Quincy Jones on The Beatles: “They Were No-Playing Motherfuckers”
Picking the best part of a Quincy Jones interview is, judging by the last two I’ve read, impossible. Last month we were gifted with an epic, tour de force Jones profile from GQ, which found the legendary producer talking about narrowly avoiding being killed in the Manson murders, Hilter’s cocaine habits, mediating a feud between Michael Jackson and Prince, and so much more. Now, there’s a new Jones tome from Vulture, which covers everything from who killed JFK (“Giancana”) to Harvey Weinstein (“jive motherfucker”) to Marlon Brando’s sex life (“He’d fuck a mailbox”) to Jones jamming “all night” with Mussolini’s jazz pianist son. Also, the 84-year-old producer claims he once went on at least one date with Ivanka Trump.
But perhaps the most notable tidbit–another of so many testaments to Jones’ vast depth of experience and extreme singleminded-ness in this interview–is his assessment of The Beatles. When asked to describe his first impressions of the band in the ’60s, Jones answered: “That they were the worst musicians in the world. They were no-playing motherfuckers. Paul was the worst bass player I ever heard. And Ringo? Don’t even talk about it.”
Jones continued, recounting a recording session in which he participated for Starr’s 1970 solo debut Sentimental Journey:
I remember once we were in the studio with George Martin, and 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.” So he did, and we called Ronnie Verrell, a jazz drummer. Ronnie came in for 15 minutes and tore it up. Ringo comes back and says, “George, 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.
Though he wasn’t impressed with Starr and the rest of the Fab Four’s ability, Jones did defend some rock music. As Jones remembered, billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen could “play like Hendrix.” Jones discovered this while riding on Allen’s yacht with McCartney, Sean Lennon, David Crosby, and (yes) Joe Walsh–of course he did.