Ringo In 10 Songs

The following abridged excerpts from Ringo Starr And The Beatles Beat showcase Ringo Starr’s talents in dealing with the diversity and scope of differing time signatures, rhythms and percussive layers of the Beatles musical output. From the straight-ahead no nonsense rock ‘n’ roll of Long Tall Sally to the dance-hall shuffle of When I’m 64.

*Please note, the book includes a Short Guide To Drum Notation, a quick read of which is enough to master the music below, and in the book.*

All selections and notation © 2016 Alex Cain & Terry McCusker

We Can Work It Out

Time Signature – 4/4
Recorded – October 20/29 1965
Drums – Ringo Starr
Tambourine – George Harrison or Ringo StarrWe Can Work It Out

We Can Work It Out has the distinction of possessing one of the most striking pieces of time-altering trickery only the Beatles could unwittingly conjure up. The perceived change in meter of the bridge occurs without the listener being aware of such a change – all without a hiccup. Utilising triplets, the song slips seamlessly into a 3/4 feel contained within a 4/4 structure, rather than moving to a strict, jarring change from 4/4 to 3/4. Once underway, the triplets (a bass drum/ cymbal crash combination followed by two tambourine beats), are reminiscent of Bavarian oompah, tumbling towards a sharp return to the 4/4 feel, bringing the protagonist’s views back into focus. A device aided by Starr’s reading and handling of the situation.

We Can Work It Out

We Can Work It Out – © 2016 Alex Cain & Terry McCusker

 Drive My Car

Time Signature – 9/8, 4/4
Recorded – October 13 1965
Drums, Tambourine, Cowbell – Ringo StarrRubber Soul copy

Drive My Car has a most confusing introduction – the opening bar of the guitar introduction occurring in common time (4/4), followed by a bar of 9/8, before settling into the robust 4/4 meter of the song. As the sole instrument present in these two bars is lead guitar, the seemingly off-beat timing proves disconcerting and jarring. It’s likely the opening guitar break was an after-thought – a means to introduce the song in a dramatic fashion, with little concern for the resulting time signatures. Ringo would have to have coped with placing his own introduction, providing a bridge between the guitar and main body of the song. Due to the 9/8 timing, his fill is dramatic in it’s execution – alternating between tom and snare, tumbling towards the next bar. Is Ringo going to make it, is he going to come in on time? Thankfully he does, and after a smooth yet reticent sweep across the bars, we soon find ourselves back in the familiar territory of common (4/4) time.

Drive My Car_a

Drive My Car – © 2016 Alex Cain & Terry McCusker



Ticket To Ride

Ticket To RideTime Signature – 4/4
Recorded – February 15 1965
Drums, Tambourine, Handclaps – Ringo Starr

One of Ringo’s most lauded tracks, Ticket To Ride provides a feast of drumming invention and originality. Drawing heavily upon the new breed of ‘Rock’ as purveyed by the likes of The Who and the Yardbirds, Ticket To Ride sounded unlike any record yet released. At the heart of the song is Ringo’s magnificent drum pattern, embellished with a refreshing variety of tom fills and no-nonsense tambourine. The drum pattern, apparently suggested by McCartney, sees the snare falling on the 2nd and ‘3 and’ beats of the bar, with the tom on the ‘4 and’ beat. Alongside the prominent placement of tambourine from the off – on the 2nd and 4th beats – we have Harrison’s Duane Eddy style downward guitar strokes, providing a percussive constant while lending the song a stark syncopation.

Ticket To Ride

Ticket To Ride – © 2016 Alex Cain & Terry McCusker



Long Tall Sally

Time Signature – 4/4
Recorded – March 1 1964
Drums – Ringo StarrLong Tall Sally

 A simply astonishing track, even more so as the Beatles’ version of Little Richard’s Long Tall Sally was recorded in one take. It’s a blistering performance from all concerned – Paul’s vocal, John and George’s twin guitar solos, even George Martin on piano puts in a great turn. As for Ringo, he never lets up from his forthright and solid beat, his punctuation on snare and bass drum tight and precise. Ringo treads that narrow path between a shuffle and straight ‘8’s’ as he saves his best for last – terrific triplet movements between snare, tom and cymbal. The sample presented here is from [1.40] onwards –

Long Tall Sally

Long Tall Sally – © 2016 Alex Cain & Terry McCusker


 Here Comes The Sun

Abbey Road_Fab208_a

Time Signature – 4/4, 2/4, 3/8, 5/8
Recorded – July 7/8/16, August 6/15/19, 1969                                                                                       Drums , Handclaps – Ringo Starr
Handclaps – George Harrison, Paul McCartney

Another excellent example of Ringo’s ability to cope with unusual time signatures, Here Comes The Sun is also notable for a fantastically laid-back groove.

The numerous time changes within the song, first occur on the bridge. This section sees a 2/4 before alternating between 3/8, 5/8, 4/4, a 2/4, and finally 3/8 that returns to 4/4. Ringo draws upon his experiences of Indian music time-keeping, rather than counting out the time in the usual Western fashion.


Here Comes The Sun

Here Comes The Sun – © 2016 Alex Cain & Terry McCusker

Sharp and snappy handclaps hasten the end of the bridge, cleverly used to great effect. Ringo’s drums sound fantastic here, benefitting greatly from new calf skins plus the transistor technology of the newly installed mixing desk. The snare and hi – hats sound crisp and tight, with the drums having a punch not previously heard on Beatles’ recordings.

