‘That Ringo Beat . . .’

There were no real surprises atop the Billboard Hot 100 that came out forty-nine years ago today, when I already had the No. 1 record safely at home, likely the second time that had ever happened in my short life.

The No. 1 record in that January 2, 1965, chart was the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine,” which I found on Beatles ’65, an album that I think my sister and I had just gotten for Christmas. (It could have been Christmas 1965, but I don’t think so.) And even though I wasn’t at all invested in pop and rock music, I liked the record and I liked the B-side, “She’s A Woman,” which was at No. 4 that week. I didn’t perceive the two tracks as singles, not being a radio listener; all that would come later. But I did know them and did own them.

(I said that was likely the second time I’d owned the No. 1 single. The first instance of that had happened not quite a year earlier when my father had bought for my sister and me the Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand” almost certainly during that record’s seven-week stay at No. 1.)

The rest of the Top Ten wasn’t as familiar, as I began to head into the second half of sixth grade at Lincoln Elementary School, studded as it was with records by the Supremes, Bobby Vinton, the Searchers, Little Anthony, the Zombies, the Impressions, the Larks and Julie Rogers. Nearly all of those performers – and the singles that they had in that distant Top Ten – have long been familiar. I have to admit, though, that I don’t think I’d ever heard Julie Rogers’ “The Wedding” – which was at its peak of No. 10 – until this morning. I wouldn’t have been impressed then, and I’m not impressed now.

What always does impress me is the number of delights and oddities I find in the lower reaches of the Billboard chart from almost any week between, oh, 1954 and 1989. I’ll dig a little further into that January 2, 1965, chart tomorrow, but today, I wanted to share the first gem I found as I checked out the bottom of the chart.

There’s no doubt that Ella Fitzgerald was one of the giants of American jazz, R&B and pop, from the time she recorded “A Tisket, A Tasket” with Chick Webb’s orchestra in 1938. Joel Whitburn’s Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B and Hip-Hop Hits lists fifteen entries for Fitzgerald, including three No. 1 hits, between 1943 and 1960; in Top Pop Singles, there are ten entries plus a list of nine non-charting classic tracks, and those numbers barely show her stature and influence. As I said, she was a giant.

So it was with a little bit of bafflement that I spotted her entry in that Hot 100 from January 2, 1965: Sitting at No. 127 was Ella’s “Ringo Beat.”

I’m not sure how I feel about that tune, which was gone from the chart the next week. Is it a tribute or a desperate attempt to be relevant? I don’t know. I do know that the drums in the intro don’t – to my ears, anyway – sound like Ringo. Too jazzy. It’s closer on the choruses.


3 Responses to “‘That Ringo Beat . . .’”

  1. Tim McMullen says:

    What an interesting song for Ella Fitzgerald to do, a quick chronicling of “rock and roll” (leaving out, of course, all the real groundbreakers and going for the popularizers) but those are the names the “kids” would know. It credits her (I assume that’s her) with the writing. I didn’t realize that she even wrote songs, and I certainly never heard this one, but it is quite a find for that era of Beatle-mania. When “I Want to Hold Your Hand” came out as a single, I bought it immediately. I used a 3×5″ index card to rig our old record player to replay the song, and I played both sides dozens of times in a row, again and again. I had very indulgent parents. Thanks for posting.

  2. Charlie says:

    I actually have “Ringo Beat” on a double CD collection of Ella 45 RPM singles of the era. Her vocals and the band are as good as always but the song makes me cringe. It did indeed seem to me as a supposed geezer’s way of appearing hip and relevant. Truly a novelty from an artist who should have known better.

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