Ringo Starr is 70

Besides my Top 10 Ringo songs, versions of a couple of the same songs by John and George.

I decided that, for all four of the Beatles, I would list my Top 10 favorite songs on their 70th birthdays, or in the case of John and George, what would have been the big seven-oh.

Ringo is easy, because I have relatively few of his albums, as well as a live triple-CD anthology and a greatest hits collection. This will NOT include any live versions of his old Beatles tunes.

ten It’s All Down To Goodnight Vienna – a most peculiar song by John Lennon, who plays piano, with odd scansion to boot. jl-piano.

nine Liverpool 8 -. A history lesson.

ate Oh My My -featuring background vocals by Martha Reeves and Merry Clayton, those great Billy Preston keyboards, and Tom Scott on the sax.

seven Love Me Do. As obsessive Beatles fans know – guilty as charged – Ringo replaced Pete Best shortly before the Beatles went into the studio for the first time with producer George Martin. Martin, disliking Best’s drums, and unfamiliar with Starr’s, hired session musician Andy White to playing drums, relegating Ringo to playing tambourine. Ringo STILL seemed miffed by this while he, Paul, and George were making the Anthology albums and videos in the mid 1990s. This record is, I suspect, partially closure for the drummer.

six Step Lightly, mislabeled as Six O’Clock; indeed, most of this YouTube guy’s Ringo videos are given incorrect titles. This is from the Ringo album and features the dancing feet of Richard Starkey, MBE.

five Early 1970, a piece about the other Beatles at the time of the breakup. It is noteworthy that all of them play and write songs for Ringo, even as acrimony amongst the others festered.

for No No Song. This always reminded me of a variation on Randy Newman’s Mama Told Me Not To Come. Ringo’s old drinking buddy, Harry Nilsson, does the backing vocals.

three I’m the Greatest. A cheeky song that John Lennon wrote for his friend who was also born in 1940. Here’s John Lennon’s demo version.

too It Don’t Come Easy – with Badfinger on backing vocal; here’s George Harrison’s demo version.

won Photograph . A song co-written by George and Ringo, with George also on backing vocals and 12-string guitar. As Ringo mentioned at the Concert for George in November 2002, a year after George’s death, the song has taken on a whole new meaning:
Ev’ry time I see your face,
It reminds me of the places we used to go.
But all I’ve got is a photograph,
And I realise you’re not coming back anymore.

Ringo took a lot of heat in recent years for declaring that he would no longer sign autographs. In subsequent discussions, he indicated that he was tired of signing items only to see them on eBay or Craigslist the next week; I sympathize with that.

Ringo kicks off Live from the Artists Den on PBS this week.

Happy birthday, Richie.