Happy Birthday Jimmy Nicol!


Good question. The average rock fan may not know this, but the Beatles changed drummers one more time after they threw Pete Best to the curb like a sack of spoiled meat. Granted, this second replacement was only for a few days, but here is the brief story of Jimmy Nicol.

The Beatles were about to leave for an Australian tour in June 1964 when Ringo Starr collapsed with tonsillitis the night before. The group and producer George Martin had to make a tough decision: Though Ringo was obviously part of the group’s appeal and a good musician in his own right, he was certainly the most replaceable member of the group as well. When George Martin proposed that the group tour Australia with a substitute drummer, John Lennon and Paul McCartney took to the idea rather quickly. George Harrison was more stubborn, threatening to pull out of the tour if Ringo wasn’t coming. This anecdote is another item in an increasingly large pile of evidence that George was the best one.

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Eventually, however, Harrison relented, and the group flew to Australia with Nicol and sans Ringo. Nicol was given the trademark Beatles haircut and dressed up in Ringo’s suit. Luckily the learning curve wasn’t too steep. He had previously been a session drummer who had actually played on “no-frills” cover versions of Beatles songs. This would turn out to be crucial, because Jimmy Nicol was plopped behind Ringo’s drum set just 27 hours after Starr’s collapse. By all accounts Nicol availed himself quite well in Ringo’s place, and the gigs went off without a hitch. Because the switch occurred during the height of Beatlemania, it is doubtful that anyone noticed.

You know, because of all the screaming.

Nicol would go on to play a total of 8 shows with the Beatles until an on-the-mend Ringo joined the group on June 14th. Starr continued his work with the group, and JImmy Nicol was demoted to footnote.

But not today! August 3rd marks Nicol’s 77th birthday! Let’s all stop what we’re doing for a second this week and appreciate the one man who allowed the show to go on in a country far, far away from here.

Photo by By Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Rijksfotoarchief: Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Fotopersbureau (ANEFO), 1945-1989 – negatiefstroken zwart/wit, nummer toegang, bestanddeelnummer 916-5129 (Nationaal Archief) [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

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