Ringo Starr


Ringo Starr : biography

7 July 1940 –

In 1964, during an interview with Playboy magazine, Lennon explained that Starr had filled-in with the Beatles when Best was ill. Starr replied: "[Best] took little pills to make him ill", soon after a provoked Best filed a libel suit against Starr that lasted for four years before the court reached an undisclosed settlement in Best’s favour. In June 1964, the Beatles were scheduled to tour Denmark, the Netherlands, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, but Starr became ill the day before the start of the tour. Stricken with a high-grade fever, pharyngitis and tonsillitis, he was admitted to a local hospital where he briefly stayed followed by several days of recuperation at home. During this time, Starr was temporarily replaced for five concert dates by 24-year-old session drummer Jimmie Nicol. Starr was discharged from the hospital, and he rejoined the band in Melbourne on 15 June 1964. He had his tonsils removed later that year during a Christmas holiday. He later admitted that he feared he would be permanently replaced during his illness. In August 1964, when the Beatles were introduced to Bob Dylan, Starr was the first to try a cannabis cigarette offered to the band by Dylan, whereas Lennon, McCartney and Harrison were hesitant.: Meeting Dylan in August 1964; Starr was the first Beatle to smoke cannabis.

By 1965 the negative aspects of Beatlemania had reached a peak for Starr, who after receiving a telephoned death threat before a show in Montreal resorted to positioning his cymbals vertically in an attempt to provide protection from would-be assassins. The constant pressure of the Beatles’ fame impacted their live performances; Starr commented: "We were turning into such bad musicians … there was no groove to it." He was also feeling increasingly isolated from the musical activities of the Beatles, who were moving past the traditional boundaries of rock music into territory that often did not require Starr’s accompaniment: during recording sessions he spent countless hours playing cards with Beatles road manager Neil Aspinall and roadie Mal Evans while the other Beatles perfected tracks without him. In a letter published in Melody Maker, a fan asked the Beatles to let Starr sing more; he replied: "[I am] quite happy with my one little track on each album".

In August 1966, owing to the increasing pressures of live performance, the Beatles stopped touring and gave their final concert. By December, Starr had moved into an upscale estate on three acres in Saint George’s Hill called Sunny Heights. Although he had adorned the house with many of the finest luxuries available at the time, including numerous televisions, light machines, movie projectors and stereo equipment, a billiard table, go-kart track and a bar named the Flying Cow, he did not include a drum kit, Starr explained: "When we don’t record, I don’t play".

In 1968 Apple Records released The Beatles (commonly known as the White Album). Creative inspiration for the double-LP came in part from the band’s recent interactions with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. While attending a "Guide Course" at his ashram in Rishikesh, India, the Beatles enjoyed one of their most prolific writing periods, composing most of the album’s songs there. Despite leaving after only ten days, Starr wrote his first recorded Beatles song, "Don’t Pass Me By", while in India. He later compared his stay there with Butlins. His childhood health problems had an enduring effect in the form of allergies and sensitivities to food, and when the Beatles travelled to India he took his own food with him. During recording sessions for the album, relations between the Beatles grew openly divisive. After one particularly difficult session during which McCartney had criticised Starr’s drumming, Starr quit the band for two weeks, taking a holiday with his family in Sardinia on a boat loaned by Peter Sellers. During a lunch break the chef served octopus, which Starr refused to eat. A subsequent conversation with the ship’s captain regarding the behaviours of the animal served as the inspiration for his Abbey Road composition, "Octopus’s Garden", which Starr wrote on guitar during the trip. When he returned to the studio two weeks later, he discovered that his drum kit had been covered in flowers.