For the first time in the 25 years since Ringo Starr created the first edition of his All-Starr Band, The Beatles? drummer used his touring ensemble in the studio. His 18th studio album, Postcards From Paradise (Universal Music Enterprises), features songs and performances from Steve Lukather, Todd Rundgren?, Gregg Rolie, Richard Page, Warren Ham and Gregg Bissonette; Joe Walsh and Peter Frampton are among the guest artists. (The album opened at No. 99 on the current Billboard 200.)
“I’m still old school,” says Starr, 74, whose solo career started in 1970. “I like to hang out with musicians and write songs, play them and put out records.” The musician talked to Billboard about the stories behind the songs, his walks down memory lane in his music (instead of in book form) and recording with his fellow Beatles after breaking up.
How did hanging out with these musicians lead to the writing of new songs?
Since the first All-Starr Band in 1989, I wanted us all to sit around and write and record songs. I tried with every band and it never worked until now. I have kept it together for three years because, as personalities, we get on so well. I have had some All-Starr Bands where two or three people get on but there’s always somebody who doesn’t like anybody. With this one I lucked out.
Did you write anything while on tour?
“Island in the Sun.” We were sound checking and (former Santana and Journey keyboardist) Gregg Rolie did a thing that started the ball rolling. We jammed to it and it turned into that song after three soundchecks. We had no name or anything but it was taking such great shape that by the time we got to Biloxi (Miss.), I called all the band down to my room and said, “Let’s write a song.” We all listened to it and tossed out ideas. We came back to L.A. after the tour and everybody put their parts down at my little studio in my guesthouse.
Marc was a friend of mine and I don’t hear that, but on “Let Love Lead,” if you listen to Frampton on that — and I’ve known Peter since he was a baby — he is out of body. He is playing like no Peter I have met yet. Incredible.
On 2005’s Liverpool 8, you did an entire album of reminiscences and on Postcards you start with “Rory and the Hurricanes,” about the band you were in prior to The Beatles. Why these walks down memory lane?
It’s instead of an autobiography. I’ve been invited to write it by several publishing houses but I don’t feel they’re interested in my autobiography — they’re only interested in the eight years I was in The Beatles. So for some reason it came to me, starting with Liverpool 8, I’m going to write snippets of my life on each album. One track on each is dedicated to memories of the past, incidents of the past.
You make a few references to The Beatles on the new album. After the break-up, you were the one who kept recording with them. How did the dynamic change when you became a leader?
I was friendly with everybody. And it was easy — we knew each other. I went to George with my first real writing endeavors, “It Don’t Come Easy,” “Photograph,” because he was more into the production side. I just wanted to hit the drums. Because of Richard Perry I was in L.A. (to make 1973’s Ringo). I thought we were going to make it in Nashville and Richard said, “Let’s do it in L.A. and guess what? John’s in town.” In 10 minutes we had a song. George came into town and so he was on Ringo. So I called Paul and said “Look I’ve got the other two on the album, I want you on it, too.”
An edited version of this story originally appeared in the April 18th issue of Billboard.