Ringo Starr or Bernard Purdie?

Who was the Beatles’ real drummer?

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?

Purdie: Ummhmm.

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….

46 thoughts on “Ringo Starr or Bernard Purdie?

  1. on of my favourite Rock n Roll quotes ” Hes Not even the best drummer in The Beatles” heh..

    Purdie has a mouth on him but I dont think he’s a Bullshitter.. Watch his interview on the Classic Albums programme about Steely Dan’s Aja and he lists off who he played for,its not hard to see Epstein hiring him to clean up the backbeat in those early tracks..there is a difference between an ego and a liar..

    I could be wrong though..

    I cant wait to read Purdie’s book (eventually)

  2. Best drummer ever….second most recorded in musical history,Steve gadd being the first,what a musician.Starr on the other hand only reinforced the notion that a drummer is merely someone who hung around with musicians

  3. A little birdie, told me Purdie, was a dirtie little liar.
    He did do some overdubbing for producers/bands over the years, especially in the sixties.
    I mean for fuck sake who played on the early Stones records? In fact in some cases you probably had Mike on vocals and Keith on guitar ( not all the guitar tracks) and that would be it.
    I think Purdie just feels a bit dirtie cause he felt cheated for not getting enough readies for his time. That’s it!
    As for Ringo……He’s a rock steady type with no real flair. But that’s all the Beatles needed. After all they were a Vocals driven band. And as for Charlie Watts…Ah here! I hear you say. No great genius, but fucken rock steady. Great back beat. Hard to beat Eddie Clancy though!

  4. I’d agree Charlie Watts didn’t really do a whole lot as regards fills or rolls but he really nailed down the beat, much tighter that Starr. Springsteen’s drummer
    the same. Watts has a jazz band going for years. I thought Stuart Copeland made the reggae/rock fusion his own in his day and what er, about the time keeper with Big Top and the Mainliners. A bird asked him would they play something by the Police one night and he told her if she didn’t fuck off he’d call the police, such class. Phil Collins another great and Chester Thompson. Pauleire hails Steve Gadd above, quite right, Gadd is brilliant, the solo in Steely Dan’s Aja is just one example. Buddy Rich was probably the best of the lot
    though. Angus Gaye of Aswad for reggae and er, the waterpipe with water melons……. Eddie Clancy is a fantastic drummer – any chance of my sticks back from the Top Floor Eddie……..?

  5. Heard the stories about Keith Richards claiming credit for guitar lines played by Ry Cooder alright,for which Richards still claims it was him.Starr not a great musician and probably is all that the beatles needed but should a musician not have the option and ability to go past the tried and trusted?a true muso serves the song but having the option to push it beyonsd the 4/4 straight ahead beat is a nice thing to have also.BTW have you heard this guy Carlos Hercules who’s around Limerick,can do some amazingly intricate stuff but the straight ahead no frills paying spot on also,just check his c.v and you’ll see what Im talking about

  6. Last tinme I saw him Bock was on Paddy’s day he was headin past Leavys with the Sammy Benson youth orchestra

  7. “A bird asked him would they play something by the Police one night and he told her if she didn’t fuck off he’d call the police”. That’s some bird, that.

    I’m thinking if Purdie won’t disclose what Beatles tracks he played on because he needs that information to get him some money, he’s a bit of a spoofer.

  8. It is acknowledged that Purdie cleaned up the drumming on ‘My Bonnie’ and ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ for the US market sometime in 1964, but these tracks, originally recorded in Hamburg, featured Pete Best on drums and he was complete shite. But as for Purdie being on all the all the early Beatle albums, I doubt it ! The Beatles really didn’t take off until after the first us tour in February 1964 so anything previous to that, She Loves You, All My Loving and the first two albums would almost certainly have an English drummer on them. Neither Epstein nor Martin would go to the trouble of sending tapes to the US to have drums added to them and would certainly not have brought Purdie over from the States. Don’t forget that Martin imposed a session drummer on the single version of Love Me Do, Ringo’s on the album version but Andy White played on the single. I reckon Mr P is just bullshitting. As for Charlie, i have read nothing to contradict my belief that he played drums on all the early Decca recordings. He was and is one the best rock drummers around. But Paul WAS killed in a car crash.

