Was Paul McCartney the "best drummer in The Beatles"?* Listen to the fab 4 tracks he played on, and the isolated drum parts, and decide for yourself
Let's clear one thing up for starters. It’s a good line, and John Lennon was a famously acerbic wit, but he never in fact quipped “Ringo wasn’t the best drummer in the world… Let’s face it, he wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles”.
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Beatle-ologists long ago tracked that quote down to British comic Jasper Carrot in 1981, but the joke only works because of the other drummer in the Beatles (sorry Pete, you don’t count). Paul McCartney is, as you may be aware, a talented multi-instrumentalist, and is credited with the drums on four Beatles recordings.
While Macca's instrumental omni-competence is hardly a surprise - he says he first picked up the sticks in anger during the Beatles' storied pre-fame Hamburg sojourn, and he's operated as a one-man studio band at several stages of his solo career - it's still fascinating to look back on these fab four documented Beatles drum gigs.
So, was Paul a Ringo-beater? You decide...
The recording logs are clear. Paul McCartney contributed the drums for Dear Prudence in late-August 1968 at Trident Studios, while Ringo was temporarily out of the picture, having 'left' the Beatles, before being wooed back well after the final track was in the can.
The overdub that clearly kicks in at around 2.06, below, has muddied the internet waters, and it certainly sounds a lot like Ringo, but for now, until either of them says any different, we're siding with the grown-ups in the chatroom, and the paperwork, and saying this is all Paul.
Back in the USSR
The other August 1968 Trident Studio track that Paul took the stool for, and the one that triggered Ringo's brief hiatus from fab four duty after a row with McCartney over - yes - the drum part, Back in the USSR was recorded around a week before Dear Prudence.
Ballad of John and Yoko
The Ballad of John and Yoko features just two Beatles, John (obviously) and Paul (duh). One snippet of session tape even captures John urging Paul, "Go a bit faster, Ringo, " to which McCartney replies "OK, George!".
Harrison himself commented in the Anthology book, "I didn't mind not being on the record, because it was none of my business ... If it had been 'The Ballad of John, George and Yoko', then I would have been on it."
Martha My Dear
From a double-header to pretty much a solo McCartney effort (apart from the brass band assembled at short notice by George Martin), Martha My Dear is the final of our fab four Macca drum tracks. Like Back in the USSR and Dear Prudence, it was recorded at Trident Studios in 1968, with Paul on vocal, piano, bass, lead guitar and drums.