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Ringo Starr’s Sad Tambourine Moment

3 minute read

On the Beatles’ first single, Ringo was relegated to the tambourine.

It was on this day in 1962 that the band recorded “Love Me Do,” which hit number 17 on the British pop charts when it was released in October of that year, then topped the U.S. charts upon its American release two years later.

But, when they showed up to record the track at EMI Studios on London’s Abbey Road, Beatles producer George Martin asked Ringo Starr to hand his sticks over to a session drummer. Starr had only joined the group a few weeks earlier and Martin wasn’t sold on his sound. He asked Starr to play tambourine on “Love Me Do” and maracas on “P.S. I Love You,” the single’s B-side. Starr, insulted, was cool toward Martin for years, although the producer later apologized. In 1968, praising Starr’s work on the band’s eighth album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Martin said he was “probably the finest rock drummer in the world.”

Legions of screaming girls had come to this conclusion within a year of the single’s release, by which time Beatlemania was in full force and no session drummer could unseat Starr. Even the Queen Mother seemed taken with the quartet, although some in the older generation were less enthralled. A 1963 TIME story was snarkily disparaging, noting that, “Although no Beatle can read music, two of them dream up half the Beatles’ repertory.”

“Love Me Do” was one of the pieces John Lennon and Paul McCartney dreamed up when they were just teenagers themselves, with lyrics Rolling Stone says were scribbled into a school notebook under the heading “Another Lennon-McCartney Original.”

TIME’s reviewer found it less original. “Though Americans might find the Beatles achingly familiar (their songs consist mainly of ‘Yeh!’ screamed to the accompaniment of three guitars and a thunderous drum), they are apparently irresistible to the English,” proclaims the un-bylined dispatch.

By 1964, however, when “Love Me Do” crossed the Atlantic, the magazine had developed some fondness for the Beatles — and for Starr in particular:

What recommends the Beatles more than anything else is their bright and highly irreverent attitude toward themselves and their international magnitude. Reporters toss ticking questions at them, but it is generally the replies that explode.

“Why do you wear so many rings, Ringo?” demanded one reporter.

“Because I can’t fit them all through my nose.”

“What do you think of Beethoven, Ringo?”

“I love his poems.”

Their music was beside the point in any case, the critic adds: “They are adulated singers whose swarming fans scream so steadily through each song that they cannot possibly hear what is being sung.”

Read TIME’s full 1964 report on the Beatles here, in TIME’s archives: The Unbarbershopped Quartet

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