Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The charm of “Come Together” and the dangers of “toe-jam football”

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.

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“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.

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