The Bernard Purdie / Ringo Starr argument is gathering pace again amid claims from Purdie that he played on TWENTY ONE Beatles tracks in place of the technically inferior Ringo Starr.
He also said in 2007 that Starr was sacked by the Beatles in the early 60’s. Purdie says that Starr didn’t open a hi-hat in the first three albums, and in a statement last year added that he was paid ten grand hush money by Beatles manager Brian Epstein to “fix” tracks.
“I got paid in five figures, and that was the largest amount of money I’d ever gotten in my life. I thought they were paying me all that money because they liked what I played. Then [Brian Epstein] told me I was being paid to keep my mouth shut.”
What I did was fix The Beatle’s records. I fixed. I didn’t know who The Beatles were (at the beginning). It was just records that I was fixing. The man paid me to come in and fix those tracks.”
Purdie declined to say which tracks he played on because that information could come in useful for – “extracting money.” This is from an interview in Max Weinberg’s book “The Big Beat”.
Weinberg: You played on Beatles’ tracks?
Purdie: Twenty-one of them.
Weinberg: Do you remember which ones?
Weinberg: Which ones?
Purdie: That’s information I don’t disclose.
Weinberg: Why won’t you name the tracks?
Purdie: Because if I need that information to get me some money, then I’ll have what’s necessary. I also played on songs by the Animals, the Monkees.
Weinberg: Everyone knows the Monkees were a fabricated band, but The Beatles?
Purdie: Ringo never played on anything.
Weinberg: Ringo never played on anything?
Purdie: Not the early Beatles stuff.
So who is Bernard Purdie? Born in Alabama (with a snare drum on his knee) in 1946, Purdie’s outstanding CV shows that he kept time for Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Steely Dan, Miles Davis, the Rolling Stones, Dizzy Gillespie, Hall & Oates, James Brown, Paul Simon, Cat Stevens, Ray Charles, Jeff Beck – and The Beatles?
His drumming on Steely Dan’s Babylon Sisters showcases the famous “Purdie Shuffle”, jogging on the constantly opening hi-hats whilst holding a rock steady beat on the bass and snare.
Here it is here. The groove heading immediately into the chorus and during the chorus itself is outstanding. The style is not disimiliar to reggae drummers jogging on the hi-hats on one drop beats for an artificial speed.
There is no doubt that Purdie is an amazingly accomplished drummer. In contrast, Starr is a bit on the agricultural side, and that’s being charitable. Indeed, John Hiseman once said that Starr set drumming back 20 years.
According to Purdie, “The Beatles music was just another job for me. Another job, because half of the songs that I played — I played on 21 tracks of The Beatles — half of them had no drums, because they kicked him (Ringo Starr) out in the beginning. ”
And the whole point is, whether you realise it or not, whether you want to believe it or not, it becomes irrelevant at this point, but you’re gonna find out that he’s not on anything.”
So who did play drums on the Beatles earlier tracks? It has been strongly rumoured for years that Paul McCartney did a lot of the intricate drumming, and now Purdie is claiming that he was sitting behind the traps. John Lennon, meanwhile, was noted for his wry humour. However, was he confirming the rumours when asked if Ringo was the best drummer in the world and replied that he wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles?
Starr’s only reply ( I can find) was to dismiss Purdie’s claims.
“Well then, what was I doing in the studio? I’ve heard that rubbish before. Everyone was expecting me to come out and fight it. You don’t bother fighting that shit.”
The Beatles producer, George Martin, said that he did not use another drummer. Purdie said recently that all will be revealed when his book comes out. We’re still waiting on the book Bernardo. Or were you paid more hush money?
Personally, I reckon he overdubbed on some of the Beatles earlier tracks, including She Loves You (Yeah,Yeah, Yeah). Then again, ten grand was a lot of money to pay out for the overdubbing in 1963….