John Lennon, when asked if Ringo Starr was the best drummer in the world, famously responded, “The best drummer in the world? He’s not even the best drummer in the Beatles!”
Poor Ringo. He recently commented himself that every time he’d leave the recording studio for a cup of tea or something he’d return to find Paul McCartney (of Heather Mills fame) sitting at his kit trying out his drums.
McCartney was the Beatle Lennon was referring to, and it was Paul who allegedly played on most Beatles tracks from The White Album on, although none of the four to my knowledge ever confirmed it. There are rumours that Paul can be heard berating Ringo for his poor playing on “Hey Jude.”
I was thinking about that as American Idol contestants massacred Beatles songs for a second straight week, altering lyrics to suit their gender, cramming as many choruses as possible into one-and-a-half minutes, turning the poignant “Blackbird” into a shrieking festival.
Everyone thinks they can be a drummer. It’s easy. You don’t have to cover any holes, after all, and there’s no troublesome bag to coordinate, no reeds to finagle, no moisture to control. But comparing Ringo-esque drumming with pipe band drumming is impossible. One is keeping a minimalist beat so as not to obscure the melody; the other is adding dynamics and intricate enhancement to the tune itself.
Still, how many times at a band practice do you find pipers fiddling around with drums? There are always one or two pipers in every band who think they can take the bass at a moment’s notice. Easy!
And what piper hasn’t at least once strapped on a drum at a massed band or march-past? There’s not a band on earth that hasn’t received stick from its association for instrument-swapping monkeyshines.
Drumming: You know it don’t come easy.