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Old Aug 28, 2012, 06:44 PM   #1
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Default Ringo Interview from the vault...1977.

the Vault
Ringo Starr, 1977
By Paste News

As a member of the Wolfgang’s Vault family, Paste has access to a rich archive of historic audio interviews from a variety of sources. Many of these interviews have never existed in text form. Our From the Vault series will publish a different interview each week from our favorite rock ’n’ roll icons. This week’s subject is Ringo Starr.

Recorded just as Ringo the 4th, his sixth solo album, was to be released, Starr’s initial post-Beatles commercial success had already peaked by the time of this interview. However, he and host Bill Minkin take a logical, sequential approach leading up to that album, covering his days in The Beatles as well as each of his solo projects through the early 1970s. With a thunderstorm raging in the background and Ringo drinking and eating throughout the course of this talk, this is a wonderful opportunity to get personal with one of the Fab Four.

Bill Minkin: What happened after Brian Epstein passed away?

Ringo Starr: Paul answered the phone, told us and disappeared. Paul just disappeared.

Minkin: He told you the news then left the house?

Starr: Yeah, he left the planet for a while. I mean, we were all just stunned. We didn’t know what to do. We’d sign toilet paper for Brian. We didn’t know what we were into, but that didn’t matter. It was Brian, for Christ’s sake. He’d been with us all the way and we all loved him. Everyone felt close to him. He lived above George and I for a period. You don’t do anything, you know. We all got back to London and we just wandered around for a while.

Minkin: Were there meeting about what to do?

Starr: Well yes, because we were a monster act. Even Brian’s death would not let us slow down. That was one of the strangest periods, because you want to stop for a while, but you couldn’t. And who’s looking after it? We are? We were just players, you know.

Minkin: Was there anyone who stepped in for a while and took you through the transition?

Starr: Peter Brown was probably the closest, but he was going through his turmoil as well.

Minkin: Did any of the four of you emerge as an organizer or someone who kept it together at that point?

Starr: No. Not right at that point. So Brian being dead or not, we had to figure out what we were going to do with our lives. What was happening? We were all just in terrible, terrible [shape]. We didn’t know what to do.

Minkin: It never really did get together, in terms of the whole management thing, since Brian’s death, did it?

Starr: No. We thought we would show them. It was a lot of flower power and grass and acid in those days. Even we have to beg. We have to beg to get on a label. George Martin, bless his soul, took a chance on us. Brian hawked those tapes around and Decca turned us down. But of course, EMI turned Elvis down, so that all went on. Then George Martin said, ‘Well I’ll do a record with them.’ He didn’t like me, of course. He wanted a professional drummer. Mainly because when we did the run through for “Please, Please Me,” I was doing tambourine in one hand, maraca in the other and the bass drum and the high hat. This mad thing, trying to shake and hit the cymbals with the maraca. I would smash this big cymbal with a maraca. And George is looking at me going, ‘Oh, yes? We’ve got a mad person here.’ That’s why he brought in Andy White, anyway.

Minkin: So all of the drums on “Please, Please Me” are not you?

Starr: “Please, Please Me” is all me. “Love Me Do” is not me. “Love Me Do” on the single is Andy White and on the album is me. It’s a very simple song, you know. I can do it. But George didn’t want it at the time. He was insecure. He wanted to fit in a real player. But it was one of the dumbest things we ever did. He was on the single, I was on the album.

Minkin: There is one particular Beatle album I want to talk about and then we’ll move on.

Starr: Well do you want to know why I’m called Ringo Starr?

Minkin: I do want to know why you’re called Ringo Starr. Let’s say it now. When did Richard Starkey become Ringo Starr?

Starr: Rory Storm and the Hurricanes got the first job at Butlins. We all went there, and in Liverpoool they call your names and I was being called “Rings” because I had three rings on then. They just give you nicknames. So we went to Butlins and said, ‘Well let’s change our names. We’ve gone professional now.’ So we had Johnny Guitar, Ty O’Brien, Lou Walters. We all took cowboy names. We were all English so we wanted to be cowboys. And I took Ringo Starkey and I said ‘Oh, that’s no good.’ So I just cut it off and ended up with Ringo Starr.

Minkin: June 2, 1977. The tenth anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper. June 2, 1967, the album’s released. It’s a landmark album in popular music. What I want to know is if when you were making the album with George Martin, if you knew you were doing something different. Was it just like another album?

