Here’s a clip featuring Liverpudlian tubthumper, singer, compulsive peace-sign flasher, and birthday boy Beatle (he’s 71 today!) Ringo Starr. It’s his 1971 B-Side (to his smash hit single “It Don’t Come Easy”) dedicated, even then, and in the midst of legal wrangling in some cases, to his former bandmates in the Beatles.
The song reveals a couple of things about Ringo. First, that his love for rockabilly and country music was absolutely ingrained in his approach. And second, that he was, even early on, the keeper of the flame where spirit of the Beatles is concerned.
He was seemingly above all of the squabbling even at its worst. He always seemed to know best among all four men, that they had created something bigger than all of them. It certainly appeared that he felt it was bigger than their differences at the time.
This song is a clear call to friendship, aimed at each band member, with a verse dedicated to each (and one that pokes fun at his own musical limitations). But, there is a point of view that is more cynical where this track is concerned.
By 1969, Allen Klein had taken over the business affairs of the Beatles through his involvement with Apple. One of the many tensions that eventually tore apart the Beatles, was that three of the Beatles were initially on Klein’s side, with a suspicious Paul McCartney not so sure, and seemingly dragging his feet on signing with Klein. Fights ensued, and by early 1971, Paul McCartney sued the other Beatles to dissolve the Beatles partnership.
The points of view as far as motives were concerned are varied on this score, depending on who’s biography you read. McCartney appeared to be bailing out at the expense of his bandmates. But McCartney had argued, as documented in Barry Miles’ Many Years From Now, that disolving the Beatles was the only way to save them all from Allen Klein, who it was argued was taking commissions he hadn’t earned on royalties from Beatles songs.
It was not unlike a marital break up. It was certainly a messy divorce. But, all the while, Ringo soldiered on as a willing collaborator for all three Beatles. And, eventually, all three would work with Ringo for years afterwards.
All of them wrote material for Ringo’s albums, eventually. John Lennon wrote Ringo’s “I’m the Greatest” and “Goodnight, Vienna”. Paul would eventually have Ringo play on his own singles by the 1980s, and even invite Ringo to appear in the film Give My Regards to Broadstreet, which featured many Beatles-era songs. George Harrison, in addition to co-writing the A-side “It Don’t Come Easy”, and another hit “Photograph” with Ringo, played a wicked slide on this song, not to mention producing it.
Yet, if Ringo really wanted to see “all three” during the time this song came out, it would have to be in separate rooms. Because of legal issues that were unresolved, there was quite a bit of enmity to be dealt with when it came to the four Beatles, now solo. And even in its optimism, this song was, it has been argued, used as a means to undermine McCartney’s case against Klein.
Allegedly, and according to Peter Doggett’s You Never Give Me Your Money, which documented the legal and financial demise of the Beatles, McCartney had been invited to play on it, with the hopes it would confuse the issue of rights and contracts on Apple releases, and the outstanding legal disputes related to them at the time. Whether this was the case or not, McCartney didn’t participate so the point is moot. But, I have my doubts about this theory. I doubt Klein would have underestimated McCartney in this way by 1970. And I really doubt that Ringo, given his penchant for keeping good relations with his former bandmates, would try such underhanded tactics.
So, really what we’re left with is a song that encapsulates Ringo’s attitude, which would pretty much endure from that point on where his friendships with John, George, and Paul were concerned. He knew that they were musical soul-mates of his. He wanted them all to play nice, if not with each other, then certainly with, and for, himself. And they all did eventually, with all three playing on his 1973 album, and popularly argued as being his best, Ringo, the closest thing to a Beatles reunion as would ever happen.
Happy birthday, Ringo!