as the other instruments in many of the Beatles' tunes from that point on -- and Ringo led the way for other drummers to follow.  Ringo's reverse drum tracking (think Strawberry Fields Forever); lower drum tuning; muted bass/kick drum sound; interesting microphoning techniques; his prominent use of tom toms (think With A Little Help from My Friends and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, and George Harrison's Something, for example); Ringo's impeccable sense of tempo which can be matched with any metronome; his interesting time signatures and drum fills; and his commitment to Ludwig brand drums as his "official" sound makes Ringo Starr the top drummer of all time!  Ringo has superstyle that has endured the decades -- and we at Studio of Style give him a 21-drum salute!