In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re highlighting our favorite drum tracks of all time.
The Beatles, “Come Together” (1969)
I struggled to come up with what I considered to be a “good pick” for this topic. Then I decided to get over myself and write about the very first song where I can remember taking note of the drum part. So here we both are: in a music piece where the writer dares suggest to a reader that maybe The Beatles are worth a listen.
“Come Together” will always hold a special place in my music-loving heart, because it’s the first Beatles song I fell in love with as a kid. Although I’ll cop to hearing the 1988 Michael Jackson cover first (I was really into Moonwalker), MJ’s version can’t hold a candle to the original, which I must have heard a year or two later on an oldies radio station. I think the secret ingredient may be Ringo Starr’s drumming on the track; something about it is just downright funky—especially those chunky, stuttering downbeats over the “Got to be a joker / He just do what he please” part.
Much has been made by Beatleologists about the quality and importance of Starr’s drumming in the Beatles’ discography and legacy. But as a 10-year-old kid, all I knew was that I thought this song was great; I became kind of fascinated with it and learned all the words. Not that I had any idea what to make of them, but I sang along all the same. I felt proud that I understood the irony that Old Flat Top had hair down to his knees, and I remember asking my mom what exactly “toe-jam football” was and whether it was contagious. (I didn’t think twice about someone having “ju-ju eyeballs,” though.)
I didn’t hear the entire Abbey Road record until I was a teenager, definitely a pivotal album purchase for my life, but to this day whenever I hear John Lennon’s opening “shoot (me)” followed by Starr’s muted drum fills, it’s a mood-booster that forces me start bobbing my head to that beat and making sounds that approximate those fills. It’s such a touchstone of a track for me, and hearing it reminds me of a time when it didn’t matter to me so much why a song was “good,” or whether I could make heads or tails of the lyrics. What mattered was how the song made me feel and whether it compelled me to dance around and learn all the parts. I also spent a considerable amount of time wondering if Old Flat Top was the type to show up and kill me in my sleep. Something about that dude just didn’t seem right.