When looking back at the world of contemporary culture, it is not unusual to uncover some spectacularly bad takes. Take, for instance, the time a BBC Talent Scout dismissed the great David Bowie, describing him as a “singer is devoid of any personality”. Or perhaps the time a Guardian critic shrugged off an emerging Kate Bush, labelling her as an “odd combo of artiness and artlessness”. In truth, we can all get things wrong on occassion. However, here, we look back at a somewhat bizarre moment that the legendary record producer Quincy Jones, famed for his deep understanding of the art, took an incredible swipe at The Beatles, describing them as “the worst musicians in the world”.
Jones, who has been prolific in the music industry for over 60 years, has earned a remarkable amount of Grammy Award nominations and holds the record with 80 to date. Working with some of the biggest in the business, from Michael Jackson to Frank Sinatra, there is no doubting Jones’ credentials when it comes to understanding and recognising talent.
However, when attempting to promote a Netflix documentary and US television special, Jones decided to ruffle a few feathers when he heavily criticised Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. Jones, 88, was speaking in an interview with New York Magazine when he frankly opened about his first impressions after meeting the iconic Liverpool band: “They were the worst musicians in the world,” he said.
Adding: “They were no-playing motherfuckers. Paul [McCartney] was the worst bass player I ever heard.”
Jones, whose career spans six decades in the entertainment industry, decided to single out Ringo Starr for the tough stuff: “And Ringo? Don’t even talk about it,” he began before recalling the arrangement of ‘Love Is a Many Splendoured Thing’ for Starr’s 1970 debut solo album Sentimental Journey.
“Ringo had taken three hours for a four-bar thing he was trying to fix on a song. He couldn’t get it. We said: ‘Mate, why don’t you get some lager and lime, some shepherd’s pie, and take an hour-and-a-half and relax a little bit.’”
Moving on, Jones explained how he called English jazz drummer Ronnie Verrell into the studio while Starr was working: “Ronnie came in for 15 minutes and tore it up. Ringo comes back and says: ‘George [Martin], can you play it back for me one more time?’
“So George did, and Ringo says: ‘That didn’t sound so bad.’ And I said: ‘Yeah, motherfucker because it ain’t you.’ Great guy, though.”