By John M. Borack
“I’m not here to be tortured — let’s have some fun!”
At a recent press conference to celebrate the release of his latest EP, Change the World, Ringo Starr chuckled as he mentioned his latest motto, a message he imparts to his fellow musicians who record with him and tour as part of his All-Starr Band. Due to the pandemic, the press conference was held via Zoom where Ringo held court with the assembled journalists for 30 minutes.
Touching on topics from the new EP and his sadness at not being able to be on the road with the All-Starrs to the passing of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts and the upcoming documentary, Ringo was genial throughout. He discussed recording Change the World at his home in Los Angeles, where his guest house doubles as his recording studio: the bedroom houses his acoustic drum kit and his Roland electric kit. (Playing the acoustic kit is still ”…my favorite thing to do in life,” he said.)
Ringo also spoke about each of the EP’s four songs. “Coming Undone” was penned specifically for Ringo by songwriter-to-the-stars Linda Perry, who Ringo knew through her work with Pink. He reached out to her, and she initially told Ringo that she didn’t have a tune for him, but, as Starr laughingly related, “As she was leaving her studio, a song came to her.” Respected New Orleans musician Trombone Shorty was brought on board originally just to add trombone to the song but ended up also playing trumpet and coming up with the song’s spiffy horn arrangement. It was an unexpected treat when Starr first heard those contributions. “I love the surprises I get when I’m making a record. Though I’m making the EP for me, I get to play with all these different people and have a lot of fun.” Of frequent collaborator Steve Lukather (Toto), Ringo enthused, “He’s a good friend, we have fun, and he’s an incredible player.”
A cover of the ‘50s rock and roll classic “Rock Around the Clock” closes out the EP, and Ringo has fond memories of the song from his youth. “I spent my 14th birthday in the hospital; I had tuberculosis and had been in there over a year. Grandma and grandpa took me to the Isle of Man – I saw the movie Rock Around the Clock [there and] they ripped up the cinema! I thought, ‘Wow, this is great!’ I remember that moment like it was yesterday.” When asked what he would like his fans to take away from the EP, Ringo said, “I’d like for them to be kind, considerate, understanding, loving, and in peace.”
Goldmine asked Ringo about touring and his process of selecting musicians for his All-Starr Band, which has been touring in various iterations since 1989. “You have to have hits and you have to play an instrument,” he explained. “I usually have 12 to 14 [candidates] to choose from and I narrow it down to 8. [For the] first band I just opened my phone book—'Oh, Joe Walsh, he’ll be great, Levon Helm, he’ll be great…Dr. John, give him a call.’” He also spoke about a proposed tour in 2022 that remains in flux due to the pandemic: “I’ve got the tour lined up for next year…in my heart I say it’s on, but let’s see where we are.”
Ringo was also asked about the death of Charlie Watts and remembered him as “a great guy and a lot of fun. Beautiful human being – we’ll miss him.” He also related a humorous story involving Watts. “I had a party in the ‘70s and Charlie came and so did John Bonham. Bonham got on the kit and the bass drum was hopping away. So you had Charlie [on one side of the drum] and Ringo [on the other side] holding the bass drum down for him.”
Inevitably a few questions were asked regarding the Beatles. “I wouldn’t say we changed rock history — we changed music history,” Starr offered. When asked specifically about the upcoming documentary The Beatles: Get Back, he was enthusiastic. “[Producer/director] Peter Jackson is our hero. The documentary is great, and the end result is I loved it. I was always moaning about the original [because] there was no joy in it.”
So what’s he doing now that Change the World has been released? “I’m hanging out, having fun, doing stuff, being real,” he said. Rock on, Ringo.