This Boy (Ringo's theme) - The Beatles

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"This Boy (Ringo's theme)" - The Beatles (1963)

“This Boy (Ringo’s theme)” was the very first attempt to record a song in harmony- something The Beatles did very rarely over their seven year recording career. It has been completely ignored as a great Beatle song.

One version of the origins of “This Boy (Ringo’s theme)” is that John wrote it  about his mother, Julia, who was often physically beaten by her common-law husband, John Dykins- the "That Boy" of the title.

Another version is that it is about Ringo (hence the name Ringo's theme)  but Ringo is not "this boy". Ringo is "that boy". "This boy" is a pleading Pete Best begging the Beatles to take him back as their drummer John could be quite cruel with his humor and rather than leaving poor Pete alone, was making fun of him in this song.

Harrison commented:

"It was John trying to do Smokey (Robinson)."

Engineer Geoff Emerick remembers:

“John, Paul and George’s ability to pull off complex harmony vocals was really quite astounding. You could see they’d spent a lot of time rehearsing, not just getting the notes correct, but having their voices blend just right.”

It was one of Lennon’s earliest compositions and while it seems simple- it is actually a very clever structure as it contains only a few notes, but the space between the notes is filled by the arrangements.

The song features one of the first- and very few- three-part vocal harmonies and includes an intricately syncopated rhythm guitar figure.  Despite the relatively sophisticated use of vocal harmony in the verse, the song represents an archaic gesture, an attempt to reconstruct a 1950’s ballad style no longer in general use by late 1963. In spite of the song’s popularilty, the clichés used here so self-consciously were seldom exploited again in a Beatles ballad.

Beatle scholar Alan Pollack commented:

“With its tight three-part harmonies, jumping triplet rhythm, cliché chord progression, and climactic bridge section for the vocal soloist, this song is a stylized update of the late fifties genre sometimes described as "the slow wall climber. There is a close placement of the three vocal parts in relation to each other, while at the same time a  relative lack of melodic individuality among the three parts. John’s voice is assigned to the bottom part as he sings what is ostensibly the main melody.  This makes his final soaring clearly above the range of the others in the bridge section seem all the more spectacular.”


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