Ringo Starr-Off The Record HBO - May 2,11,15, '08 May 5, 2008 21:42:23 GMT -5
Post by yerblues1968 on May 5, 2008 21:42:23 GMT -5
A SHINING STARR
Ex-Beatle is likeable, interesting in HBO special
By MIKE KELLY
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE
Article published Friday, May 2, 2008
If Richard Starkey had been a healthy child back in the late 1940s and early '50s in his hometown of Liverpool, he would most likely never have become part of the most famous pop band in music history.
It was during one of his frequent hospital stays as a boy that the future Ringo Starr and other young patients on his ward were introduced to percussion instruments. While other youngsters grabbed tambourines and maracas, little Richard wound up with a big drum and happily pounded away on it.
"And I wanted to be a drummer from that day," he recalls.
The former Beatle's childhood reminiscences are among the stories he shares in a new HBO special called Ringo Starr: Off the Record, which debuts tonight at 11 on the premium cable channel. Other play dates are May 11 at 5 p.m. and May 15 at 10 p.m.
The casual conversation with the former Beatles drummer is hosted by fellow musician Dave Stewart, a songwriter and record producer best known as half of the pop-rock due Eurythmics, which he formed decades ago with singer Annie Lennox.
When Stewart launched Off the Record for HBO in late 2006, interviewing Bono and The Edge from the band U2, it was to have been the start of a recurring program, along the lines of Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio, only featuring famous musicians instead of famous actors. But there have been no other interviews until the current one with Starr.
Stewart and Starr have been friends for years, and on the program, they look like they could even be brothers. Both wear glasses and scraggly beards, both wear dark suits and shirts, and both try to make the best of their thinning hair and receding hairlines with modified buzz cuts.
Stewart is not a particularly astute interviewer. He barely seems to listen while his subject speaks, and asking a follow-up question has evidently never occurred to him. Instead, he seems to plow straight through his list of prepared queries, and consequently, viewers won't learn much that's new in the interview.
Nevertheless, Starr shows himself to be a well-spoken, good-natured, self-deprecating sort, a guy who realizes he was never the most talented or most popular Beatle, but one who has clearly enjoyed his career and, at age 67, is still doing so.
When Stewart dredges up a quote in which the late John Lennon referred to Ringo "the heart of the Beatles," Starr deadpans, "I am." He then breaks into a big grin as if to say, "It's a joke, you know?"
Ringo traces his beginnings with the group, recalling how the group's manager, Brian Epstein, lured him away from another popular group, Rory and the Hurricanes, to replace drummer Pete Best, and how George Harrison got punched in the face while defending the new drummer from one of Best's belligerent fans.
Starr gives an insider's perspective of the differing personalities of the Beatles' two primary creative forces, Lennon and Paul McCartney, one that's quite different from their public personas.
"If John had written a song … [he] would look forward to what YOU wanted to bring to it," he says. "Paul had more of a definite idea of what HE wanted you to do."
Ringo gleefully pokes holes in the fevered analysis that often greeted the group's iconic album covers, including the one for "Abbey Road," the last album the group recorded.
"We always sat 'round the studio with these big ideas," he recalls. "Now we're gonna do the cover and we're gonna go to Egypt, or we're going into some volcano, and we're going to do this big thing, and then, oh, sod it, let's just walk across the road, and that's all we did."
The most revealing and enjoyable part of the program comes when Starr settles in behind a drum set to demonstrate some of the licks that made him one of the most distinctive drummers in pop music. Some of his explanations are pretty technical, but his unique style - which includes a tantalizing little hitch in his downbeat - derives from the simple fact that he's a left-handed drummer who has always played right-handed drum kits.
"Everyone thought, 'Wow, he's a genius,' " he laughs, "but all I was doing was trying to play backwards!"
A music legend shares memories and secrets from his life in the greatest rock 'n' roll band of all time when RINGO STARR: OFF THE RECORD debuts Friday, May 2 at 11 pm, exclusively on HBO.
In an intimate conversation hosted by fellow musician Dave Stewart, the Beatles' drummer discusses his career and influences—sharing stories from his childhood, the heyday of Beatlemania, and their breakup—and then his solo career as a touring musician. With an audience of musicians and fans looking on, Starr also demonstrates some of his iconic percussion riffs from the Beatles' classic recordings.
A short preview of Ringo Starr's Off The Record