When you get an opportunity to interview a Beatle, you don’t miss the chance.
Even when it’s shared with dozens of other journalists, some on location at a casino near Toronto and others over Zoom where the chance of your question being selected is unlikely.
Last Thursday, May 26, Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band greeted members of the press ahead of their US tour which starts Thursday, June 2 in Boston. The band will play a sold-out show at the Providence Performing Arts Center Sunday, June 12. The All-Star Band includes music legends Steve Lukather, Edgar Winter, Colin Hay, Hamish Stuart, Warren Ham and Gregg Bissonette.
Starr was generous in the interview, encouraging his bandmates to chime in and answer questions. The main theme of the press conference – they are thrilled to be back on the road after over two years of delays due to the pandemic.
Although I never got to ask my question, (“What is your greatest memory as a musician?”), my colleagues from around the world had some good ones.
How excited is he to get back on the road?
“Two and a half years … it’s been a really difficult period for me, I love to play. I put the All-Starrs together 32 years ago, I was in a couple of other bands before that,” Starr laughed. “For me, that’s what it’s all about, playing in front of an audience. A long time ago we’d play weddings, we’d play anywhere we could just so we could play together as a band.”
“I’ve missed four tours and I’ve really missed these guys. It wasn’t easy. I’m still to this day carrying my mask, that’s what we have to do to help each other,” Starr added.
He was asked about the Peter Jackson documentary Get Back, which has contributed to the resurgence of all things Beatles. “What I’ve noticed with Ringo in the All-Stars, is that when we first started, a lot of the audience was my age, but over the years it’s gotten younger. The kids are coming in,” Starr remarked.
“Peter Jackson did a great job. I was a bit stunned at first because we thought it would be a two-hour show, it’s six hours, but it’s an easy documentary to watch. I remembered quite a lot of it. When we made records, we sort of went through the same cycle. The difference with Get Back was that we had no songs to start. John and Paul would always have a couple of songs so we could start things rolling and there we didn’t,” explained Starr.
He had one minor disappointment while watching the film… “When we did the song ‘Get Back’ if you look at all the early takes it’s just sort of getting it together, straight rock, (Ringo hums the tune ‘get back, get back’). I wanted to know, how did I get to that shuffle thing just playing the snare drum, I have no idea why I changed to that or what moment that was, I wanted to see it on film, but the cameras were off when we did that.”
“The original (Let it Be) documentary, I never liked it, it was so narrow it (focused) on an argument and all the down parts. We were laughing, we were having fun, and we played great and we did all this in a month. Peter showed that there it was lots of fun as well, he certainly brought that out. I’m grateful to Peter for doing such a great job,” said Starr.
Starr, a recent recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from Berklee College in Boston had some advice for aspiring musicians.
“Just play… old drummers, new drummers, when you do start playing, call your pals up and play with them, play in the kitchen, play in the garage, that’s all I ever say. From (age) 13, I wanted to be a drummer and I’m still drumming today. Just get on with it. I can’t read music, it’s always a jam for me. You’ve got to learn the basics of the instrument and make it yours.”
He was asked to reflect on the legacy of The Beatles, a band he joined 60 years ago this August. Should they have stayed together longer?
“We were lads when it started and then we went on to have wives and children and we stopped touring and made great records. We played well together and we all got on with each other, that’s just how it was. It came to an end eight years later, it still blows me away that we did all that in eight years,” he said.
What inspires Starr to continue to tour?
“I was inspired at age 13, and that has never left me, the dream and the joy. I only ever wanted to be a drummer. I got a kit of drums and I was in a couple of really good bands. When I was in those Liverpool bands my mother had this great line, she said ‘son I always feel you’re at your happiest when you’re playing,’ and deep inside I am, I just love it.”
“People ask about retirement,” Starr continued. “Well, I’m a musician, I don’t have to retire, as long as I can pick up those sticks, I’ve got a gig. I may be playing the blues later,” he joked. “It’s just part of us, we’re players.”
Starr, who turns 82 in July, released Change the Word, an EP of four original songs in 2021. It’s remarkable how positive a force he continues to be.
“’Lets Change the World,’ it says everything,” he said. “It’s what I’m all about, change for peace and love, let’s be friends.”
Indeed, not a bad mantra to live by.