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1992-06-12 - Goldmine Magazine - Ringo Starr
June 12, 1992
Interviewed By Allen J. Wiener
New York City, New York, United States
Published In Goldmine Magazine, Issue 310
ALLEN J. WIENER: Did you have any specific objective in mind when you entered the studio to begin work on Time Takes Time?
RINGO STARR: Initially it was, ‘Let’s go and make an album. Let’s do some songs.’ I went in with Jeff [Lynne] and we did four tracks. Then I went in with Phil Ramone and did three tracks with him. The tracks were good, but it didn’t make any real sense.
ALLEN: Nothing to really hold it together?
RINGO: No. So then we did some tracks with Don Was and that sort of helped straighten it out a bit because then there were three attitudes. Then the record company [Private Music] actually sent Peter Asher in and I said, “Sure,” because he’s done some really great stuff. And then it started to feel that we were really making a record. Then we went back in with Don and did some more tracks. Then we remixed the other stuff so that it then felt like an album.
ALLEN: Since you did work with four producers, was there a lot of shifting of gears because you suddenly had a new producer who did things differently than the last one? You’ve mentioned that Phil Ramone brought a “New York approach” to his sessions.
RINGO: Well, I loved that with Phil. I mean, I never worked with him before though we’ve bumped into each other. Actually, every producer I worked with I loved. [laughs] You know, “Let’s do it like this, let’s do it like that.” We sort of had to straighten it out in the end, but I had a lot of fun with everybody.
ALLEN: And it does play through as a unified piece now.
RINGO: It does now because of the remixes on Phil’s and Peter’s, and Jeff mixed his own.
ALLEN: Is there anything symbolic in the title?
RINGO: Just that it’s really good for me to hear. Just that time takes time, and you have to learn if you want to do anything.
ALLEN: A line from the first song on the album, “Weight of the World,” jumped out at me: “You either kiss…”
RINGO: “The future or the past goodbye.” All of the songs have something in them for me, even if I didn’t write them.
ALLEN: There seems to be several points where that theme reappears, like “Don’t Go Where the Road Don’t Go.”
RINGO: Well that’s one that I wrote, so it certainly says what it says.
ALLEN: I think it says, “Now those friends have all disappeared.”
RINGO: We have a lot of fair-weather friends, you know. And that song, because I wrote it, was relating to me because there’s been a mighty change in me, thank God, from being totally derelict. But it’s not heavy, you know?
ALLEN: Things do change; rock ‘n’ roll has changed. This is the first time that we have a generation of rock ‘n’ roll stars who are over 40.
RINGO: Well, we’re the only ones who were there. I think that the kids now are not playing rock ‘n’ roll; they’re playing smash ‘n’ grab [laughs].
ALLEN: There seem to be two markets divided by age.
RINGO: I found with my kids, though, that they all went through their own situation, then they played everything I’d listened to. And then they keep that and then play their own situation again. I don’t know if I was the same because I don’t think that I had the choices they have. Johnnie Ray was my first real hero, after Gene Autry, the singing cowboy. What a great voice.
ALLEN: But I think it changed when Bill Haley came out.
RINGO: Well, that’s what I was getting to. Bill Haley: I was a fan of his because of his rock ‘n’ roll. I was 14 at the time. But even he seemed like your dad when Elvis came. Elvis was the one who actually turned my head around. I knew Chuck Berry, and Carl [Perkins] and all of those guys as well. They were coming through. And I was into the blues and all of that. But Elvis actually did it for me.
ALLEN: You mentioned at the press conference announcing your new record and tour that there were 15 or 16 songs in all that were cut for the album, so there’s some stuff that got left out, including “Don’t Be Cruel.”
RINGO: “Don’t Be Cruel” is out on the CD5 (5” CD single), so there’ll be a few bonus tracks along the way.
ALLEN: Can you give a little background on “Angel in Disguise”? Did Paul [McCartney] start it?
RINGO: Paul wrote it and then gave it to me to finish, which I did, and I recorded it with Peter Asher. And it just needed something. I didn’t know what it was and I don’t know if Peter knew what it was. We have to say no to some tracks, you know? One that I wrote isn’t on the album, “Everybody Wins,” the most positive song. But it didn’t make it for the album. It just didn’t happen. [“Everybody Wins” showed up on the “Don’t Go Where the Road Don’t Go” single.]
ALLEN: Was that the first time you’d ever written anything with Paul?
RINGO: Well, we didn’t really write it together. He’d just sent me the tape with his two verses and a chorus, and I just did the last verse in my own way.
ALLEN: You’re listed as the author of “Don’t Pass Me By.”
