Ringo takes five to chat about life, fishing tale
By Patrick MacDonald
Seattle Times music critic
Sunday, August 31, 2003
There was a time when the standard pop-star interview was 30 minutes. Over the phone or in person, that was what PR people usually offered back in the '70s and '80s. And that would give a writer more than enough material to work with.
But celebrities move quicker these days, and interviews are usually 15 or even 10 minutes.
When Ringo Starr's PR agent pitched a phoner to The Seattle Times, in advance of the Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band show tonight at Marymoor Park, she said he would be available for just five minutes.
She apologized for the brevity, adding, "I understand if you turn it down."
Turn down Ringo? No way, even if it is only five minutes. After all, he is one of the two surviving Beatles. And how often do you get a chance to talk to a Beatle?
The call came at 9:05 a.m. last Tuesday, just as promised. A man who identified himself as "David, Ringo's assistant" said I was being sandwiched between interviews on two morning shock-jock radio programs.
A second later an unmistakable voice came on the line: "Patrick, hello!" He didn't have to say who it was.
"How are you, Ringo?" I blurted.
"Great, fabulous!" he said, almost shouting. "Never felt better."
I asked where he was calling from.
"Somewhere in Texas," he answered. I said I was picturing him in a cowboy hat. "No, Patrick, no," he said, chuckling.
"What kind of questions do those shock jocks throw at you?" I asked. "They can get pretty wild."
"After 40 years of doing this, there's no question that can shock me," Ringo replied. "They pitch 'em to me, and I hit 'em."
I noticed that his answers were deliberately short. This, indeed, was going to be only five minutes. So I speeded up the questions.
"You're so famous, is there anywhere you can go where you're not recognized?"
"My own home. That's about it. But I don't mind. I'm used to it. People are very, very nice. It's hardly ever a problem."
"Every year, when you put together the All Starrs for your summer tour, does anybody say no? Does anybody turn Ringo down?"
"They have, but only because of other commitments, their own tour or something. I love being around musicians, working with them. I usually get most of the people I want. It's always worked out."
"Do you live in California now, or England?"
"I have a home in California and one in England, but now I live in Monaco. I've had a home there for 18 years but just started living there the last few years. It's very nice over there. Sunny and beautiful."
"You've done movies and TV in the past. Any more of that coming up?"
"No. I've decided I'm just going to do music from now on. That's what I love. I'm a musician and that's all I want to be. I'm turning down everything else."
"Do you keep up with new music?"
"Oh, yeah, sure. I really like Eminem, the stories he tells. I like hip-hop for the beats. I don't listen much to the raps, but I like the rhythms. Eminem, I listen to his raps over and over, because they're amazing. There's a lot of good rock bands now, and that's great. You probably noticed all these young bands that are into playing. Musicianship is back. When I meet these young bands and the drummer says I influenced him, nothing makes me feel better."
"The last 40 years of your life has been thoroughly documented. What's it like being photographed all the time?"
"You know, there's only about eight pictures of me before I was in the Beatles. A baby picture or two and some snapshots. Since then, it's like I've been photographed 40 times every day. When we were doing the 'Anthology' we went through all these photos and films. If I want to know what I looked like on some day 30 years ago, there's probably a photo somewhere. Patrick! Your five minutes are up. One more question!"
"Does Seattle have any particular meaning for you?"
"No, not really. I've never spent any time at all there except on tour. You had some great music coming out of there a few years past, I remember that."
"Don't you remember fishing out of the window of your hotel room at the Edgewater with the other Beatles? There's photographic proof."
"I've heard stories about that, fish stories, and I've seen those pictures, but I don't remember it at all. You can say anything you want about that and I won't deny it. Time's up, Patrick! Thanks!"