Contrary to popular belief, Ringo Starr, the drummer of The Beatles, stands as a seasoned musician with unparalleled skill. However, his unique approach to the drums sets him apart, as he views drumming not as a solitary pursuit but as an integral part of the larger musical canvas. Unlike many drummers of his stature, Starr never sought to imitate or replicate his idols in the confines of his bedroom. In fact, he has only purchased one instrumental record by a drummer, showcasing his distinct lack of interest in drum-centric compositions.
Starr’s indifference to drummers in isolation sheds light on his playing style, characterized by a commitment to elevating those around him rather than stealing the spotlight. Despite facing criticism for this unselfish approach, it played a pivotal role in shaping The Beatles’ extraordinary legacy.
In a 2019 conversation with Dave Grohl for Rolling Stone, Starr reminisced about his early drumming days as a teenager, emphasizing his desire to be a drummer since the age of 13. However, when pressed about his favorite drummers during this transformative period, Starr provided a candid response, revealing his lack of interest in focusing solely on drumming in records.
Starr’s musical perspective was clear: “Well, Cozy Cole is the only one I ever mention, but anything Little Richard did — people always feel it’s weird, but I never listened just for the drums. I listened for the whole track. [Another drummer I heard at the time] had a section going where the hi-hat was part of the fill! First time I ever heard it.”
In another interview with Rolling Stone in 2020, Starr again referenced Cozy Cole, stating, “The only drum solo I talk about is Cozy Cole’s ‘Topsy’ from all those years ago. That’s the only one I liked. But John Bonham did quite a good one one time.”
Despite his aversion to drum solos, Starr did unleash his drumming prowess on ‘The End.’ The Beatles collectively rejected lengthy drum solos, aligning with Starr’s disdain for such displays. Paul McCartney noted their shared sentiment: “Ringo would never do drum solos. He hated drummers who did lengthy drum solos. We all did. And when he joined The Beatles, we said, ‘Ah, what about drum solos then?’, thinking he might say, ‘Yeah, I’ll have a five-hour one in the middle of your set,’ and he said, ‘I hate’ em!’ We said, ‘Great! We love you!’ And so he would never do them.”
Despite this, Starr acknowledged the brilliance of Cozy Cole’s ‘Topsy,’ recognizing its impact despite its unconventional nature. While Cole may not have influenced Starr stylistically, the drummer left an indelible impression on him, showcasing that appreciation for the artistry of drumming transcends the need for replication.