  9. Pete forever, Ringo never!

    Actually, I quite like Ringo’s drumming. Not sure about the claims of this Purdie guy….given the attention that the Beatles have received over the last half century, I find it kind of surprising that this revelation is only coming to light now…

  10. Seconds out.. What about Ginger Baker!
    I agree with you regarding Drummie Zeb (angus gaye). A brilliant drummer.
    Toured with Aswad in the eighties myself and had a great time. Water melon days baby! Thats all I’ll say on that one, or the game will be up!

  11. I heard about that Aswad tour and yourselves LJS…..Sinsemilia, you wouldn’t know a hi-hat from a guitar amp after it. I remember one Limerick musician being told that he was wasted with a particular band. He was, quite literally.

    Ginger, agreat drummer. He’d raise the dead.

    And what about the great Brendan Wallace, a fine drummer.

  12. Drum solo’s were a big thing in the 60’s and 70’s. Nearly all bands at the time had the “drum solo” on the album. Ginger did them better then most though. He’s just a fantastic drummer. I dont think he does drum solo’s anymore. They were just part of the gig at that time, along with the 10 min bass solo and the 4 hour guitar solo. Jesus some lead guitar players are still taking a 5 minute solo in every song. Fuck sake, lead players are really slow to catch on. Ha Ha. Times have changed guys. Get with the programme! Oh Lord what have I started!
    Cap’n P Yeah Beanie’s a great drummer, but so is Eddie Clancy and Liam Darcy and many others. Just different styles. I played with them all and wouldent place one above the other.

  13. Very true. Darcy, Eddie, Ian Mac, Danny Byrt, Tony Roche: Fuck it we’re spoilt for great drummers in this town. Oh yeah, and lay off the lead guitar players! Actually, come to think of it, we’ve had and have some of the best in that category too. Des O’Dwyer – the master craftsman, Dave Keary, Ian Harris – (yes, he’s ours), Rob Collopy, Tom Cronin, Paul O’Connor, Dave Hockedy, Johnny Hockedy, Brian O’Connor, Annie Fitz……… Fuck me, and bass players: Brian Healy, Ralf Lindheim, Pablo, Sean Fox, Freddy Comber, Gerry O’Brien…. fucking hell, we are blessed in Limerick.

  14. Less not forget Des O’Grady, original drummer with Toucandance, top class sticks man. Tom McLoughlin, originally with The Outfit, then 16 Tons of Jive. Des played on the Toucans “Green Eyes”, one of the best singles of the 80s as far as I’m concerned – fuckers in RTE never gave it the oxygen of publicity. Clive Cheevers is another top class drummer,as was/is Pa Roche. Tony Brennan replaced Des on the Toucan stool I believe.

    Of course Des was, allegedly, a clean living Christian until he started hanging out with the Toucans, formerly called Average Contents, until they realised that name could forensically link them to whoever put a match under King Canute’s in the mid-80s. That, insisted the saxophonist with the The Rhythm Sector,, was the real reason they changed their name. “Why do you think they hang out with Light a Big Fire?

    There was great gear around in those days.

    Meantime, within two months of joining the band Des had succumbed to the Toucans immoral influence and their insistence on drinking more than they ought to, to paraphrase Eamonn. Within three months of opening a hi-hat he had quit going to Mass entirely. He began to swing that proverbial tackie – and making top class music with one of Ireland’s most innovative bands. Alas, music had turned its back on real music back then. It was submerged in the era of one synthesizer and a faggot, as memorably described by a remarkably sober looking Shane McGowan at the time.

  15. Let’s not forget Peter Hanagan Cap’n P,another adopted son,probably the most knowledgable musician in town.

  16. Anyone remember the band Gerry Atric and the Spastics. Punk band late 70’s
    Now there was a drummer! He went by the name of Pubz Mac Reckdegaff. Cant for the life of me remember his real name?

  17. purdie may be getting starr and pete best mixed up.its true he played on many beatle songs from the decca era when best was the drummer.purdie played on aint she sweet and other songs.purdie also claimed starr was fired from the band,when it was pete best that was terminated.

  18. There is a difference between an ego and a liar; but obviously Mr. Purdie is a liar with an ego. His claims are so preposterous and so easily shown to be false, it’s amazing that anyone would believe him. But then, the fact that Barak Obama could be elected President of the US only proves what Adolf Hilter said: “The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it.”

  19. This is one full of shit bozo! Ringo was the Beatles drummer from August of 1962 on. If I wanted to sell my product and I was not that great, I too would claim to have played on the studio tracks of a popular group. After all, it was almost 50 years ago and who’s going to say who was or wasn’t in a studio at a certain time. I think he’s full of shit. Maybe that’s why he’s so black.