Starr: No, it was different for us, but it wasn’t as different as how we started. When we started, the concept was a live show, but it fell apart after track two when we got back to just making tracks. Also, then it got into—it was probably the height of all the overdubs.

Minkin: And all done on four tracks…

Starr: Yes, four tracks. Four to four to four to four to four. They were good engineers at EMI. They kept that quality up. Tape to tape, we lost very little. For me personally, it is a landmark album. None of us can hide from that. But it’s not my fave, because we were using each other in a way, and being used. You’d have all the strings. I felt more like we were doing sessions than when we did the White Album where we were back being a band again. And Abbey Road, which is my favorite.

Minkin: But the Sgt. Pepper album. Not only the concept of the record but the sound was unlike any music that had been made before, Beatles otherwise.

Starr: It was like a special project, I think.

Minkin: It’s interesting to me that you mention that with the White Album you were back to being a band again, because I was always under the impression that with the White Album you weren’t all working on each track.

Starr: I left on the White Album. It’s like a total reversal when I say that. I left on the White Album because I didn’t think that we were getting on. I thought that those there were having such a good time and that I was just out of it here. I don’t know. I’m not playing well. Nobody loves me. It’s terrible. And so I thought, I’ll leave. That’s what I’ll do. That took me a few nights, I’ll tell you.

Minkin: You mean leave the studio?

Starr: Leave the band. I’d stay awake for a couple of nights. It was probably just paranoia at the time. But I said, ’I’m leaving. I’m just not happy. Why should I stay here?’ So I went round, it was real funny, I went round and knocked on Paul’s door. I said, ‘Paul, you three are all happy together and I feel like I’m not with you.’ He said, ‘I thought it was you three!’ I still carried on. I thought, ‘No, no, he has to be crazy.’ So I went round to John. He had just started with Yoko, really. They were in Montague Square. I went round I said, ‘John you three…I feel like I’m so out of it. I’m not with you anymore.’ He says, ‘I thought it was you three!’ So I just said, ’I’m going to Sardinia for two weeks and then I’ll come back.’ I just went away. I felt like if it was that much madness that we had to stop. They carried on and Paul did “U.S.S.R.” in the studio, he played drums on that. Then I came back after two weeks. George was very good. He had the whole place done in flowers: “Welcome Back.” It was wonderful coming back.

Minkin: When The Beatles decided to stop recording together was it a real tough period? There’s got to be a kind of crash after such a high.

Starr: You know as well as I do that it was. I had nothing to do. I sat there. We’d all decided, which was fine, but then I was like, ‘What should I do?’ I wasn’t writing too many things, so I just thought I’d sit round for a while. I sat round not only consciously saying that I’d sit round, I sat round, confused, saying ‘What will I do? I don’t know, I’ll sit in the garden today; it’s a nice day.’ It’s one of those things where you think it may go away, but it never does. It comes back. You do that for periods of your life and think, ‘Oh, I can’t get into this.’

Then I said, ‘Oh well I can’t sit here all me life. I’ve got to get off my horse and do something, you know. I’ll do Sentimental Journey.’ Which was the album I did. It was all old songs, standards of the old songs I remembered and loved from the parties when they used to let me play me bass drum. “Night and Day,” “Stardust,” “Sentimental Journey.”

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Old Aug 28, 2012, 06:47 PM   #2
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Minkin: And you had a different producer for each track…

Starr: Not a different producer, more a different arranger. George Martin produced it. I thought I could either do them rock ‘n’ roll, or do them like they are; they’re standard songs. But I thought to give them a different edge [I’d get different arrangers]. Paul arranged “Stardust.” That was the…it was going to be called “Stardust.” But then Richard Perry’s arrangement of “Sentimental Journey” was so good, and it was a sentimental journey, anyway, so it took on that.

Minkin: In a real sense, you were ahead of what a lot of people have done since. Everybody’s recording old songs now.

Starr: Well that’s the time with being a man in front of yourself. You have to pay.

Minkin: Anyway, moving ahead here to Beaucoups of Blues.

Starr: Yes, we did it so fast. And the thing that was wrong with it, if anything, was that…I’d like to do another country album, because I still like country music. I’m writing more country. There’s one beautiful country track on Ringo the 4th.

Ringo then explained, in our interview, how he got together with the rest of The Beatles and Richard Perry on the Ringo album.

Starr: It just happened. John was there and George was there. So I go to John and said, ’I’m doing an album. Do you got any songs?’ He said, ‘I got one I’ll finish for you.’ He was in the Beverly Hills with his piano. So he finished a song for me. George was there and I said, ‘George, give us a song.’ You know, they’re the writers. And he says, ‘Yeah, I got a song.’ So I say ‘Well come and play.’ And he and John said okay. So we have the one track with John, George and Ringo on it.

