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 Babiuk
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.