Monday, 23 March 2009
News, Views and Music Issue 26 (Top Five): John Paul and George on Ringo's Solo Albums
♫ And now, as a little additive to the eight solo Beatles albums included on our 101 website list, here are the top five Ringo Starr solo tracks written for him by either John Lennon, Paul McCartney or George Harrison and which album to finds them on. Just for the record, Ringo’s not a bad writer himself (his own ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ and the B-sides ‘Early 1970’ and ‘Blindman’ are more than equal to the songs his ex-colleagues wrote for him) so there may well be a Ringo-written top five coming your way soon! General AAA fans might also want to add to this list the Stephen Stills-written ‘Nice Way’ (one of the better tracks off Ringo’s second-best album, 1981’s ‘Stop And Smell The Roses’) and Brian Wilson’s harmony presence on the ‘no good vibrations’ chorus central to the Ringo-written song ‘Without Understanding’ (one of the better tracks off Ringo’s third-best album ‘Vertical Man’):
5) You And Me (Babe) (Harrison/Mal Evans; available on the ‘Ringo’ album, 1973): One of the loveliest ways of saying goodbye on any record, this song By George and the Beatles’ ever-faithful Roadie Mal depicts Ringo as a nightclub crooner a la Mick Jagger on the Stones’ ‘Satanic Majesties’, albeit with less irony. Ringo fondly bids us farewell, telling both band and audience to go home (it’s a bit like Lennon’s Ringo-sung ‘Goodnight’ but far less treacly I’m pleased to add!) before ending the song with a bit of audience patter thanking, among others, ‘John Lennon MBE, Paul McCartney MBE and George Harrison MBE’ – the closest the four Beatles ever came to appearing on the same record until 1995’s hideous travesty ‘Free As A Bird’ (‘Real Love’ was a bit better, thankfully).
Listen out too for George’s country hoe-down ‘Sail Away Raymond (Sunshine Life For Me)’ from the same album; a song thematically similar to ‘Here Comes The Sun’ with George dreaming of being anywhere except in a noisy Apple Office doing business with an angry lawyer named Raymond. This song would definitely have made this list at no six if only I’d started writing top sixes instead of top fives (Macca’s ‘Six O’Clock’ comes a close 7th - curses! Is it too late to change my newsletter tradition and make this a top 10?!?)
4) I’m The Greatest (Lennon; available on the ‘Ringo’ album, 1973): Lennon wrote three songs for Ringo but the others are pretty dire - the nauseating boogie-woogie nonsense song ‘Goodnight Vienna’ sounds like Jools Holland or Jamie Callum (though on a particularly good day, admittedly) while last-song-published-before-his-house-husband-phase ‘Cookin’ In The Kitchen Of Love’ quite possibly is the worst song Lennon wrote in his life (thank goodness he didn’t record it himself). ‘Greatest’, however, is a treat – written by Lennon in an egotistical mood for his royal walrus-ness to sing, he sensibly decided in a stronger moment that it would be better for Ringo to sing. Ringo’s mix of humility and all-round niceness just about allows him to get away with this song (the lyrics tell us how great the narrator’s friends, family and fans thought he was in teenage days, adult days and stardom respectively) in a way that Lennon probably never could (though his harmony on Ringo’s version is superb). Lennon’s own version (a warm-up vocal at Ringo’s session to show the drummer what the vocals were supposed to sound like) was later released on the 4CD ‘Lennon Anthology’ (2000) and for all of the bum notes and poor production values sounds even better. Listen out too for the heart-warming mention of ‘Billy Shears’ and adjacent applause in the song (Lennon’s tip of the hat/satire of McCartney’s for the song ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’).
3) Private Property (Paul and Linda McCartney; available on the ‘Stop And Smell The Roses’ album, 1981): cascading horns, a driving almost-reggae-ish beat – hey, this is ‘Got To get You Into My Life’ without the clever lyrics! Well, actually, that’s a bit unfair – this set of Macca lyrics is still very clever, rhyming ‘property’ monopoly’ and ‘run of with me’ in a way that only Macca can. The whole track is a lot of fun and the McCartney’s backing vocals add a touch of class to the whole thing. Ringo sounds right at home on foot-stompers like this one too – so which idiot kept suggesting he stick to mangling ballads for most of the 70s and 80s?!
2) I’ll Still Love You (Harrison; available on the ‘Ringo’s Rotogravure’ album, 1976): This doesn’t sound like George or Ringo – this moody ballad full of flashy guitar spikes a la Eric Clapton and an orchestral choir sounds more like Meatloaf than the Beatles. But the chance to hear George’s uncharacteristic guitar work (for it is he) and Ringo’s uncharacteristically strong grasp of the deep and complex tone is a decided treat for curious Beatles fans. Well, it’s better than the ‘Spooky Weirdness’ track on the same LP anyway. This is what Ringo might have sounded like had he been given deep and intellectual songs to sing on the first few Beatles record instead of obscure Motown and Country and Western covers and McCartney-written novelties.
1) Photograph (Harrison/Starr, available on the ‘Ringo’ album, 1973): The only song on this list that casual (not fellow monkeynuts Beatles collectors) might know is this #8 single. The only official George and Ringo collaboration ever (though the two unofficially co-wrote the Cream B-side ‘Badge’ with Eric Clapton, despite the lack of a credit for the drummer) is a memorable mix of both solo Beatles’ sounds circa 1973. Ringo provides the poppy complexity and clear production of his early solo singles the under-rated ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ and the over-rated ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ while George adds the choral feel and laidback melancholy heard on his concurrent solo albums ‘Dark Horse’ and ‘Extra Texture’. Neither Beatle ever said much about this song but I for one have always assumed the lyrics are about Pattie (George’s first wife who left him for Eric Clapton about this period), which were possibly too close to the bone for George to sing alone. Either way, its mix of upbeat power pop melody and yearning lyrics of loss make for one of the greatest Ringo Starr records to date. Ringo sang a memorable version of this song at the George Harrison memorial concert in 2002 and, what with the track’s images of loneliness after losing someone dear, brought the house down.
That’s all for another issue, there’s just time for a few words from our resident addled rocker Philosophy Phil: ‘The ocean, however deep it is, can never be as deep as a Brian Wilson song’. Goodbye for the next fortnight, dear readers – Keep Rocking! Keep Reading! Keep Collecting! And most of all, Keep Being You! See you in April!