  20. Chester Thompson. Pauleire hails Steve Gadd above, quite right, Gadd is brilliant, the solo in Steely Dan’s Aja is just one example.

    I’ve been a musician for a long time and I’ve heard more than a few other musicians (of the pompous, note-reading variety who couldn’t really improvise or wing it if their life depended on it) recount the hoary myth of how Steve Gadd’s drumming on one track making him the most brilliant drummer of all time, in the entire universe, end of discusssion. Yet when pressed, these same individuals have a very hard time coming up with a second track/example of why Gadd deserves such lofty accolades.

    Not saying that Gadd ISN’T a very skilled drummer, but there are numerous others (Mr. Purdie included) who could just as easily be given the same legendary “distinction”.

  21. Your as well off with a drum machine to tell the truth. It doesn’t take drugs nor drink nor try to take a baseball bat to a misfortune just because he asked for a Chris De Burger song, although you can understand the compulsion. Moreover, a drum machine won’t try to shag your missus – or drink you liquor from an old fruit jar – nor do you have to pay the fucker.

    Meantime, Buddy Rich was yer only man.

  22. Q. “How do you know the stage is level?”
    A. “The spit comes out both sides of the drummer’s mouth”. Apologies for that.
    The best rock drummer? No question-Bonzo!
    The worst rock drummer? No question-Dave Clark.
    In my opinion.

  23. It’s -not- “acknowledged” by -anyone- that Purdy played on -any- Beatle recordings, ever. No one but Purdy’s -ever- made -any- such claims, & -plenty- of potential witnesses have nothing to lose by telling the truth, (which they have: -no- Purdy on -any- Beatle tracks).

  24. If you played with Steely Dan, which Purdy did, you’d be well able to hold time with the Beatles, a great band, but no Steely Dan. McCartney is also rumoured to have played on some of the earlier drum tracks for the Beatles. Truth is that Ringo wasn’t a very good drummer. The McCartney rumour/truth gave rise to the saying that he (Ringo) wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles saying I reckon. Apparently, it was common to use session musicians – in place of actual band members – in the 60s.

  25. The sad truth is, that a lot of young and hopeful musicians who isn’t very historic orientated with The Beatles story, jumps in on this claim, and believes Purdie’s argument, because they are so blinded by his technical skills and at the same time sees him as an idol. I have met a lot who believes this story, typically drummers. There is no way they will believe the facts from documentation and session tapes. Purdie speaks the truth. Sad and very irritating.

  26. Wrong there, Pauliere. You’re forgetting Hal Blaine who has the all time record for most recorded drummer in history. Go do your research and you will see. And as far as Beatle tracks go. I believe Ringo played on most of them. But without a shred of doubt, I maintain that it was Bernard Purdie who played on “I Feel Fine”. That is his signature feel and right-hand cymbal work, far beyond thge skill level of RIngo at the time it was recorded.

  27. One of the best unknown session drummers in my opinion is Johnny “Taz” Lee. He sat in for Herbie C and some of the Tommy Janes and the Young Brother’s tracks, and I think he was with Riverstream?, along with some of the older recordings in the 50’s to 70″s. Even though Ringo wasn’t a fantastic drummer, he was the right drummer for the Beatles. He was in the back providing the beat for three great vocal musicians. Ringo was also great for the press. Purdie was a great session drummer. Maybe he’s just confused with all the greats he’s played with. As for other great drummers, Steve Gadd could take any session and fill the groove and bring the song to life. Another great studio drummer is Chester Thompson. Just too many for everyone’s opinion.

  28. @Bernardo ‘Truth is that Ringo wasn’t a very good drummer.’

    @Pauliere ‘Starr on the other hand only reinforced the notion that a drummer is merely someone who hung around with musicians’

    What the fuck? If you were talking about a local musician who auditioned for your wedding band fair enough but Ringo’s back beat is on records that will be listened to years and years from now. Come down out of that ..For fuck sake Lennon used him on his first and arguably best solo album after the Beatles broke up, do you think he used him because he owed him a favour or perhaps he d no way of getting Steve Gadds number…

  29. All this talk about Ringo not being that good etc….do you really think he cares???? The guy is probably worth $200 million dollars and has the royalties from Beatle tracks will ensure that his children’s childrens childrens would not have to work a day in their life.That is success… not whether Gadd played AJA in one take.

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