When people find out I’m a music journalist there’s a set line of questioning they tend to follow. First will be, “What’s your surname?”, followed by a look of mock-recognition, a flattering set-up to, “Can you get me a ticket for Kings Of Leon?” Then will come more of a statement than a question: “No, I won’t have sex with you and these three other girls, and can you please stop stealing my food?”
Finally, the classic: “What’s your favourite band?” I know what they want me to say. They want me to degrade them with a withering snarl, make them feel like an ignorant maggot on my cultural boot-heel (the slaaags) and sneer, “The Monks, obviously“.
Or they want me to reel off an endless list of Big Pinks, XXs and David Sitek’s Spunky Backpacks that they can memorise and repeat back at the call centre in order to look like an SAS sniper scout of rock’n’roll. Or, if it’s someone in IT, they want me to say Radiohead.
In all cases, I disappoint. After a lifetime of hunting out the best new music, my favourite band remains The Beatles.
Sorry. I am that mythical music critic who really does believe that ‘Revolver’ is the best record ever made. I would swap a million smack-slurry Peter Doherty demos to get my mitts on the forthcoming remastered Fabs’ back catalogue. I felt privileged to get to chat to Sir Macca himself for this week’s NME Eggmanstravaganza.
Yes, if only I was an ex-public schoolboy, a failed musician and had once shagged a Geldof I’d tick all the boxes on the roll call of honking music hack clichés.
But the next question – “Who’s your favourite Beatle, then?” – has stumped me of late. George wrote my favourite Fabs song (‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’) but Paul was overall the best tunesmith and John the Fucked-Up Cool One On Druuugs. But, as each of their legends has towered over rock, and as every solo album has dragged us further and further from their Big Bang genius, it’s slowly dawned on me that perhaps the best Beatle was Ringo.
That’s right, Ringo. OK, he could make hitting a snare drum sound like punching a wet dachshund. Yes, he had a voice like a flock of diseased geese fighting over a clown’s car horn. True, he was the pugly one who lucked in at the last minute. But Ringo was The Beatles. He was the novelty factor without which they would’ve been just showing off.
He made these Godly records resolutely human; a constant, toneless reminder that The Beatles weren’t superhuman beings from Planet Shittingclassics, but three very talented blokes from Liverpool with a comedy drumming mate. With his wonky kiddie-pleasers delivered in the style of a pub-singing brickie, he was the clown in the Fabbo’s Hamlet, the fun to their flair, the epitome of their free-for-all attitude to music: they let him sing ‘Yellow Submarine’ on the same album as ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, for Christ’s sake. It was like getting Matt Groening to do the cartoons in The Satanic Verses.
How come Wings were so cheesy? Because there was no Ringo to be the fall guy for Macca’s intrinsic novelty bent. Why was John’s solo material so po-faced? No Ringo to lighten the mood. Ringo, this totem of playfulness, was the essence of The Beatles; without him the band members’ solo efforts lacked the ridiculousness that had gilded their previous band’s brilliance with a tongue-in-cheek charm.
It’s good to see Ringo’s kept keen his sense of the ludicrous well into grumpy “don’t call me by my stage name” middle age. Just last year he made an internet video appeal to stop people sending him things to sign, which, to paraphrase a tiny bit, went something like this: “Peace and love, peace and love. Will all you cunts fuck off and leave me alone? Peace and love, peace and love. If I get one more copy of ‘Sgt Pepper’s…’ to sign I’m going to come round your house and shove it so far up your arse you’ll be playing ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ on your pancreas. Peace and love…”
So all hail Ringo. By far the best Beatle. Alive today. Apart from Paul, obviously.