Which Beatle came up with the title A Hard Day’s Night? Which Beatle was later cast in such meaty roles as Merlin the Magician, The Pope, and Frank Zappa? Which Beatle never wrote a bad song while a member of the band? Which Beatle is the true lead of A Hard Day’s Night?
Bingo, it’s all Ringo.
Ringo-bashing has been a pastime for so long that it’s no longer considered contrary and hip to be a staunch defender of the man. No matter, I will fight for Ringo’s honor until he garners the respect he truly deserves, not only for his contributions to the band but for his general, all-around awesomeness. All of this malarkey against Richard Starkey is baseless and unfair. He is a good drummer. He is hilarious. He is a downright cool rock ‘n’ roll star. There is no better example of Ringo’s worth than the entirety of A Hard Day’s Night.
In Richard Lester’s giddily anarchic film, Ringo gets to be the clown, the heartthrob, and the existential everyman. Ringo beats his bandmates at cards, receives the most fan letters, chills out with a paperback copy of Anatomy of a Murder, gets arrested, and shows off his wild, proto-punk rock dance moves. Meanwhile, what does John do? He takes a bubble bath.
While the film goes to great lengths to paint the band as a cohesive fraternal unit, it also gives each Beatle his own solo showcase (except strangely for Paul, who is compensated with the unfortunate saddling of Wilfrid Brambell’s disruptive Grandfather). George gets a great scene where he shoots holes in the hollow hubris of a clueless tastemaker. John gets a brief but wonderful scene of surreal doublespeak with a woman who recognizes him in a hallway.
Ringo’s sequence sees him walk out on the band over concerns about his worth. (This fictional drama would become a reality four years later during recording of the White Album, when Ringo temporarily quit because he felt his playing wasn’t up to snuff. This is why Paul plays drums on “Back in the U.S.S.R.”.) In the film, Ringo heads out for a day moping around town. He talks with a kid who feels ostracized from his own gang. Ringo doesn’t talk down to him or shake his head at insignificant childish dramas. He respects this little guy. Later he stumbles along the waterfront, taking pictures and looking at the sky. This particular sequence is one of the most famous in the film and it is definitely the most singular. It’s a scene of relative calm in a movie brimming with chases and screaming girls. Once the completed film was screened, Ringo received accolades for his naturalistic depiction of ennui. He admitted he was just really hungover when they shot the scene. Humble motherfucker.
(A Hard Day’s Night plays digitally at SIFF Cinema Uptown 1/31 & 2/1)