Ringo Starr on Beatles, solo career, Skechers and a bit of peace and love

By MIKE COTE
New Hampshire Union Leader
June 08. 2016 1:05PM
If you go...
WHO: Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion, 2 Meadowbrook Lane, Gilford

TICKETS: $39.75 to $124.75

INFO: banknhpavilion.com; 293-4700

During the early ’60s, landing a phone interview with Ringo Starr after his sound check would have been even harder to secure than it is now. But it probably would have been a waste of time. Where would he have found a quiet place to talk away from the screaming girls?

Richard Starkey has been a solo act for nearly five decades now, and those screaming girls have long since raised screaming girls of their own into adulthood. But at 75, the Beatles drummer continues to lead various incarnations of his All-Starr Band in venues around the world.

Starr and current bandmates Todd Rundgren, Gregg Rolie, Steve Lukather, Richard Page, Warren Ham and Gregg Bissonette visit the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford on Friday. Starr will take the spotlight for a few Beatles songs — It’s a safe bet he’ll sing “A Little Help From My Friends” and “Yellow Submarine” — and highlights from his solo career.

In the early ’70s, Starr landed seven top 10 hits in a row, including “It Don’t Come Easy,” “You’re Sixteen You’re Beautiful (And You’re Mine),” and “Photograph,” a song he co-wrote with fellow ex-Beatle George Harrison.

Starr continues to produce albums and released “Postcards from Paradise” last year. He has been married to former actress Barbara Bach — they met on the set of the film “Caveman” — since 1981, and celebrates his birthday on July 7, when he’ll once again preside over his annual “peace and love” ceremony outside Capitol Records in Hollywood. Starr invites fans worldwide to say those words or post them on social media at noon in their respective time zones.

Let’s talk

NH Weekend caught up with Starr on Tuesday, a couple of hours before his show in Englewood, N.J. Starr touched on his early career before joining the Beatles, why his current All-Starrs work so well and the surprise success of his “Ringo” album in 1973, the only solo album by any of the Beatles that included contributions from all four members.

We also talked about his shoe endorsement for Skechers and those early promotional videos by the Beatles that foreshadowed MTV by a couple of decades — and often featured Starr doing something goofy while Harrison, Paul McCartney and John Lennon lip-synched their lines.

When Starr got on the phone, he started talking before we were able to spit out the first question, but his playful manner set the tone.

“It’s such a mixed bag of venues that we do a little sound check until we get used to what’s happening,” Starr said. “Anyway ... question No. 1.”

Q: The Beatles had broken up by the time I was old enough to start buying records. My earliest memory of you was when you dressed up in a giant foil star for the “Photograph” single. What was it like to go from being a drummer and an occasional singer to being a solo artist with top 10 hits?

A: Well, it was great, of course. Even before the Beatles when I was with Rory (and the Hurricanes), we had Ringo Starr time, and I’d do three or four numbers, so it wasn’t that big of a step forward. In the Beatles we had an incredible front line, and I got my shot with “Boys” and things like that. It was like, “OK, I’m doing this now.” It wasn’t like a big shock. I think the biggest shock was the “Ringo” album did incredibly well.

Q: You’ve kept this latest incarnation of your band together longer than the others, and this is the first one you’ve recorded with. What makes this particular group jell?

A. Until we get to rehearsals we don’t know if it’s going to work or not. Anyway, it worked really well, and musically we can’t doubt they’re all great players and they’ve all got the songs, but what was great was that we all got on so well. We know we’re hanging out with each other. Greg Rollie (former keyboard player and singer with Santana and Journey) decided to jam, and we joined in. We ended up with “Islands in the Sun” (on “Postcards from Paradise.”) I had tried with so many of our bands to get them involved together on something, and it never worked. But it did with this band. And it makes my life so easy.

Q. The title track of “Postcards from Paradise” name drops several Beatles songs. (The lyrics stitch together titles from various Beatles hits.)

A. On “Postcards from Paradise” I tried to match something with (Beatles song) “Mr. Moonlight.” I thought, “Oh, ‘Mr. Moonlight,’ and started writing other titles down. I thought I was a genius. I couldn’t really put it together. I’d done the track already in my studio so I had that, and I gave it all to Todd Rundgren, and that’s why it’s great. He took it with him and put it all together for me.”

Q. The song “Rory and the Hurricanes” dips into your pre-Beatles past. You’ve been telling these tales over a few albums now, rather than writing a memoir. Do you have another one planned for the next record?

A. We have an homage to Johnny Guitar, who was the guitarist in Rory and the Hurricanes. He was so great, and I loved him. And also I’ve done the song with (producer) Glenn Ballard for a change. There’s still a hint of Rory going on.

Q. The drum part you play in the Skechers commercial is only about 10 seconds long, but it’s the only solo of yours that comes to mind other than the 18-second stretch in “The End” (On “Abbey Road”). You used to be play a spotlight with Rory and the Hurricanes. Did you like solos back then?

A. I never did solos then. I never did drum solos ever, barring that one you talked about, the Beatles one. In the commercial, there was another actor there who was a guitarist, and he just played drums like a mad person. I was sitting there watching him, and then he looked at me ... to say something. And I say, “Well, at least you got the shoes right.” And I laughed. I loved that. But they then sort of cut him out. That’s not really the way I play. It’s just making a noise in the studio on the set. It’s a bit busy for me. They loved it and they used it and I got out of town.

Q. What’s more fun doing in a music video, playing the drums, riding an exercise bike (“I Feel Fine”) or holding an umbrella (“Help”)?

A. I worked me way up to the umbrella. We were just miming so you weren’t playing drums. So we would just do things. The bike was a part of the set. I’ve done a lot of things besides play drums in these videos.

Q. You’ve celebrated peace and love every year on your birthday for the last decade. Will you be doing that again at Capitol Records next month?

A. We will. We will be doing it at Capitol Records on the 7th of July. And if you could mention that now that would be great, because I’m trying to get the news out earlier this year. By the time we do it in L.A., the whole of Europe has gone to bed.

Q. You’ve been sober for nearly 30 years and married for 35. What’s the Richard Starkey recipe for a happy life?

A. Oh, God knows. You know, it’s just the changes a man goes through growing up. I did have a problem, and I don’t have that problem today. And Barbara puts up with me.


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