RINGO: I am the author of “Don’t Pass Me By.”
ALLEN: But there’s a tape of a BBC interview [Top Gear, July 14, 1964] where you and Paul noted that the two of you were working on your song “Don’t Pass Me By.”
RINGO: You sure that wasn’t George.
ALLEN: No, I’m pretty sure it was Paul.
RINGO: Ok. Well, I don’t remember Paul working on it. Paul would have said that as the band was working on it; he wasn’t working on it as the writer.
ALLEN: It’s funny. That title keeps coming up. On the day that the Beatles were actually recording that in the studio, Kenny Everett taped a very famous interview that actually was released by Apple in Italy, and John is saying, “We’re working on Ringo’s track.”
RINGO: [Laughs] Yeah, but that’s when we were working on the tracks, not writing it. They didn’t help me at all writing it.
ALLEN: How did you get to do the song “You Never Know” [from the film Curley Sue]? It wasn’t part of the album, but you did it during those sessions.
RINGO: Somebody called and said, “We’ve got this song that’s to go with this movie. We’ve spoken to the director, John Hughes, and he thinks it’s a great idea. Would Ringo do this song?” And I said yes. I’m in the studio, I’m working again; I was off that Sunday. They put it together and I went in and did it. But they did tell me it was going to be at the beginning of the movie, not right at the end. I’ve not seen the movie, but I think the song was actually to set up the movie, but they didn’t use it [until the end]. I don’t know what happened. But those things happen, you know. You do it and then things change. I’m not going to cry about it; it’s on to the next round.
ALLEN: A lot of people were really struck by your remake of “I Call Your Name,” recently done as a video [for a Lennon tribute concert]. That’s not out on a record. Any chance?
RINGO: I don’t own it. I did it for that specific reason and I gave it to the charity and that was it. I don’t know if they’ll ever do anything with it. I might do it on tour though.
ALLEN: Speaking of the tour, Walsh is in the band again. When I saw your show last time , I expected you guys to do “In My Car.” Both of you recorded it and you wrote it together.
RINGO: We felt we might. You’ve got so much material to choose from. Everyone I’ve been doing the interviews with says, “Why didn’t you do that?” “Why didn’t you do this?” So they’re just picking one track that they actually like, but we have to do it the way we feel it will be great for the show, and in my case, what I want to do.
ALLEN: Will you hold up some songs in readiness in case you want to change the song lineup?
RINGO: Up to now we’re saying the rest of the boys get three songs, possibly four, and I’ll get the bulk again, about eight to ten. But it depends on how long they go. Until we get to the rehearsals, we can’t shape it in any way. So what we’ve done for each other—like Todd [Rundgren] put four songs on a tape, Burton [Cummings] put four on a tape, and everybody’s done that. So at least we’ll have heard them. We’ll practice at home, not that I ever do, but sure, some people do. And when we get to the show, we’ll see what actually works. One of the most amazing trips on the last tour was that we tried “Back Off Boogaloo.” We tried it this way and that way, but it just did not work live. We even had Dr. John on a snare drum. It just didn’t happen. I mean, things don’t happen. That was one of them. Now we might try it this time, and it clicks. We don’t know. It’s funny what happens out there.
ALLEN: How will you get the songs together?
RINGO: We’ve just passed each other the tapes. Todd knows the four songs Burton, Nils [Lofgren] and Dave [Edmunds] are thinking about, so it’s not like we hit rehearsal the first day and “this is it.” We all have some sort of idea, so that’s why we can rehearse in two weeks. Possibly Todd has the most complicated of any of the songs, and that’s not that complicated.
ALLEN: In 1985 EMI was set to put out an album of unreleased Beatles songs called Sessions.
RINGO: What songs are they? They’re not songs. There’s no songs.
ALLEN: Well, there are some titles that were never released. Some sounded like they had probably never been finished.
RINGO: Well it’s like putting “Yesterday” out with its original title, “Scrambled Egg” [sic]. I don’t understand that these are songs. As far as I know, there are no songs that didn’t come out.
ALLEN: Well, there’s one of yours, “If You’ve Got Trouble.”
RINGO: “You’ve got your trouble, then do-do-da-do.”
ALLEN: Right, you got it.
RINGO: Yeah, well that’s a song that we just didn’t do, didn’t finish it.
ALLEN: Fans are obsessed with this. You just can’t ignore the fact we want to know, “What’s that one? And that one.”
RINGO: Well, after me screaming, “There’s no songs,” there is that one. But what else is there?
ALLEN: Well, there are some others, like “How Do You Do It” which the group apparently didn’t want to do and did it reluctantly because George Martin insisted. There’s “That Means a Lot,” done during Help!
