The Beatles’ Ringo Starr Would Watch ‘John [Lennon]’s A**’ to Keep Time When He Couldn’t Hear Over Screaming Fans

Article Highlights:

  • Ringo Starr kept his eyes on John Lennon to keep time amid screaming fans
  • The Beatles’ steady ascent to fame
  • When the band knew they’d hit it big
The Beatles, from left to right: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and John Lennon in concert at the London Palladium.
The Beatles, from left to right: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and John Lennon in concert at the London Palladium | Les Lee/Express/Getty Images

If you’ve seen any footage of a Beatles concert, or if you were lucky enough to attend one yourself, you know the fan cheering/screaming was at a whole new level. In fact, the guttural fan noises were so loud, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr could hardly hear one another play. At least that’s what Starr told Ellen DeGeneres in a 2015 interview. So Starr, the drummer, had to get creative with how he stayed on beat.

How Ringo Starr stayed on beat amid Beatlemania screaming

DeGeneres asked Starr if he ever wondered, during a Beatle show, if the audience could hear him over all the screaming.

“Well, it was part of the life we had,” he said. “And we couldn’t hear us. So, you know, it seemed to be you came to see The Beatles and then Paul counted and then you just screamed until we bowed and left. But it was great. The atmosphere was great.”

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The screaming was so loud at every show that the bandmembers wondered if they were even decent musicians anymore. Never mind any solos or flourishes, the drummer simply strove to stay on beat amid all the noise.

“We were becoming really mediocre players, musicians,” said Starr. “I just had to just keep time. If I went to do a fill, it was like in silence, you know? So I would be watching Paul’s foot or John’s a** or, you know, ‘Where are we up to?’ … But you know, that’s how it ended up. And we made a conscious decision — we were becoming loose musicians — and so we decided, ‘We need to go in a studio and see what we’ve really got.’ And that’s what started that. And we got some great stuff.”

While the time in the studio helped the boys mind their sound, it didn’t cut down on audience screaming. Thankfully, for that, Starr had “John’s a**” — “He’d waggle it,” he said.

Ringo Starr on The Beatles’ ascent to stardom

Starr also spoke about the band’s climb to the top (before their audiences became so… enthusiastic). The way he remembers things, The Beatles just kept accomplishing new goals.

“In Liverpool, we were a club band,” he said. “And suddenly we did a theatre, and that was like a step. And then we had a 45 record, ‘Love Me Do,’ and that was like, ‘Oh, we’ve got a record!’ I mean, it was like unbelievable. And only the BBC in England would play it. We would know when they’d play it. It would be like 9:14 they’d play the record and we’d pull over the car — because we were always in the same car — and listen to it on the radio. So it was a lot of stepping stones.”

When The Beatles knew they’d made it

While The Beatles were excited by each of their new accomplishments, there was one moment that let them know they were huge stars and that everything had changed. That moment was when America greeted them with open arms (and more screaming).

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“New York, America, was one of the top,” he said. “It was just incredible.”

DeGeneres said she remembered watching Starr and the rest of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.

“And who knew when Ed Sullivan booked us? We didn’t know him, he didn’t know us,” said Starr. “But he saw the crowd. In Europe we had the crowd, but not in America. And when we got to America, thanks to Murray the K and people like that, we had a number one and we were big shots.”