Sometimes the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosts exhibitions that are just a little more lowbrow than their usual fare (recall “The Model as Muse,” a show that might as well have been called “Models! Neat!”). Now, to balance out its stuffy-sounding “Vienna Circa 1780: An Imperial Silver Service Rediscovered,” it will host some pop-cultural gold: Ringo Starrs gilded drum set.
As one would imagine, the perks of being a Beatle were great. So great, it turns out, that product placement by one of the Fab Four in their heyday was repaid with literal gold. Ringo Starr — who boosted Ludwig sales when he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 playing that company’s logo-emblazoned oyster black pearl drum set — was presented in Chicago, during the band’s first U.S. tour later that year, with a one-of-a-kind gold “Super-Sensitive” drum by William F. Ludwig, Jr.
In honor of his upcoming 70th birthday on July 7, the pleasantly dopey musician has decided to loan this snare drum — which bears a plaque that reads “Ringo Starr, The Beatles — to the Met, to remain on display until December of this year. Declared a “culturally significant object” by the State Department (a common occurrence for high-profile exhibits, although it sounds quite thrilling), the drum was described by associate curator of the Met’s musical instrument department Jayson Kerr Dobney as “the highest-end production of the most important drum manufacturer of the 20th century.”
Starr will perform on the day of his birth at Radio City Music Hall (on a drum made of humbler materials, one can only assume), and a taped broadcast of the drummer (along with Ben Harper and Joan Osborne) performing at the Met will be aired on June 9th as a part of the PBS series “Live from the Artists Den.” Perhaps the museum will take the drum set out from behind the Plexiglas to let Ringo thwack it a few times in honor of this special event.