Although it was never shown on The Beatles’ original UK albums, The Beatles’ famous ‘drop-T’ logo was a familiar sight throughout the group’s early years.
It adorned Ringo Starr’s drum kit from 1963, has since endured as The Beatles’ official marque, and was registered as a trademark by Apple Corps in the 1990s. But how did it come about?
Ivor Arbiter was born in Balham, south London, in 1929. He repaired saxophones, worked as a part time drummer, and in the late 1950s opened the specialist music shop Drum City on Shaftesbury Avenue. It was the first drums-only store in London.
The store, modelled on the US idea of an outlet just for drums, became a popular destination for jazz drummers. He also opened Sound City, a guitar shop where The Beatles bought much of their equipment from 1963.
The drop-T logo came about almost by accident. In April 1963 Ringo and Brian Epstein entered Drum City to find a replacement for Starr’s Premier kit.
I had a phone call from the shop to say that someone called Brian Epstein was there with a drummer. Here was this drummer, Ringo, Schmingo, whatever his name was. At that time I certainly hadn’t heard of the Beatles. Every band was going to be big in those days!
At first they asked for an all-black kit, but Ringo changed his mind after seeing a swatch of Ludwig’s new oyster black pearl finish on Arbiter’s desk. When told that it was only available on Ludwig drums, his mind was made up. “That’s what I want,” he told Arbiter, who fortunately had a £238 Ludwig Downbeat kit with the finish in stock.
Epstein didn’t want to pay for the drums, but Arbiter refused to let him have them for nothing. They negotiated, and eventually Arbiter agreed to trade the drums in return for his battered old Premier kit.
Arbiter told Epstein he wanted Ludwig’s name to appear on the bass drum head, as he’d recently begun a distribution deal with the company. Epstein agreed, but asked for The Beatles’ name on it too.
On the spot Arbiter designed the famous drop-T logo, hastily sketched onto a scrap of paper. The capital B and dropped T were to emphasise the word ‘beat’. Drum City was paid £5 for arranging the artwork, which was painted onto the drum head by Eddie Stokes, a local sign writer.
On Sunday May 12 1963 Ringo took delivery of his new Ludwig kit. The drums, along with new Paiste cymbals, were driven up by Drum City’s Gerry Evans, who delivered them to the Alpha Television Studios in Birmingham, where The Beatles were appearing on Thank Your Lucky Stars.
The kit had a 20 inch bass drum, 12×8 tom-tom, 14×14 floor tom, and a non-standard Ludwig Jazz Festival wooden snare.
I took his old Premier drum kit from him and brought it back to the store. We renovated it in our workshop, and then sold it. I ripped off the bit of material from the bass drum head where he’d handwritten the Beatles’ name and threw it away. It was a terrible drum kit. It wasn’t old: he’d only had it six months or a year. But it was a brown finish, one of the worst finishes that Premier ever did… I don’t know why he got it in the first place, really. No wonder he wanted to change it. Anyway, we cleaned it up and sold it off the same week – and very, very cheaply. It would most likely be a collector’s item if we still had it today.
Beatles Gear, Andy Babiu
By the end of 1963 the Ludwig sticker on the bass head was flaking away from all the carrying from show to show. It was taken back to Drum City, where Stokes repainted the Ludwig logo, slightly larger than before.
This original drum head was last seen in public at The Beatles’ run of appearances at Paris’ Olympia Theatre, which ended on 4 February 1964. Ringo Starr is rumoured to still own the original drum head, along with the Ludwig kit.
DROP-T DRUM HEAD NUMBER TWO
Starr used seven different drop-T bass drum heads between 1963 and 1967, each with a slightly different logo.
Following Ivor Arbiter’s original, the second drop-T head is commonly known as the Sullivan Head, as it was the one used during The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on 9 February 1964.
In January 1964, while The Beatles were preparing for their first US trip, Ivor Arbiter was asked to prepare a second bass drum head. Once again Eddie Stokes painted the logo, this time onto a 20″ Remo Weather King skin.
Drum City was an authorised dealer of Remo heads, whose distinctive logo was a small crown situated at the top of the head near the rim.
For the second head, Stokes painted The Beatles’ logo much larger, spanning the entire skin from edge to edge. A wider typeface was also used.
Rather than shipping Starr’s drums to America, a new drum kit was purchased for him to play there; only the snare and cymbals were brought over, as well as head number two. Manny’s Music Store in Manhattan delivered the kit, to which the head was attached, just before the taping of their historic appearances for Ed Sullivan.
The second skin was used throughout The Beatles’ first US tour, including three Ed Sullivan shoots, two Carnegie Hall concerts and their live US début at the Washington Coliseum. During the tour a scratch, most likely caused by a hi-hat cymbal being packed in the same case, ran from the letter B through to the A.
