Under the Influence

The unexpected reason Ringo Starr sang one song on each Beatles album

It wasn't because of Ringo's unique voice. It wasn't just to be fair. It was actually a marketing decision.
6th February 1964: The Beatles arriving at London Airport after a trip to Paris. From left to right - Paul McCartney, George Harrison (1943 - 2001), Ringo Starr and John Lennon. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)

In the book titled Sound Pictures: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin, written by Kenneth Womack, the author reveals a strategy behind Beatles records.

Martin and the band decided to have Ringo sing one song on every Beatles album. And it wasn't just to be nice to Ringo. In the first wave of Beatlemania, Ringo was the most popular Beatle.

Years ago, comedian Mitzi McCall and her husband Charlie Brill were a comedy team called McCall & Brill. They were a nightclub act that finally got a big break to be on the Ed Sullivan Show. But that big break happened on February 9th, 1964 - the historic night the Beatles also appeared.

The comedy team came on right before the Fab Four's second set that night, but they couldn't hear each other while performing their sketch because the 14-year-old fans were screaming for the Beatles.

Seventy-three million people watched that night. It was their big opportunity - and no one remembered McCall & Brill. Their agent didn't call them again for six months after that. They say they never watch the video of that night.

Later, McCall would share one funny moment.

She was standing with John Lennon before the show, looking out the window at the screaming crowd outside the theatre. She turned to Lennon and said, "Can you believe this is all for you?"

Lennon shrugged and said, "It's not for me. It's for Ringo, actually."

And that's why the Beatles always put a Ringo vocal on every album. As George Martin said, it was just good marketing.

This story is part of Under the Influence's annual Bookmarks episode. The books mentioned in this show include:

  • Predatory Thinking by Dave Trott
  • Why To Kill A Mockingbird Matters by Tom Santopietro
  • Integrity And All That Sh*t by Terry O'Malley
  • Sound and Pictures by Kenneth Womack
  • A Big Life (In Advertising) by Mary Wells Lawrence
  • Scotty by Ken Dryden
  • This I Know by Terry O'Reilly

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The Terstream Mobile Recording Studio. (Image Credit: Sidney O'Reilly)