Then I thought, well, we’ll get Paul. I’d talked to him as well. I called Paul and I said, ‘You can’t be left out of this. I’ve got John and George is back. I’ve got the other two on it. Have you got any tracks?’ And he says, ‘Yeah, I’ve got a track.’ And I was going to England, so I said, ‘Come on Richard, we’re going to England.’ We went to England and we went into the Apple studio there with Paul to do his track. So that’s how that album got together.

Minkin: So with that album, all four of The Beatles were on it, with three on one track.

Starr: We were like big girls again. We were all looking at each other smiling. We hadn’t played together in four years. I’d played on John’s album, George’s album. This was my first one of those. We were just smiling while we were playing. It was nice.

Minkin: And this was the album that had three huge singles out of it…

Starr: It had “Photograph,” “You’re Sixteen,” and “Oh, My My.”

Minkin: It must have felt real good…

Starr: It was wonderful. At that point it was very good for my head just in the level of the record business because I was always put down as not too much of a record talent. Suddenly we had the number one album. Two numbers ones and one top five.

Minkin: You have definite feelings about singles, don’t you?

Starr: Yes, yes. Then we did Sentimental Journey and the Beaucoups one. I thought I’d just be a singles artist. I don’t want to do albums. I’ll just go and do singles. I wrote “Back Off Boogaloo.” I sat with Marc Bolan one night and he was the original little punk elf gypsy, you know. With the glitter and Bowie and all those people. He came off first. I’m sitting with him and one night he’s all ‘back off,’ and I’m like, ’It’s a boogaloo.’ He’s doing all his back off boogaloo language and I went to bed, as you do occasionally, and when I woke up I had this whole song in my head. [Singing]. And I was like, ’Where’s the tape? Where’s the tape?’ Because I can’t play anything to put it down, and I’ll never remember it. And every tape I had was broken. The batteries were run down. The one you plug in has a fuse missing. And I’m huffing all around the house trying to keep this tune in my head, which is turning into “Mack the Knife” and I’m panicking. So I find batteries and I find this tape and put it down, and that’s how that came about. In 10 minutes I had that whole song. So I did the single with George. It came about, the riff we had—and I still think it’s one of the strongest tracks I ever did—we were doing it and it wasn’t working. And anyone who works in a studio knows that feeling. So George [suggested] a bass drum riff. Then I started doing it on the snare drum and the whole track just fell together. Before that it was a bit too light.

Minkin: Then, of course, we get to Goodnight Vienna, which gave us “The No No Song.”

Starr: Which was another magical experience with Hoyt Axton. Love the song. Love what it was doing. It was such a good song for me. Real, but comedy. Good lyric, good attitude. Makes no sense. Good song for me.

Also, what we must never forget to mention is that on the Ringo album and on Goodnight Vienna and every other album ever since, the guy I work with, Vini Poncia, who I write with. On the new album we wrote more than we’ve ever written because we’re getting to know each other better. So Vini was working with Richard or Richard with Vini, and he put us both together, which was probably the greatest thing he ever did in my musical career. Richard, thank you.

It’s time for a change, I think, you know. You can’t get Arif [Mardin] to produce you unless you sign to Atlantic, which is not the reason why we signed. We met Arif, he came to London for five hour to have a chat, and at the end I said, ’I’d like to work with you,’ and he said, ‘Well, I’d like to work with you.’ I made him come to L.A. and we were still getting to know each other in a way, in a way, and he didn’t know the players. It turned out fine. This new one, Ringo the 4th, it’s us knowing each other better and me coming to New York, which was most amazing because I hadn’t been for four years. To be thrown into the middle of this band where I didn’t know any of the players. I hadn’t played with any of them… There’s a lot of adrenaline in New York. New York is totally different from L.A., as everyone knows, unless you live in Wisconsin. No offense, Wisconsin. In L.A… There’s not much I can say about Rotogravure. It was a nice meeting place for Arif and I. The change of label. It was time for me to move on, that’s what it was.

Minkin: Well in my opinion, there are two great tracks on Rotogravure: “Hey! Baby” and “A Dose of Rock & Roll.”

Starr: I know! But you see, I had complete faith… You talk about picking singles. I thought “Dose of Rock ‘N’ Roll” could not fail, and “Hey! Baby,” I mean, are you kidding. And they did nothing. I’m too crazy now. People beg for things to get to the Top 40. I get annoyed if it’s not number one. If I put a single out I want it to be number one.

