By Andy Greene
For his 19th solo album, Ringo Starr planned to record his first country album since 1970’s Beaucoups of Blues. But when his touring schedule made an extended trip to Nashville impossible, Ringo decided to simply work in his living room, inviting old friends like Peter Frampton, Dave Stewart, his brother-in-law Joe Walsh and Paul McCartney to collaborate. “It ended up like a regular Ringo album with a ballad, a country song, a rock song,” says the drummer, whose new album, Give More Love, is out September 15th. “It’s always very casual. With Pro Tools, you don’t need all that space like we had in Abbey Road. Sometimes the dog will bark, and it ends up on the track.” Ringo, 77, is approaching his 30th year leading his All-Starr Band, whose long-running lineup includes Steve Lukather (Toto), Gregg Rolie (Journey, Santana), Richard Page (Mr. Mister) and Todd Rundgren. The band’s fall tour includes a Las Vegas residency in October.
Well, I just called him up and said,”I got this song called ‘Show Me the Way,’ and I want you to play on it.” Because he is a really good friend of mine, he said he’d come to L.A. for it. It’s about [my wife] Barbara. She shows me the way. I wanted it to be very personal. While he was there, he also played on “We’re on the Road Again.” That was very kind of him.
You two still sound great together.
He’s an incredible musician. He’s incredible at singing too and as a writer, but for me, as a bass player, he is the finest and the most melodic. It’s always fun when we’re playing together. I’ve played on several of his records, mainly in the Nineties. People keep saying, “Oh, it’s been so long.” It’s not been that long. We did the Grammys, we did that Beatles show three years ago. So we are still pals, but we don’t live in each other’s pocket.
There are a couple of country songs on the album that remind me of Beaucoups of Blues. What are your memories of that time in your life?
I went down to Nashville and we did it in two days. I did it because Pete Drake came to England to play [pedal steel] on George’s record [All Things Must Pass] and I was playing [drums] on it. I sent my car to get him and he noticed I had a lot of country tapes. He was talking to me about coming to Nashville to make a record and he’ll produce it. I was thinking I didn’t want to spend months in Nashville. He said “What are you talking about? Nashville Skyline took two days.” So I went to Nashville and I got there on Monday, we did the record Tuesday, Wednesday, and I left Thursday. And that’s how we did it! Five songs a day!
On “Electricity,” you give a shout-out to Johnny Guitar, from your pre-Beatles band Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.
When I changed my name to Ringo, he changed his to Johnny Guitar. I had left [my job at] the factory, and this was the first real job as a musician. I have great memories of being in that band. If you look back at my recent solo records, there’s always some mention of Rory and the Hurricanes in it. I don’t wanna write the book – I write it in songs. If you want to read my book, you’ll have to buy 15 CDs and put it all together.
On your new song “Laughable,” which you co-wrote with Peter Frampton, you sing “It would laughable if it weren’t so sad.” I presume you’re talking about Trump?
Well you know I’m not political. Peter Frampton added that line. We had discussions where he wanted the words to be more political. And I was against that, and it’s my record so you know what that’s what I do. I direct it. But I felt we still said the same things and it’s understood that it would be laughable if it wasn’t so said. But no I’m not gonna mention people and parties because I feel like we can do this in a much better way.
Your drums sound louder than ever on the new Sgt. Pepper box set.
They are! Giles [Martin, son of George Martin] has turned me up. I love it! We couldn’t do that in the Sixties. If anything, when we were mastering, we were taking off the bottom all the time, and the bottom was my bass drum. You should go to the Love show [in Las Vegas]. It’s like drum boogie. It’s so far-out.
What role did you take in putting together the Sgt. Pepper set?
Giles remastered it, they sent it to me, and I said I loved it. There’s another bonus CD with different bits – the big piano that we all played for that one chord [on “A Day in the Life”]. That is so interesting, even for me, who’s on the damn thing. I just love it. It’s a bit like the Eight Days a Week [documentary] that Ron Howard did. I was so moved emotionally by looking at that, and I’m in it, for God’s sake.
It was interesting to see a Beatles film that focused only on your touring career.
It just showed us as four lads. We were always being ordered to play stadiums since we couldn’t play regular gigs. We stopped touring because we all felt we weren’t playing that well. I couldn’t hear what the other three were doing. I’d have to look at their actions and go, “Oh, yeah, we went into that part now.” Then we split up, of course. But I think [touring] is part of the four of us – that’s what we always liked to do.
Are you going to release deluxe editions of the other albums?
I hope they do the White Album and Abbey Road.
How about Revolver and Rubber Soul?
I don’t know. Let’s say yes! [Laughs] If we don’t, forgive me.
You’re heading out with the All-Starr Band this fall. Do you still want to be doing this in three years when you enter your eighties?
Yeah, I love it. It’s what I do. As long as I can hold the sticks, we can go for a long time.
Watch below: 5 little-known facts about “A Day in the Life,” considered by many to be the Beatles’ single greatest recorded achievement