She Loves You

Time Signature – 4/4
Recorded – July 1 1963
Drums – Ringo Starr
She Loves You

With She Loves You, the Beatles (and no doubt George Martin) had clearly thought through the drum patterns, they possess a structure and power that demands attention, Starr executing his moves to perfection.

She Loves You and (the B-Side)  I’ll Get You are the first Beatles recordings to be adorned and enhanced by Ringo’s new Ludwig Super Classic kit – and what an impact it makes. This single is also notable for a change in the techniques involved in capturing the sound of Ringo’s drums. Perhaps inspired by the sight of Ringo’s new kit, or more likely, the incredibly vital sound it produced, Engineer Norman Smith changed the overhead microphone (to a Coles 4038), giving the kit a more precise sound than previously captured. Additionally, Smith moved the vocal microphones further away from the drums, thereby decreasing the amount of overspill between the different instruments.

Recorded at a session rudely interrupted by screaming fans rushing into Abbey Road, the excitement and energy created translated to the performance and positively leaps at the listener, grabbing attention and demanding to be heard. Has there been a greater attention-grabbing opening few bars than this? Kicking off with the simple but effective floor tom fill – illustrating purpose and intent –

She Loves You

She Loves You – © 2016 Alex Cain & Terry McCusker

Swiftly moving on to floor tom/snare/bass drum on the introduction (and subsequent choruses), we soon hear those famous ‘swishy’ hi-hats dominate, swaying comfortably above the pounding bass drum. If anything, the busy patterns look impressive when performed live – so much energy adding appeal to the Beatles’ live performances.

In My Life

Time Signature – 4/4
Recorded – October 18/22 1965
Drums, Tambourine – Ringo Starr

Revisiting former glories, Starr (probably again under the direction of Lennon) opts for a similar hi-hat/snare/bass drum interplay to Anna and All I’ve Got To Do. Here is the pattern, presented as the first 2 bars of drums after the guitar introduction –

In My Life

In My Life – © 2016 Alex Cain & Terry McCusker

The most noticeable element of Ringo’s playing on In My Life is how closely miked, high in the mix and harsh his drums sound for such a tender song. A little more room ambience may have been tempting but this would have been against the grain of the ‘dry mix’ diktat laid down for the album. As is the norm, the mono mix eliminates the harshness of the stereo versions.


Lady Madonna

Time Signature – 4/4, 2/4, 3/8, 5/8
Recorded – February 3/6, 1968
Engineer – Ken Scott
Drums, Handclaps – Ringo Starr
Handclaps – George Harrison, Paul McCartney

Lady Madonna


Moving into 1968, McCartney continued to be the driving force behind the Beatles’ output. With his band mates seemingly content to ‘go with the flow’, another single was on the cards.

As on Good Day Sunshine, we again have Paul’s multi-layered percussive approach to the Beatles recordings, with two separate and distinct drum patterns at play. From the start, Ringo lays down a drum track with a silky solo snare beat on brushes, placed on the left channel of the stereo mix. On the right channel, after 4 bars, we have a jauntily overdubbed bass drum and snare beat.

Lady Madonna

Lady Madonna –© 2016 Alex Cain & Terry McCusker

The beat takes a twist with the replacement of the snare and bass drum with eighth note hi-hats, opened on the 2nd and 4th beats of the bar.

Lady Madonna

Lady Madonna – © 2016 Alex Cain & Terry McCusker

Handclaps are introduced over the sax solo, the bridges to the chorus and solo punctuated with brushes on cymbal. Tambourine (very low in the right channel) is evident, the overall effect a little jarring on the stereo mix, with the mono version possessing the usual solid, unified feel.


 Cry Baby Cry

Time Signature – 4/4, 2/4
Recorded – July 15/16/18, 1968
Engineers – Geoff Emerick, Ken Scott
Drums, Tambourine – Ringo Starr

Cry Baby Cry is perhaps Ringo’s greatest performance on The Beatles, as we hear fantastic rolling and tumbling fills around a largely accented rhythm track. Tambourine enhances the tension over a simple introductory beat [0.28] before the inventive fills interject. While similar, no two patterns are exactly the same, possibly the best examples occurring while moving from open hi-hats to snare at [1.24] and [1.55], where Ringo resolves the urgency and tension of his ride cymbal work [1.40] and on, below. Worthy of note is a sloppily mistimed tambourine (bar 5 below), unusually prominent and disjointed in the stereo mix, but buried in the mono version.

Cry Baby Cry

Cry Baby Cry – © 2016 Alex Cain & Terry McCusker

Illustrated above, we have a bar of 2/4 appended to each line of the verses, for example –

2 Bars of 4/4 – “Queen was in the parlour, playing piano for the children of the King.”
1 Bar of 2/4 –
5 bars of 4/4 – “Cry, baby cry…make your mother sigh, she’s old enough to know better, so cry, baby cry.” 1 Bar of 2/4 –

The un-credited coda (commonly referred to as Can You Take Me Back) is a left-over fragment of a longer improvisation from the I Will session, and sees McCartney enhancing the track with maracas and single tom strokes.

 When I’m Sixty Four

Time Signature – 4/4
Recorded – December 6/8/20/21,1966
Drums, Tubular Bells – Ringo Starr

The Beatles at Abbey Road Studios for the 'Our World' live television broadcast, London, Britain - 25 June 1967



When I’m 64 – © 2016 Alex Cain & Terry McCusker 

It’s back to the orchestra pit once more, with Ringo utilising wire brushes on his closely miked snare, effortlessly emulating the dance-hall style he grew up with. Playful use of the ride cymbal bell [0.57 & 1.48] provides a trade-off with the overdubbed tubular bells. Lovely stuff!