Rock Conspiracy: Was Ringo Starr in The Beatles?

As the biggest band in the world, The Beatles have certainly seen their fair share of myths. Most notable is the “Paul Is Dead” theory, which draws upon a series of clues from songs and album covers to claim that Paul McCartney died in a motor accident in 1966 and was secretly replaced with a double by the name of Billy Shears. It’s a fun legend, albeit one that’s rather ludicrous.

But recent evidence, probably never meant to be revealed to the masses, suggests that there may be a Beatles conspiracy that nobody could have predicted. All the signs point that Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends narrator Ringo Starr may have fact been…a member of The Beatles.

RingoStarr Thomas

Wait, don’t close the tab! The clues are all there, you just have to let me explain.

1. The album covers

Take, for instance, the cover of The Beatles’ 1969 magnum opus Abbey Road.


Fans have long discussed how the simple photograph of a street crossing resembles a funeral procession. John, leading the way in all white, is the minister; Paul, barefoot and holding a cigarette, is the corpse about to be buried; George, bringing up the rear in denim workclothes, is the gravedigger. But wait, who’s that mysterious figure between John and Paul!?

It could be coincidental, but the man in question, with his gnome beard and pirate jewelry, bears a strong resemblance to Ringo Starr. But what would the host of a 1980s children show be doing on the cover of a rock album from almost two decades earlier?

Interestingly, Starr also makes an appearance, twice in fact, on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. That’s no big deal–The Beatles included cutouts of dozens of authors, actors, and musicians they admired on the cover.

sgt pepper

But hold on a second, how would Starr make it on the cover in 1967 when his hit show Thomas and Friends wouldn’t air until many years later? And why is he appearing on multiple album covers? Could it be that Ringo played a larger role in The Beatles’ creative process. Let’s take a closer look.

2. The music

Most people think The Beatles’ dynamic is pretty straightforward. All lead vocals and songwriting alternate between Lennon and McCartney, with the occasional smattering of Harrison, right?

Let’s take a look at “Don’t Pass Me By,” a deep cut from the groups tumultuous self-titled 1968 album. As soon as the disjointed rhythm and clunky vocals reach your ears, you can tell that this track is not your typical Beatles number. It almost sounds as if the principal author is more comfortable talking about anthropomorphized trains that recording pop music.

Could it be Starr in disguise? It’s no secret that he has had a fairly successful solo music career. You may remember hits such as “You’re Sixteen,” a throwback rocker about a hot teenage girl that, in hindsight, was probably not appropriate for a guy in his thirties to sing.

Still, many other actors and entertainers have dabbled in the music world, so in that regard, Starr is nothing special. To truly prove that he was a Beatle, we would have to see that he was actively participating with Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison during their prime.

3. In person

At the height of Beatlemania in the mid 1960s, all eyes were on the group. Every media outlet and young music fan went gaga over the Fab Four, which everyone agreed was a really funny name for the band since there were only three guys in it.

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 9: The Beatles perform during their first appearance on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW, February 9, 1964. From left: Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

But according to remastered footage of The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, that may not be the whole story. Sullivan announced the names of each Beatle to the youth of America. “John. Paul. George.” And then Sullivan mumbled something else, which most critics heard as “bingo,” as if he were meant, “Bingo! It’s the greatest band in the world, and I discovered them!”

This interpretation makes perfect sense, except for the fact that there was actually a fourth musician onstage.

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 11.45.37 AM

While not immediately noticeable from all angles, he is definitely there, hiding behind a drumkit in the back. That’s where the whole theory gets really weird. Pick out any number of Beatles songs, and you’ll notice that just about all of them contain drumming.

Sure, that doesn’t prove that Starr was the mystery drummer. The Beatles could have hired many different session musicians throughout their time together to fill out the rhythm section. Unless, that is, you look closely at Starr’s 2015 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Starr received the honor with an induction speech by none other than Paul McCartney. Curiously enough, Sir Paul appeared very close to Ringo, played a couple Beatles songs with him, and even mentioned a time when they were “in The Beatles together.”

I get shivers down my spine just thinking about what that could mean.

4. A real conspiracy?

The proof is rather convincing. However, at the end of the day, it still seems quite unlikely that the wacky Ringo Starr was actually in The Beatles, which most critics herald as the best and most influential band of all time.

What’s more likely is that Ringo was simply a close friend of the group. He was a member of The Beatles in the same way that we all are. Their music is so special and timeless that each and every one of us can claim to be a part of it, whether it’s your grandmother or the president. Mankind itself is the fourth Beatle, and guess what? That even includes you, dear Ringo.

john paul george


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