The Beatles Song Ringo Starr Never Quite Understood How To Play

It's an 'Abbey Road' staple...

Now here’s a thing: in spite of the Lennon & McCartney partnership dominating the Beatles catalogue, the Fab Four’s most-listened track on Spotify is actually by George Harrison. During these long summer days, however, it’s easy to fall for the charm of ‘Here Comes The Sun’ – a song that tops the group’s streaming league. One person might not be such a fan – Ringo Starr had a terrible time trying to get the time shifts correct.

The song itself is a beam of light from the Beatles darkest times. Composed during their final arc, ‘Here Comes The Sun’ is about yearning for optimism when all around you seems gloomy. Writer George Harrison reflected in his memoir I Me Mine: “‘Here Comes the Sun’ was written at the time when Apple was getting like school, where we had to go and be businessmen: ‘Sign this’ and ‘sign that.’ Anyway, it seems as if winter in England goes on forever, by the time spring comes you really deserve it. So one day I decided I was going to sag off Apple and I went over to Eric Clapton’s house. The relief of not having to go see all those dopey accountants was wonderful, and I walked around the garden with one of Eric’s acoustic guitars and wrote ‘Here Comes the Sun'”.

Taking it to the band, The Beatles kicked off recording on July 7th, but John Lennon couldn’t attend as he was recovering from a car crash in the Scottish Highlands. Completed and mixed on August 20th, this mixing session represents the final time that all four Beatles were in the same studio at the same time.

Recalling the recording sessions as part of Martin Scorcese’s Harrison documentary Living In The Material World, Ringo Starr revealed that the shifts in time signature flummoxed him.

“[George] was talking to me because he’d been to India again, and he said, ‘I’ve got this song. It’s in seven and a half time’. And I was like, ‘Yeah, so?’. He may as well have talked to me in Arabic”.

Although Ringo Starr had played on numerous Eastern-influenced tracks during his time in the band – his beat on ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ proving to have enduring influence – this song proved a step too far. “I have no way of counting ‘Okay, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven’. It’s just not my brain. I had to find some way to do it the same way every time, so it came off on the time. That’s one of those Indian tricks. [mimics the drum fill] Okay, that’s seven. Good, got it.”

Adapting as best he could, the final results are a masterpiece – perhaps Ringo is his own harshest critic.

Re-visit the song now.

Related: Lessons We’ve Learned: Ringo Starr On Peace, Love And Life

-
Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.