Ringo Starr

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Ringo Starr : biography

7 July 1940 –

In 1975, Starr founded his own record label called Ring O’Records, telling Circus magazine he thought "the record company thing is going to be a gas". The only thing he didn’t like about it was "the contract signing thing. If I had my way, everyone would be tied to my company by word of mouth but the solicitors won’t have it." He mentioned the implicit trust the Beatles had in Brian Epstein and "it’s that trust I want my artists to have in me." Circus – Circus Raves, No 115, August 1975. "Ringo forms ‘Startling’ New Label", page 13. The first album to be produced for the label was a re-make of the Ringo album, rearranged for synthesiser by David Hentschel. In total, four albums were released on the label between 1975 and 1978: Startling Music by David Hentschel, Graham Bonnet by Graham Bonnet, Restless by Rab Noakes and a re-release of an Apple Records album, The Whale by John Tavener, as well as 16 singles by artists that include Bobby Keys, Graham Bonnet, Johnny Warman, Rab Noakes and Dirk & Stig (the last being names of characters from the Beatles’ parody band the Rutles, created by Eric Idle and Neil Innes). The company failed in part because Starr disliked the way they conducted business, he commented: "you’d usually have meetings to decide about the next meeting". The label sold few records, incurring significant financial loss before being closed.

1980s

In 1980, Harrison wrote "All Those Years Ago" for Starr, which he included on his album Can’t Fight Lightning, later released as Stop and Smell the Roses. Following Lennon’s murder, Harrison recorded a rewritten version that he included on his 1981 album Somewhere in England. The recording featured contributions from Starr, Paul and Linda McCartney. Starr collaborated with Ronnie Wood from the Rolling Stones while recording Stop and Smell the Roses at Cherokee Studios. Wood added guitar, bass, saxophone, keyboards and back-up vocals. Starr was interviewed by Rolling Stone and Musician around this time. Stop and Smell the Roses was a well-regarded album, but again did not sell particularly well. Lennon had offered Starr a pair of songs to use on Roses: "Nobody Told Me" and "Life Begins at 40". However, following Lennon’s murder, Starr did not feel comfortable recording them; the former was released posthumously under Lennon’s name on the album Milk and Honey, while the latter’s painfully ironic lyrics kept it unissued until 1998’s John Lennon Anthology. After Lennon was murdered in 1980, Starr and his girlfriend Barbara Bach flew to New York City to be with Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono.

From 1984 to 1986, Starr narrated the children’s series Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, a Britt Allcroft production, which was first shown on Central Television and subsequently across the ITV network. He was unsure about taking the role at first, having never previously read the books by Reverend Awdry, and at the time he felt that children would be more interested in "dinosaurs with lasers." Nevertheless, he had a change of heart and took the role, narrating all the episodes in Series 1 and Series 2. Starr also portrayed the character Mr. Conductor in the programme’s American spin-off Shining Time Station, which debuted in 1989 on PBS. Starr left after the first season. In 1985 he performed with his son Zak Starkey as part of Artists United Against Apartheid on the recording, Sun City. In 1987, Starr drummed on the Harrison song "When We Was Fab", from his album Cloud Nine. The song, co-written by Harrison and Jeff Lynne, charted in the top 30 in both the UK and the US. The same year, Starr, Harrison and Lynne joined Eric Clapton, Elton John, Phil Collins and Ray Cooper in a performance for the Prince’s Trust charity.

In October 1988, Starr and Bach attended a detox clinic in Tucson, Arizona, each receiving a six-week treatment for alcoholism. On 23 July 1989, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band gave their first performance to an audience of ten thousand in Dallas, Texas. The band consisted of Starr and a varying assortment of musicians who had been successful in their own right with popular songs at different times. The concerts interchanged Starr’s singing, including selections of his Beatles and solo songs, with performances of each of the other artists’ well-known material, the latter incorporating either Starr or another musician as drummer.