Original Publication: Newsweek, October 29, 1973
“Ringo always puts a smile on your face and gives you a warm feeling inside. He’s got rock ‘n’ roll in his soul. Ringo was born to boogie.” That’s what Richard Perry, the producer, says and that’s what Ringo Starr does in his smashing new album, just released. “Ringo” is so full of fun and imagination, spangles and stars that it’s the next best thing to having the Beatles back. In fact, Ringo does get a little help from his friends. For the first time since their breakup, all four Beatles contribute songs, vocals and instrumentation to the record, and the rest of the musicians who pop up on various sides, including Harry Nilsson and The Band, sound like the starting line-up for the World Series of rock.
The album cover looks like a slightly less acidic version of “Sergeant Pepper,” and the first song on side one sounds as if the sergeant’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has grown up and gone straight without losing its sense of humor. “I’m the Greatest”—written especially for Ringo by John Lennon and sung and played by Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo—proves they still are. It chronicles the life of “Billy Shears,” who
played the greatest show on earth
for what it was worth.
Now I’m only 32
And all I wanna do is boogaloo.
And so he does. After two previous solo albums with limited appeal, Ringo’s finally putting his personality across on a disk—warm, joyous and uncomplicated. The album, brilliantly produced by Perry, shimmers with showmanship and style. It goes all the way from the hit single “Photograph” to Paul and Linda McCartney’s super Beatles-like ballad “Six O’Clock” to the knockout, nostalgic “You’re Sixteen.” Ringo even tap-dances—“I always loved Fred Astaire,” he told NEWSWEEK’S Lorraine Kisly last week, “and I found these old tap shoes lying around and brought them to the studio.” The whole thing ends on a Guy Lombardo note. As the music fades out the star signs off, “Goodnight, everybody.”
The “Ringo” album makes one yearn for the full-fledged return of the Beatles, or at least for a few more happy collaborations like this one (end of article). Ringo himself does not rule out the possibility. “I don’t know when we’ll work together again,” he explains. “It’s not a planned thing; it’s like who’s around. You know, it’s really amazing the way we still play so well together. It really felt good.” Understandably he’s proud of his effort. “Not only is it my best album,” Ringo enthuses. “I call it my first album.”
The catalyst in Ringo’s album is the current prince of pop-record producers, Richard Perry. Born in Brooklyn, Perry was weaned on the early rock shows of Alan Freed at the Brooklyn Fox and Paramount, with headliners like Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. After majoring in music and drama at the University of Michigan, he decided not to pursue a career as a singer but opened an office in Broadway’s famed Brill Building and began to produce without knowing anything about it. Today 31-year-old Perry specialized in leading already successful artists into new musical territory by having them “take chances”. He introduced Tiny Tim to the world. He took Barbra Streisand, whose vocal image seemed headed for Muzak a few years ago, and put her on the top of the charts with Laura Nyro’s “Stoney End.” He increased Harry Nilsson’s and Carly Simon’s LP sales tenfold and helped them to superstardom via songs like “Without You” and “You’re So Vain.”
Shadings: Perry is a perfectionist who can run up huge recording costs and drive engineers crazy by spending endless hours in the studio going over and over a simply rhythm track, but the results pay off artistically and commercially. There were more than 3.5 million Perry-produced albums sold in the last year. Perry made more than $250,000 in 1972 and gets a percentage of the profits on every one of his records sold.
Perry conceives of his records visually. “I go through a very careful music casting in my mind,” he says, “right down to the choice of arrangers and whoever else is added to a particular record. I’m concerned with the musical environment, the shadings and moods of the songs. Most of all I like artists with strong visual personalities. I try to make them as exciting musically as they are visually.”
But Perry’s tired of “new musical incarnations” and wants to get involved in directing films. As soon as he finishes his album commitments, Perry, who lives in Beverly Hills and drives Mervyn LeRoy’s old black Bentley, plans to begin working on a film project about the record business. “I think I can make films,” he asserts. “I started out in records never having produced, but my instincts were strong. I’ll try to make films the way I try to make records—get the viewer next to the energy source of the artist. That’s the secret of a Beatles record. You felt right next to them.”
…AND PAUL IS ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Like Ringo, Paul McCartney has not been idle. This year McCartney, now 31, left his farm in Scotland to form a five-man touring band that included his blond American wife, Linda. Last week in London, McCartney talked about his new ventures with NEWSWEEK’S Dave Weber. A sampling:
*Well, we had formed this new band but we hadn’t played anywhere. I didn’t want to go and play Carnegie Hall with this dopey band that had never played together, so what we did, we all piled in a van and just took off up the motorway. Finally we wound up at Nottingham University and we just went in and said hello we’re here and would you like us to play? And they couldn’t believe it, you know, they kind of leaped around and stuff and then they said yeah, of course, come back tomorrow at lunch time and we’ll have it all set up for you. So I did my first concert since leaving the Beatles at Nottingham University. After that we just went around and when we turned up at a town we’d say excuse me, have you got a university, and if they did, why we’d just pull up there.
*I’d like to go to China. I think somebody from the office has put in for it with the Chinese ambassador. They sent him around some Chinese wine. It would be interesting to play in Moscow and Peking. Well, they’ve been baddies for so long that I just can’t believe it. They must be goodies, some of them. Peking would be weird because, I mean, we take along big amplification and I think they’re used to tiny speakers with Mao Tse-tung coming off them.
*A few years ago I used to think, well, when I get to be about 30 or so, that would be a good age to start learning about music. I still haven’t learned about music. I’ve written millions of songs, even things that involved orchestras, but I’ve still never actually sat down and learned music. I’m still like most dumb people about the classics, I know of know a few William Tells and things like that. I know it in my head, as harmonies and such, but you ask me about Rimski-Korsakov, and you could be talking about a juggler as far as I’m concerned.
*Obviously, I’m always going to be thought of as an ex-Beatle. I don’t mind that. I resented it for a while. I mean, the Beatles are finished, and we’re all going to be ex-Beatles. I mean, the young generation, like half of them don’t even know who the Beatles were. My kids don’t really know, they’re 10 now, and they’ll be 15 any minute, and then I’ll be 60…that should be a laugh.
*I see the other Beatles a little, it’s like people who used to work together; I see them occasionally, mostly on business. We’re still trying to sort out the Apple thing. We’re down to one decimal point, so if John Lennon is reading this, would he please settle that one decimal point, and we can sort out the business then.
*John’s still in New York. He can’t get out because he’s got visa problems. And I think it’s a great shocking state of affairs, ladies and gentlemen. I have these two marijuana, uh, things, where I was kind of “got” by the law. In neither case was it because I smoked the stuff. Once was because I was trying to grow it, and then someone sent some through the post when we were in Sweden—which, again, was highly illegal. But it seems so silly with all the massive corruption going on in America, I can’t get into the country because of these two little things. If they keep me out, they should keep Nixon out.
This article is typed from the original material. Please excuse any errors that have escaped final proofreading.