Doctor X asks that I post this to the blog:
Hey Latouche, WTF? I need 7,500 pronto or these guys are going to initiate collection procedures, if you know what I mean. Use the usual couriers and for God's sake don't tell your boss what the money's for. Do you know, is there an American Express office in Brazzaville? OK, do me a favor and delete this part and post the rest of this on the blog.
So as I was saying, what the Sea Lord and his ilk fail to understand is that technical mastery is the antithesis of rock and roll. Technical mastery in American music has been devolving for 100 years, and we have not yet found the bottom.
We can go back to the Savoy ballroom and find a greater drummer than anyone alive today, a man who could energize a dance floor without the aid of electrical amplification, a man who, despite the most horrific physical impairment played so well Buddy Rich studied him obsessively. I refer of course to Chick Webb
. They say Webb's big band (with the young Ella Fitzgerald in the lineup) could outplay anyone, from Benny Goodman on down. In their head-to-head battles only the Basie band ever managed to beat them.
But the trend toward smaller and simpler was already in motion, even before electrification annihilated the big band business model. Here is a group of musicians:
That's Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, and Gene Krupa, arguably the most skilled small group of musicians to ever play together. As musicians and technicians, these people were better than any rock band, period (everyone should listen to this music
). Have a look at this film
of Krupa (note his left-hand grip - ready to flam-a-diddle at a moment's notice, should a marching band appear). For my money there's never been a better all-around drummer. He was a perfect marriage of power and grace, marred only (like Rich and many other great drummers) by his exhibitionism.
But Krupa, Rich, and their ilk were already becoming dinosaurs. By the 1950s rock and roll was coming in, and drumming had become even simpler. In the 50's you wanted a straight-8 drummer who could lock down a backbeat and could keep things jumping with a well-placed fill or two.
Which brings us to Mr. Starkey.
You know, there are Beatles records from the days before Ringo was their drummer, but I understand there isn't much demand for them.
First of all, the matched grip. It says: fuck your flam-a-diddles.Watch this
, and tell me Ringo couldn't play drums. It is a moment of perfect rock and roll devolution, and he is all over it (nice performance by Paul, too, of course).
Here's a simple test. Start a garage band. Have everyone learn "Day Tripper". See if you can play it in tune in perfect time. Now try it next to a jet engine playing full blast, without monitors. This is where you find out if your drummer can play, because the drum part for that song isn't easy and your guy has to be rock solid, like this
Author Marc Lewisohn listened to 900 hours of Beatles studio tape for his book The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions.
Number of mistakes made by Ringo: two.
So please, a little respect
for a man who subordinated his ego, took direction, had a sense of humor, and played drums for the greatest band ever. He did not grandstand, he did not choke to death on his own vomit (or anyone else's), he did not go off on weird percussive tangents. He played what was needed for every song, from calypso love ballads to Little Richard covers, with energy and skill.
Of course he is not the ultimate drummer. The ultimate drummer is even simpler, even, less attuned to his musical surroundings, even more in touch with the primordial center. I don't know who he is or where I will find him. But I am getting closer, every day...