With the Beatles
PHOTO CREDIT: Apple Corps Ltd./ALL OTHER PHOTOS/IMAGES (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images
Why Ringo Starr’s Knighthood Should Spark New Interest in the Band
THINKING about music and when it arrived in my life…
IN THIS PHOTO: Ringo Starr receives his knighthood
I have to, inevitably, look at The Beatles and their majestic sounds. My first rush of The Beatles was discovering albums like Abbey Road and Rubber Soul. The latter remains my favourite album from the band. The way Paul McCartney and John Lennon transformed and evolved as songwriters can be heard on that record. L.P.s such as With the Beatles and Beatles for Sale indicated and highlighted what was to come. Rubber Soul, to me, is the masterful songwriting duo hitting their stride and showing they have no peers. I still don’t think there has been a songwriting combination like Lennon and McCartney. The way they wrote together – back in those early days – is hardly done these days. Whether writing at a piano or at one of their houses – two curious minds working on songs and formulating golden anthems. We think of The Beatles and that core of Lennon and McCartney. Lest we forget the band was a quartet: a big part of that magic came from the drumming of Ringo Starr. The legendary Beatle received a knighthood earlier in the week – over fifty years after The Beatles were awarded MBEs. Paul McCartney got his knighthood back in 1997: the fact it took so long to acknowledge the other surviving Beatle (George Harrison was alive in 1997; he has been gone since 2001).
IMAGE CREDIT: ANITA PONNE
Many might wonder why it took so long for the Queen to bestow such an honour on Ringo Starr – and, why George Harrison never got approach regarding a knighthood. Classic Rock- had an explanation:
“Both Harrison and Lennon were more than qualified to be knighted alongside their bandmates during their lifetimes, but the crown didn't start knighting pop stars until 1995, when Cliff Richard was selected for the honor. Bob Geldof was granted an honorary knighthood nearly a decade before, but it was for his charity work, not his musical accomplishments — and both men were acknowledged years after Lennon's death. Since knighthoods aren't granted posthumously, it's always been out of the question for Lennon to be selected — and as fans are well aware, his playfully contentious relationship with the crown might have led to him rejecting the offer anyway, as he did when the Beatles were bestowed with an MBE in 1965.
Rejecting honors from the monarchy was something Lennon and Harrison later had in common. According to correspondence unearthed after Harrison's passing, he also declined to accept an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) — allegedly because he was insulted by the offer of a station lower than McCartney's knighthood”.
Stepping aside from the logistics and reasoning behind the late recognition of Ringo Starr; his knighthood, surely, has to get people reinvested in The Beatles. It is true to say the band have never lost that focus: the greatest band ever to stalk the planet has been popular and influential since their earliest days. To me, the band represents innovation and rebellion. I think about their debut L.P., Please Please Me and what went into it. A single, thirteen-or-so-hour recording session and you have music history. Back in 1963; the boys were transcending from those German days and starting to get a real foothold in the U.K. and the U.S. The Liverpool band went into the studio armed with some originals and covers; put the tracks down and that was it – a raw and live-sounding record that, surely, goes down as one of the best debut releases ever. Listen to the boisterous and cheeky opener from Paul McCartney (I Saw Her Standing There) to the throat-shredded, blistering Twist and Shout (John Lennon, suffering from a cold, nailed the song in one take – he has no energy and throat left to do a second!) – it is a fantastic album that helped put their music into new hands. Their earliest period – from the debut through to, say, Revolver – was a case of gradual improvements and revelations. In my mind, one of the big reasons for their success was Ringo Starr.