RINGO: Well you’ve just made an absolute liar out of me. And you’re right!
ALLEN: This what you get from collecting.
RINGO: This will stop me from being a “know-all.”
ALLEN: Now that the lawsuit between EMI and Apple has been settled there are reports that the way is finally clear for this stuff to come out; the BBC tracks for example.
RINGO: I like the BBC tracks because I think they’re really worthwhile. They’re live and we were playing really well because that’s when we were playing every night.
ALLEN: And there are lots of unreleased songs there.
RINGO: Sure. We had to do eight tracks a night, including ones we hadn’t done.
ALLEN: So we might see those come out?
RINGO: I believe the problem with the BBC tracks is that they’ve only got a second-generation tape. They’re still looking for the first generation.
ALLEN: There was a recent report that George Martin is trying to work with the original tapes.
RINGO: George Harrison is trying to work with them also. We’re waiting for the tape. I like my cassette [laughs]. It’s cool.
ALLEN: What do you think of Beatles songs or any rock ‘n’ roll standards being used in television commercials?
RINGO: I don’t particularly like to hear the Nike one. But I had nothing to do with that. Talk to Yoko, not me.
ALLEN: That’s actually John’s recording [of “Instant Karma!”] on that.
RINGO: Yes, but I’m not on it. And he’s not here to discuss it anymore.
ALLEN: I was also appalled to see that there is now a line of John Lennon eyeglasses.
RINGO: I know nothing about that. I’m trying to get in charge of my own life.
ALLEN: It doesn’t sound like you’re very strongly in favor of it.
RINGO: No, I’m not, really.
ALLEN: What about censorship and putting labels on records warning parents about lyrics?
RINGO: This happens every ten years. This madness happens where people try to sue people because they’re saying that their children jumped out the window because this record said something. I just think that it’s totally silly. The kids will get it anyway. If your parents are censoring you, your pal’s parents aren’t censoring him. It goes down. It’s like, “Rock ‘n’ roll is the devil’s music!” And you had all that madness. It’s gone on forever. I take very little notice of it, actually. Everyone wants to censor somebody. It just gets on my nerves.
ALLEN: Back in 1980 when you were working on Stop and Smell the Roses, George [Harrison] produced a couple of tracks for you: “Wrack My Brain” and “You Belong to Me.” The story is that there was an early version of the song that later became “All Those Years Ago,” which was George’s tribute to John, and your drum track is on that. Was there an earlier version of the song entirely? Perhaps with a different title and different lyrics?
RINGO: Not that I recall. No. you’ll have to talk to [George]. I don’t know.
ALLEN: Similarly, John apparently made demos of four songs that he gave to you shortly before he died that he thought would be good for you.
RINGO: Yeah, they gave me some of John’s songs after he died. But I couldn’t do them. I was not interested in them. I mean, if he had given them to me it would be a different situation. But he did not give them to me. They were given to me later and I couldn’t deal with it at that time. They said, “John felt these would be good for you.”
ALLEN: You can hear John say, “This is for Ringo” on the demos. I think they were “Life Begins at Forty,” “Nobody Told Me,” and “I Don’t Wanna Face It.”
RINGO: Sure. But it was too late for me to do them.
ALLEN: You’ve co-written three songs on Time Takes Time, all with Johnny Warman, who was responsible for the “Spirit of the Forest” charity single. You hooked up with him through Ring O’ Records?
RINGO: Yeah, because he used to be on the label. We’ve kept in contact ever since. Besides being a writer and a rock ‘n’ roll musician, he’s also a health freak. So we’d work out and write. He’d come and stay with me in Monte Carlo. In the mornings we’d get up and go running and stretching and working out. In the afternoons and evenings we’d sit around writing, then go and have dinner and we’d start the whole thing again the next day.
ALLEN: “Runaways” really stands out on the album. It’s a change of pace. What were you trying to say in that?
RINGO: I watched a program on kids who’d run away. But it was mainly a program on the parents trying to find them and just how devastated they are. And the dreams that the kids have, like to go to London and it’s all going to be cool and “I’ll be free.” So many of them end up raped, pillaged and burned. They just want to run away from home. I wanted to do that too when I was 16. and hundreds and hundreds of them are doing it today. They run away to Hollywood, they run away to New York. And these are the caves of steel. I just put it in this science fiction form. It’s still about runaways but in a science fiction attitude.
ALLEN: How do you write? Do you play the piano or guitar?
