Ringo Starr on The Beatles, Peter Sellers, Frank Zappa and more…

Happy birthday, Ringo!

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There’s a song on your Postcards From Paradise album called Rory And The Hurricanes. What do you remember about your Butlins seasons with them in the late 1950s?
James Kelly, London
Every week, there was a change of clientele. A lot of new young girls! It was great, we so-called ‘turned professional’. I’d left the factory. We’d gone to Butlins and had a three-month gig. That was unheard of. We played the Rock ‘n’ Calypso Ballroom six night a week, and sometimes the afternoon sessions. It was a holiday atmosphere, so everyone wanted to have a good time. It was a lot of fun. The repertoire was exactly what we played in Hamburg. The repertoire of every band in Liverpool in ‘61, ’62 was the same. I actually went play with Rory to a venue with two other bands and just by chance the other two drummers didn’t turn up. I just sat behind the kit and played six sessions – you know, you do half an hour, then the next band would do half an hour, then the next band would do half an hour, then it would be back to Rory. I sat there and played with everybody because I knew the songs.


Your performance in The Magic Christian is fantastic. What was Peter Sellers like to work with?
Eoghan Lyng, Cork
Peter was great to work with. We went out and had some really fun dinners. In his own way, he was very humourous. We became friends. In ’67, when I left The Beatles, I went to Sardinia. But he was tied up so he lent me the boat. Me, Maureen, there was only two kids then, we went and hung out on the boat. That became an incredible moment, because I was talking to the captain of the yacht and he’d given us octopus and chips. We couldn’t understand that, we were used to fish and chips. He was telling me the story about octopus’s under the seas, they go and collect shiny stones or tin cans and they make gardens for themselves out of shiny things. I couldn’t believe how beautiful that was, and where my head was at the time, I thought, ‘Man, I’d like to be under the sea in an octopus’s garden in the shade.’ You never know where it’s coming from, you know?


What do you remember about the Plastic Ono Band album sessions in 1970?
Luuk Reinders, Duiven, The Netherlands
It was incredible. John, Klaus and I. One of the finest trios I ever heard. We did it like a jam. We knew John had the songs and we’d kick it in and felt where it should go. We knew Klaus anyway. John and I really knew each other, so we were psychic where the atmosphere was going to go. It’s one of the best experiences of being on a record I have ever had. Just being in the room with John, being honest, the way he was, screaming, shouting and singing. It was an incredible moment.

How serious were you about leaving The Beatles during The White Album sessions?
Nick Clarke, Cambridge
I went over to John’s and I said, “I’m not playing great and you three are so close…” And he said, “I thought it was you three!” And then I went over to Paul’s – knock! knock! knock! – I said, “I don’t feel I’m playing good. And you three are so close…” And he goes: “I thought it was you three!” So I said, “Fuck it, it’s too crazy! I’m leaving!” So I left, I got on a plane, I took Maureen and my two kids at the time and I went to Sardinina. There were all these faxes: “Come on back, it’s great!” And when I did get back, George had the whole studio decorated in flowers, so it was a beautiful reunion. It wasn’t just me, it was everybody and I think that broke the spell and we all realised, “Let’s get back together.” But I did love The White Album. We were like a band again. A lot of tracks were just this band, the band I love. Pepper – yes, all its good points, it was great – but there was a lot of downtime. The White Album, we were rocking.

What are your memories of working with Frank Zappa on 200 Motels?
Pablo S. Alonso, Argentina
It was great, from Day 1. I got a message from our office. “Frank Zappa wants to talk to you about something.” So I said, “Tell Frank to come over to the house.” He came over to and he laid out this whole score, at least 25 pages of the score. I said, “Well, what are you showing me that for, Frank? I can’t read music.” He said, “I just wanted to show you.” He said, “Will you play me in the movie?” It was really easy, he was a nice guy, so I said, “Sure.” I did like Frank. I’d met him several times. He was a beautiful human being. As far as I was concerned, his music was crazy – but that’s one man’s opinion. But the memory of the movie was, he’d followed the band around and secretly taped their conversations and then turned it into a song and forced them to sing it. He was a lot of fun!


Jim Keltner refers to The Beatles as “the Four”. Did you have any good nicknames for other bands?
Mark Moss, Hackney
“Bastards.” And you’ll have to figure out which band that was! Was there ever competition between me, Charlie Watts and Keith Moon? No. Never. And there was never any competition between the Stones and The Beatles. That was like a newspaper thing and mainly Andrew Loog Oldham started spreading those stories to get the Stones some notoriety.

It’s nice that you run your own Twitter account. Do you like being available to your fans and how much of that was down to how Brian Epstein encouraged you to behave when you were young?
Charley Dine, Camberley
It was how you did it then. All our family members worked on doing the fan mail. My mother used to say: “Sign this, son.” Over all those years, I signed everything. People were selling more than they were keeping. I signed scratch plates in New York and then they’d stick them to a shitty guitar and sell them on eBay for three grand. So I stopped signing things in 2010. I had an interesting episode in Liverpool when I last played there last with the All-Starrs. Outside, after the gig, I’m coming out to the car and this guy said, “Oh, Ringo, you’re my favourite. I love you, man. I’m from Liverpool. Sign this!” I said, “Hey man, I don’t sign any more.” And he said, “You —!” and he called me a very bad word. So he didn’t really love me, he just wanted to have some shit to sell.

The August 2017 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring David Bowie on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, there are new interviews with The War On Drugs, Steve Earle and Jah Wobble, we countdown Radiohead’s 30 Greatest Songs and remember Gregg Allman. We review Peter Perrett, Afghan Whigs, ZZ Top and Peter Gabriel. Our free CD features 15 tracks of the month’s best music, including Peter Perrett, Floating Points, Bedouine, Public Service Broadcasting, Broken Social Scene and more.


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