Arts/Literature

Don’t Pass Me By… because everybody loves Ringo….

“Don’t Pass Me By” is a rollicking faux country blues honk and the fiddle part is as crazy as Ringo says. It’s charming, funny, and totally Ringo. For a first effort, it’s pretty impressive.

“It was great to get my first song down, one that I had written. It was a very exciting time for me and everyone was really helpful, and recording that crazy violinist was a thrilling moment.” – Ringo Starr

Ringo around the time of the White Album (image courtesy Drummerworld)

There’s that scene from Family Guyof course. Ringo comes into the studio and informs his band mates that he’s written a song. John, Paul, and George talk sweetly and encouragingly to him, then take his lyrics and stick them on the refrigerator (as one might for a kindergartner).

Seth MacFarlane’s snark about Ringo’s talents is part of the long history of criticisms that have been leveled at Ringo over the years; the running gag has always been that Ringo is the luckiest guy in the history of rock. While his acting ability has received praise, Ringo’s musical ability has been knocked repeatedly – and as a songwriter, he’s sometimes been treated by critics as he is in MacFarlane’s cartoon.

Perhaps that is what makes “Don’t Pass Me By” so interesting in retrospect. As a first song, and it was his first, it’s got charm – and goofiness. In other words, it’s pure Ringo.

Anecdote time.

I was a junior in high school when The Beatles, better known as The White Album, was released. A couple of friends and I rode around all night on November 22, 1968, in the small NC town where I grew up listening to WLS in Chicago play through their advance copy of the album, yammering among ourselves between songs. My memory of “Don’t Pass Me By” is vivid for our howling laughter at Ringo’s third verse. Here are the lyrics, hilarity inducing third verse included:

  Don’t Pass Me By

I listen for your footsteps
Coming up the drive
Listen for your footsteps
But they don’t arrive
Waiting for your knock, dear
On my old front door
I don’t hear it
Does it mean you don’t love me any more?I hear the clock are ticking
On the mantel shelf
See the hands are moving
But I’m by myself
I wonder where you are tonight
And why I’m by myself
I don’t see you
Does it mean you don’t love me any more?Don’t pass me by, don’t make me cry, don’t make me blue
Cause you know darling I love only you
You’ll never know it hurt me so
How I hate to see you go
Don’t pass me by, don’t make me cry, don’t make me blue

I’m sorry that I doubted you
I was so unfair
You were in a car crash
And you lost your hair
You said that you would be late
About an hour or two
I said that’s alright I’m waiting here
Just waiting to hear from you

Don’t pass me by, don’t make me cry, don’t make me blue
Cause you know darling I love only you
You’ll never know it hurt me so
How I hate to see you go
Don’t pass me by, don’t make me cry

Ringo goes on to describe the song this way:

I wrote Don’t Pass Me By when I was sitting round at home. I only play three chords on the guitar and three on the piano. I was fiddling with the piano – I just bang away – and then if a melody comes and some words, I just have to keep going. That’s how it happened: I was just sitting at home alone and Don’t Pass Me By arrived. We played it with a country attitude.

“Don’t Pass Me By” is a rollicking faux country blues honk and the fiddle part is as crazy as Ringo says. It’s charming, funny, and totally Ringo. For a first effort, it’s pretty impressive.

Ringo would go on to write many more tunes, of course, including the lovely, schmaltzy “Good Night,” the surreal giggle “Octopus’s Garden,” and his chef d’oeuvre, “It Don’t Come Easy.”

And it all started with “Don’t Pass Me By.”

Here’s an excellent remastered version on Spotify.

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