Minkin: Number three is no good?

Starr: Number three is okay, but it’s not number one. I want number one because that’s the game. I’m not going out there to be forty-ninth. If I wanted to do that I’d do something else. When I put it out I want it to be number one, otherwise there’s no point. I’m pleased you liked those two tracks, because I loved them. I could not believe why they didn’t do it. Just something which why I like the rock ‘n’ roll game, because you don’t know. After all these years I don’t know what a number one is. I think I know, and I put the records out and it ends up they’re not. Something happens. I don’t know.

Minkin: Now on the new album, I’m told, is going to be a great old song, “Drowning in the Sea of Love.”

Starr: It was a single. We’ve got other singles on there. One is “Wings,” which stands a good chance, I feel. It’s one Vini and I wrote. We had the meeting at Atlantic and they’re saying you’ve got to push the album and all that. The economics of the situation.

Minkin: Are you happy with the album?

Starr: This album I’m very happy with. This album more than Rotogravure. I think it’s stronger because Vini and I wrote six tracks. I know those songs better.

Minkin: I have one last obligatory question. If I didn’t ask you they would stone me.

Starr: Well we’re not getting together.

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Old Aug 28, 2012, 06:47 PM   #3
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Minkin: I’m not going to ask that. I just want to ask if whether it’s something that you would like to happen in your life again. Just to work with John and Paul and George, whether it’s one day or one week.

Starr: I could enjoy that. But you see, for that one day you’d have to give up six months of your life. And I can’t see the four of us being prepared to do that in the near future. I have no qualms about playing with the other three. They’re good players. I’m a good player. We had a good band. We can play if we want to, but I don’t want to. I don’t know about them, but I don’t want to.

Minkin: Does it surprise you that The Beatles just don’t ever die? That it’s as strong today as it was 10 years ago?

Starr: Listen, they’re still selling more records than I am. You see, including ourselves separately, none of us have really done anything as good as that.

Minkin: The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Starr: Yeah. There was five of us in the whole. The four of us plus whatever else was going down. Even for kids who weren’t around at the time the legend is being spread around by the grownups. Saying, ‘Oh, you should have heard them.’ The English Sunday Times did a survey with ten-year-olds and one of the kids said, ’They’re all dead aren’t they?’ Another kid said, ’Didn’t they used to be Paul’s backup band?’ Another one said, ‘I think me dad knows them.’

Minkin: I’ve got new one for you. This is true because a friend of mine overheard an eight-year-old say it. They asked her if she knew The Beatles and she said, ‘No, I don’t like classical music.’

Starr: Wow. That’s a new one. They’ll never rest. They’re always there. And the music they did was very good and so does ours. But sometimes it gets in the way of our individual lives. At the same time you have to say that it lets us be individual like this. We can do whatever we want to do because of that madness that went down. I don’t have to play little clubs anymore. I can stay in the south of France if I want. I don’t miss a bus. I can get my own bus if I want to go on a bus, you know. It gave us a lot but we lost a lot.

Minkin: It must be a good feeling to know that you were a part of a contribution like that.

Starr: I’ve always been pleased I was part of that situation. Somedays I just want to be me. But I’m me and part of that. I’m used to it now. I’m used to it now.

Minkin: Thank you, Ringo.

Starr: Thank you.


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Old Aug 28, 2012, 08:10 PM   #4
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Nice post... thanks! I love reading interviews of the boys from the 1970s because they were so much closer to the actual memories of "the days" and hadn't completely automatized their anecdotes yet. (Although the "I thought it was you three" story seems to have led a long life, which is refreshing.) Great little interview of Ritchie, though.

I felt more like we were doing sessions than when we did the White Album where we were back being a band again.
It's interesting how he always speaks fondly of the way the band came together to record The White Album because it's so contrary to the way we think of them at the time... and even Ringo himself left the band!

All I want is the truth
Just give me some truth...

Last edited by Maia 66 : Aug 28, 2012 at 08:11 PM. Reason: typo
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Old Aug 29, 2012, 08:31 AM   #5
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Excellent stuff!
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Old Aug 29, 2012, 01:30 PM   #6
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if you are interested in a trial run here is an invite to look through paste mag mplayer for your ipad or computer..

“Want to share mPlayer with your friends? Just give them this URL ( and when they click on it, they’ll get 3 free weeks!”

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