The man’s incredible drumming and unorthodox style can be heard on some of their earliest gems. Listen to songs like She Loves You and you cannot help be amazed by that rollicking, impassioned drumming. Flip forward to songs like The End (Abbey Road) and Tomorrow Never Knows (Revolver); A Day in the Life (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) and Dear Prudence (The Beatles) and you cannot escape the magical work of Ringo Starr! I have a lot of love for the later work like Abbey Road, The Beatles and Revolver: to me, that early part of their career is the most interesting. I love how the guys changed the face of music and sounded like nothing else – there is still nobody like them in music! One can chart a real growth from their debut – when they were performing covers and not quite as gelled as they would be – to a time when touring demands and chaos meant they had to quit (before they started recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club). That period, between 1963-1967, is such an extraordinary and wonderful thing. The Beatles, unlike a lot of bands at the time, were as synonymous with their personalities as the music themselves. All the boys had charm and a witty turn-of-phrase: Starr, to me, had that extra something about him. He seemed (like) that constant backbone and leader of the band; the real star who could keep the guys in-check and ensure every song held together and moved forward.
PHOTO CREDIT: Apple Corps Ltd.
Even though there were tensions around the recording of The Beatles and Abbey Road (the final album they recorded); there was that love and affection that cemented the band. Even now, when Ringo Starr received the knighthood; we saw messages from Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono. The public has a huge love for him and everyone in the music scene is relieved he has been given that long-overdue knighthood – the Monarchy finally came to their senses! What I hope, and think we’ll see, is a new injection of hunger for The Beatles. Although it is likely the two surviving members will get together and record anything (you never know!); there will be more material from Starr. I do worry there will be a day when I’ll approach a young person and mention The Beatles – they will give me a blank stare and, disturbingly, I’ll have to explain who they are through varying degrees of obscurity and annoyance. There are those of us, myself included, who have old Beatles vinyl in their collection. I have at least six or seven of them dotted around the house. There are few greater pleasures than sticking on a record like Please Please Me or Abbey Road and listening to it from the first crackle to the moment the needle rises from the record. I still prefer The Beatles in their truest format: a good, old-fashioned vinyl.
IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images/Spotify
I know many people do not listen to the band in the same format: streaming sites mean a lot of the new generation are experiencing The Beatles digitally. I do not object to people listening to the group through this method. The world has moved on and I understand it is a lot more time-consuming listening to vinyl (as opposed digital means). It is always great knowing a band like The Beatles are being heard and experienced, over fifty-five years after their debut album was released. Whilst any listening experience of The Beatles is a great thing; I wonder how many uninitiated listeners are going to streaming sites to hear them. The likes of Spotify promotes new and fresh music. They spend less time promoting older musicians and albums. People are talking about Ringo Starr’s knighthood and how it has been a long time coming. People who have listened to The Beatles for years/decades are dusting off records and playing C.D.s; new listeners are getting involved with the band and diving into the warm waters – all generations and ages realising why The Beatles are the greatest band ever. I have met Ringo, Starr, briefly, and was bowled over completely! I think he is one of the most engaging, sensational and inspiring musicians still playing. He still has that ethos of the older days – peace and love to all – and endless energy.
One of the reasons I vociferously gobble every molecule of Beatles material is the fact Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney are around and as striking as they always were. I hope the knighting of Ringo Starr does not cause a brief rush of Beatles interest. So many artists I interview name-check The Beatles as influences. It is a part of everyone’s childhood and the soundtrack to all of our lives. The reason me, and so many people in music, know about the band is that their records were played around the house. Our parents attended their gigs and grew up around them; they passed them onto them – how many of the new generation are passing along The Beatles?! I know there are more and more people finding The Beatles and ensuring their music is played and shared. The Beatles can never die or lose sway: their music will be played and studied to the end of time! My biggest hope is young listeners forgo the shiny and polished Popstars of today and step back in time – discover a band who caused an explosion in music and soon became the biggest band in history. It has been a great week for a titan of the music scene. Sir Ringo Starr – or ‘Sir Richard Starkey’, as it should be – has received his knighthood with humour, humbleness and grace. As we nod to a giant and draw a breath of relief (that he finally has a knighthood!); it is to our vinyl crates, C.D. shelves and laptops; so that we can, all, spin The Beatles and remind ourselves why they are…
SYNONYMOUS with musical genius!