Monday, October 19, 2020

Certain Songs #1937: Ringo Starr – “It Don’t Come Easy” | Medialoper

Single, 1971

Recorded a full year before it was released as a single, “It Don’t Come Easy” was the first of a ridiculous run of Ringo Starr singles.

And I do mean ridiculous: from 1971 – 1975, every single single Ringo released made the the top ten, two of them peaking at #1. That’s a better five-year run than — to pull some random names out of a hat — John Lennon, George Harrison or Paul McCartney ever had. Though Macca ended up with more, eventually.

Not to mention that a lot of those singles were kind of ridiculous on an artistic level — “Back Off Boogaloo,” “Oh My My” “No No Song” — and there were some others I don’t even remember by the titles, but I am assured were big singles. And, of course, “You’re Sixteen,” a song which felt gross to me even back then. (And for whatever reason, they made a video of “You’re Sixteen” in 1978 featuring Carrie Fisher for . . . reasons, I guess? Now, let’s never speak of it again.)

I’m taking the piss, because buried within that run were a pair of songs that were and are unimpeachable AM radio classics, so I can’t just write it all off to post-Beatles hangover syndrome. Which was why the top-notch “It Don’t Come Easy,” which opened with a gorgeous winding guitar breakdown from ringer and co-writer George Harrison — the other three Beatles hated each other, but everyone loved Ringo — that he could have easily kept for himself.

After the intro, some backing vocalists single the title a few times, and then Ringo went straight for the kill with the chorus.

Got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues
And you know it don’t come easy
You don’t have to shout or leap about
You can even play them easy

Now, one might grouse that by 1971, any dues that Ringo Starr had paid were long forgotten, but you know, it’s just a pop song that’s smart enough to stuff a bunch of extraneous instrumentation into every nook and cranny — I can’t ever tell if the horns that answer Ringo’s “it don’t come easy” from the second chorus on are a major hook or a major annoyance.

So yeah, perhaps there are too many backing vocalists and horns throughout, and yeah, Harrison’s guitar solo is utterly buried underneath the haze, but when they get to that breakdown — a cousin of the riff of Cream’s “Badge,” (also a Harrison co-write) and the riff at the end of “You Never Give Me Your Money” — in the middle of the song, and again at the end, all is forgiven.

To me, the end result is a better song than anything Ringo sang on in his previous life — except for “A Little Help From My Friends — and that combined with the instant post-Beatles nostalgia meant that “It Don’t Come Easy” made it to #4, and a staple on classic rock and oldies stations.

“It Don’t Come Easy”

“It Don’t Come Easy” video

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