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Commentary: Beatlemania and the drummer who missed it

Fifty years ago this month, Feb 9, 1964, the Beatles splashed onto the American scene via the Ed Sullivan Show and immediately launched a tsunami of musical and cultural influence felt not only in the States but around the world. So well established was the impact that The Beatles’ break-up only six years later in 1970 provoked shock and global grief but little lessening of their impact or legacy. In fact, the split may have actually solidified their importance and magnified their aura.
Much like the premature deaths of Jimi Hendrix and James Dean, the world was left to wonder what might have been. What great music did we forever miss out on because of the divorce? For a decade die-hard fans fantasized about a reunion despite the developing solo careers of all four members. The murder of John Lennon in 1980 also killed off any possibility of such a fantasy becoming reality.
There are many other significant dates in Beatles history, but there is an obscure date that intrigues me and paws at my imagination. I title the poem simply “August 16”. 
“August 16”
On this date in 1962 Ringo Starr replaced Pete Best 
as drummer of the Beatles, 
a year before their first album.  
Twist and Shout, Love Love Me Do 
were on that record. 
The concerts with layer upon layer
 of screaming, crying girls soon followed. 
I’m a guy and I was only three 
so I wasn’t one of them 
I’m not really sure how it happened. 
Maybe Pete thought the band wasn’t going anywhere. 
Maybe the rent was due on the flat he was renting in Essex, 
the one near the pub on Davonshire 
where some of his old classmates and 
some of the iron workers with bad teeth 
kidded him about his sissy friends. 
Perhaps the textile factory was hiring.
I think it worked out for the best because 
Ringo Starr is a much cooler name.  
I think you’d have to be in show business 
with a name like that. No one would take 
you seriously as a priest or an accountant.
But still I wonder about Pete. 
We all know what it’s like to disappear,
to watch a new employee or new lover 
take our place. We’ve all come down
with some flu of regret that 
made us sick to our heart. 
Which one of us has not been forced 
to watch replays of our misplayed fold and 
the smile of the opportunist who 
swept the hand and cashed our chips.
I hope Pete had a good life, I really do,
that love followed him where 
fame begged off, and that drumming
his fingers on a satisfying glass of dark ale
was music and riches enough, knowing
that celebrity is just obscurity
biding its time.
Author and therapist, Dr. Ramon Presson, is the founder of LifeChange Counseling and the Marriage Center of Franklin, TN.  He can be reached at

Posted on: 2/13/2014


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