RINGO: I still play three chords on the piano and I still play three chords on the guitar. That’s how I do it. With Johnny, he was holding the guitar. In the early days when I would write “Photograph” or whatever, then I would give it to George [Harrison], who would actually put the real chords in. but I would have written it on the three chords and he would put the passing chords in.
ALLEN: You knew where you wanted to go.
RINGO: Sure. You just make it real. Not that we couldn’t have done it on those three chords [laughs], but he knows a few more, which makes it sound better.
ALLEN: Do you just write from time to time when inspiration hits you?
RINGO: It’s just started again. I’ve written very little. I’ve got a couple of pieces—I call it bits—of me just on my own with the guitar. I just sit down and if it comes, it comes.
ALLEN: It’s not just because you’ve got an album coming up and you have to sit down and do a couple of songs? It might happen anytime?
RINGO: Any time. It’s not just because I’m working. It’s not like I’m never going write now until the next album. If anything happens, it happens.
ALLEN: Record collectors are frequently surprised at how many records are issued in one country but don’t come out in others.
RINGO: Well you know, Amsterdam is the capital of bootleg records.
ALLEN: That’s a different matter entirely. I’m talking about things that are issued.
RINGO: Oh you’re talking about real stuff.
ALLEN: Yeah. Like the ‘White Album’ only came out in mono in England, never here. If you listen to it it’s like listening to a different album.
RINGO: Of course it is. It’s a mono mix.
ALLEN: “Don’t Pass Me By,” for example, plays through much faster. Or maybe it was slowed down on the stereo. The question is, were you guys aware at the time that this sort of thing was going on?
RINGO: I wasn’t. I was not aware. I don’t know if the others were aware.
ALLEN: In preparing the Sgt. Pepper album, the Beatles themselves worked on the mono mix but reportedly were not even there when the stereo version was mixed.
RINGO: Well that’s not true. I remember being there for a lot of the stereo mixes. Because we were having fun making the horses gallop across the room. Things like that.
ALLEN: There’s a report that during the 60s, Paul made a special little Christmas album just for the other members of the group and gave one to each of you, with only four copies pressed. Do you remember receiving one?
RINGO: No. I don’t have mine. But I do have some acetates that just have the Beatles playing the blues on them that no one else has.
ALLEN: Some people think that it was a mistake to ever make albums in the first place. In the 50s, stars seemed to want to get one great song recorded that might have a shot at the Top 10. Now you have to record an entire album, and singles are pulled off the album.
RINGO: Yes but you’ve forgotten the period in between when you made the single and you made the album. That’s what we did. We made it totally separate. We always ended up with more tracks over in America, so that’s how they could make those compilation crazy albums.
ALLEN: But do you think the music has suffered because artists have to do a whole album, whereas they might have had a great single?
RINGO: Yeah, but who would put the money behind the great single? The return is not enough. It’s economics again. It’s nothing to do with music.
ALLEN: Things have changed. In those days, kids had enough money to buy the 50-cent single.
RINGO: Most of them only had enough to buy the single. And when you toured, you only toured to sell records. You didn’t go on the road to make any money. They paid your expenses and you got a few dollars, but the main aim was to keep promoting that record because people were buying lots of records in those days.
ALLEN: The last time you were on tour , you didn’t have an album to promote which is very unusual these days. Why did you opt for the tour?
RINGO: I didn’t opt for it. That was the actual situation of life. I didn’t have anything, but I wanted to go out. [Promoter] David Fishof came up with this idea and asked, “Do you want to put a band together and go on tour?” And I said yes. And then I thought, “Shit, who would I go with?” That’s how the concept came. We’ll just go out and give them all the hits we can. With Levon [Helm], Dr. John, Billy [Preston], and Joe [Walsh] and everyone, it just became the concept—let’s go and give them the hits. It was a revue really. As one promoter said, it was like listening to his past flash between his ears [laughs].
ALLEN: How did you like playing in Japan? You did a short leg there.
RINGO: A short leg of Japan; that’s enough. It was good. The kids were good and the reaction was good, but that was enough, thank you.
ALLEN: Who were some of the early rockers, other than Elvis, who most influenced you? I know you’ve mentioned Jerry Lee Lewis.
RINGO: Jerry Lee was my hero and Clyde McPhatter.
ALLEN: I always thought that you guys heard the Big Joe Turner songs or the Hank Williams songs through Jerry Lee Lewis’ cover versions.
RINGO: Hank Williams was my hero. We had the original records. We came from Liverpool, which was a port, and all those guys who went to see used to bring all the records in. At one point, Liverpool—maybe it still is—was the capital of country ‘n’ western music in England.
[size="1"][ Jun 16, 2003, 07:22 AM: Message Edited By: Jerry ][/size]