The new drums were sent to EMI Studios in Abbey Road after the first US tour. The head was not seen again in public until it was auctioned at Sotheby’s in London 1984. It was sold to George Wilkins, an Australian restaurateur, before being sold once more 10 years later at Sotheby’s, where it was purchased by collector Russ Lease.
DROP-T DRUM HEAD NUMBER THREE
The Beatles began recording and filming A Hard Day’s Night almost immediately after returning from America. It was decided that a brand new bass drum head would be needed for their film début.
Once again a Remo Weather Master was chosen, onto which a logo was hand-painted by Eddie Stokes. This time the group’s name was narrower than on the Ed Sullivan head. The Ludwig logo, too, was different: the L extended below the subsequent letters.
This third head was used throughout filming, and was used during The Beatles’ appearance at the New Musical Express Annual Poll Winners’ All-Star Concert on 26 April 1964.
Afterwards it was seen just once more in public, during the You’re Going To Lose That Girl recording studio sequence in the Help! film. The scene was filmed on 30 April 1965.
Head number three has never appeared at auction, suggesting that, after the kit was sawn around by Clang in the film, it was never recovered from the store room under the studio floor.
DROP-T DRUM HEAD NUMBER FOUR
On the morning of 31 May 1964, prior to a live appearance at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London, Ringo Starr took delivery of a new Ludwig kit, which included his first 22″ bass drum. A new head was therefore required, and Eddie Stokes once again painted the group’s logo onto a Remo Weather King.
This time around, Stokes’ lettering was similar to that on the original head. The Ludwig logo was also painted on.
The drums and head were used exclusively for all The Beatles’ appearances from 31 May 1964 through to 1 August 1965, when they appeared on the Blackpool Night Out television show. Aside from the studio scene in Help!, Starr never again went back to his two 20″ kits.
DROP-T DRUM HEAD NUMBER FIVE
In August 1965 The Beatles returned to New York for the start of their US tour. Ringo Starr unveiled his fourth and final black pearl Ludwig drum kit, along with a fifth head – a 22″ Remo Weather Master.
This time a Ludwig sticker was used instead of a painted logo. It was placed at a slight angle, with the letters on the right slightly higher than those on the left. The Beatles’ logo featured a fatter typeface than on previous versions.
The fifth head first appeared in public on 14 August 1965, the day before their triumphant first concert at New York’s Shea Stadium. The Beatles recorded their fourth Ed Sullivan Show appearance in Manhattan, though the recording wasn’t screened until 12 September.
The kit and head were used throughout the group’s 1965 US tour.
DROP-T DRUM HEAD NUMBER SIX
The Music Of Lennon & McCartney was a UK TV special filmed on 1 and 2 November 1965. As The Beatles were in the middle of recording Rubber Soul at the time, Ringo Starr used his first 22″ Ludwig kit, along with a sixth drop-T logo.
This logo was used on every live and film appearance up until Magical Mystery Tour in 1967. It was also used during the Sgt Pepper sessions.
The sixth skin was used during the rehearsals for Our World, the worldwide satellite link-up for which The Beatles wrote and performed All You Need Is Love. However, prior to the live transmission, the drum head was replaced by the orange and red skin later seen in the Magical Mystery Tour film.
The logo returned for the Hello, Goodbye promo film, although it hasn’t been seen since the footage was shot at the Savile Theatre, London, on 10 November 1967. It disappeared after being stored in an annexe to Abbey Road’s studio three in early 1968.
Ringo’s drum with the Beatles skin on it was left in there, and I remember thinking how attractive to a collector that particular item would be. Strangely enough – and I plead not guilty on this – we came in one day and someone had neatly trimmed the skin out of the drum frame, So someone somewhere has got the original Beatles skin that came out of Starr’s drum kit. After that they used the red-painted skin with ‘Love’ in yellow, rather than bother to get another Beatles skin, because they obviously weren’t going to be appearing on stage any more.
Brian Gibson, studio engineer
Beatles Gear, Andy Babiuk
DROP-T DRUM HEAD NUMBER SEVEN
The final drop-T logo was seen in public very briefly, at the beginning of the Let It Be film, being carried by Mal Evans. The head – again, a 22″ Remo Weather Master, with Ludwig sticker – was intended for Ringo Starr’s maple-finish Hollywood drum kit used during the shoot in January 1969.
However, it was unusual at the time for a front head to be used on Starr’s bass drum in the studio, to give greater flexibility in recording and dampening. As a result, the head was never attached to the drum, nor was it played by Starr.
The Let It Be head was put up for auction in September 1988 by George Peckham of The Fourmost, who had worked for Apple in 1969. Peckham claimed that John Lennon had given him the item. However, it failed to reach its reserve price and remained unsold.
The head was eventually sold by Sotheby’s in August 1992 to an anonymous bidder. It is believed to have remained in private ownership.
Original Source: beatlesbible.com/features/drop-t-logo