These days, even Beatles get the blues.
Despite good reviews and a decent publicity push, Ringo Starr’s latest album, “Liverpool 8” (Capitol), sold only 7,000 copies in its first week of release in January, landing it at No. 94. Its release even managed to generate a bit of controversy for the laid-back Beatle and the equally controversy-averse “Live With Regis and Kelly.” (When producers wanted Starr to cut the performance of the title track from 4 minutes, 15 seconds to 2 ½ minutes, Starr reportedly responded “God bless and goodbye” and walked off the show.)
“It’s difficult with record sales,” Starr, 67, says, calling from tour rehearsals in Niagara Falls, Ontario. “I’m doing OK, but it’s hard to get the play you want. It’s just how it is. If you’re over 21, it’s difficult. I don’t think it’s only for me. I think it’s most people who’ve been around for awhile. There’s still artists coming through from the same era, so there’s a lot of us still out there, and it’s difficult - and there’s a lot of new people. There’s only so much room.”
That’s true, of course, though not everyone was in the biggest band the world has ever seen. Nevertheless, Starr takes the situation in stride, as he has for years. He’s rounded up another All-Starr Band, his 10th, and he’s hitting the road, introducing the world to his “Liverpool 8” album personally if he can’t get radio and TV to do it for him.
But for Starr, that’s a comfortable position and he still looks for ways to make it more comfortable, like holding band rehearsals in the Fallsview Casino Resort’s Avalon Ballroom. “It’s a good situation for us because we rehearse here in the same venue for 10 days and then we open in the same venue, so we know the stage at least,” he says, “I’ve found in the last three bands I’ve put together that this is the best way to do it.”
Starr also likes the challenge of putting new versions of his All-Starr Band together - this year’s band includes Men at Work’s Colin Hay, ‘80s rocker Billy Squier, Average White Band’s Hamish Stuart, ‘70s singer-songwriter Gary Wright, drummer Gregg Bissonette and “Frankenstein” creator Edgar Winter - and learning the new music that comes with performing the hits of his bandmates, as well as his own.
“For me, I’m doing ‘Oh My My,’ which I’ve never done before and I’m doing ‘Liverpool 8’ from the new CD, and we’ve got Gary Wright now so we’ll be doing ‘Dream Weaver,’ so there’s a few new ones,” Starr says. “We’ve got plenty of new music for you.”
However, Starr says that as much as he would like to perform all of “Liverpool 8” on the current tour, he’s only doing the title track. “You know, you can’t do them all - that’s the deal,” he says. “Everybody has their ideas of what I should be doing, but, in the end, I have to write down what I feel is going to be a good show.”
These days, for Starr, a good show includes being able to have contact with the crowd. “I like to see the audience - that’s the deal now when I’m out there,” he says. “But I’m comfortable wherever we are. Once they say, ‘Billy Shears,’ then I’m on. I go on and do my job.”
WISH UPON A STARR
Sure, this year’s version of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band is strong, with Colin Hay, Billy Squier, Hamish Stuart, Edgar Winter, Gary Wright and Gregg Bissonette, but there are so many other possibilities we’d like to see:
The obvious one: Reunite Starr and Paul McCartney with Julian Lennon, Sean Lennon and Dhani Harrison.
The drummer-singers one: Starr with fellow drummer-singers Don Henley, Phil Collins and All-Starr band veteran Sheila E.
The female one: Starr with all-female All-Starrs - Joan Jett and Chrissie Hynde on guitars, Kim Gordon and Kim Deal on bass, and Sheila E.