40 Years Ago: Ringo Starr’s ‘Ringo’ Features (Sort-Of) Beatles Reunion
This was the closest the Beatles ever got to reuniting in the studio during John Lennon‘s lifetime, and the buzz catapulted Ringo Starr’s third solo album to the top of the charts. ‘Ringo,’ released in the U.K. on Nov 23, 1973, would become Starr’s lone platinum release.
Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison gathered in L.A. on March 12, 1973, along with long-time Beatle Buddies Billy Preston (a sideman on 1970’s ‘Let It Be’) and Klaus Voormann (who’d done the cover art for 1966’s ‘Revolver’), to record the Lennon-composed deep album cut ‘I’m The Greatest.’
“We were like big girls again,” Starr told Bill Minkin in 1977. “We were all looking at each other smiling. We hadn’t played together in four years. We were just smiling while we were playing. It was nice.”
Elsewhere, producer Richard Perry was afforded the sideman talents of Harry Nilsson, T Rex’s Marc Bolan, Rolling Stones sideman Nicky Hopkins, Motown legend Martha Reeves, Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MGs fame — and four of the five members of the Band, including Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson. But make no mistake. This album was then, and is now, best known for having provided fans a rare chance to hear the Beatles together on one album following their acrimonious 1970 breakup.
Though the former bandmates got together in pairs on several other occasions, the only other time this many Beatles worked together in a recording session was in the 1990s-era ‘Anthology’ period, when Starr, Harrison and Paul McCartney collaborated to finish some of the late Lennon’s songs.
Later during the sessions, Starr flew to London, where McCartney and his wife Linda joined in on Paul’s ‘Six O’Clock,’ which had been written specifically for this project. McCartney also appeared on ‘You’re Sixteen.’ Harrison, meanwhile, also sat in on ‘Sunshine Life for Me,’ ‘Photograph,’ and ‘You and Me (Babe)’ — the last two of which he co-wrote.
The fact that Starr had yet to record a proper pop album as a solo artist only added to the interest in this album, which followed discs focusing on country music and songbook classics. Starr has only had three gold singles, and two of them emerged from ‘Ringo’ — the ’73 U.S. chartoppers ‘Photograph’ and ‘You’re Sixteen.’ ‘Oh My My,’ which featured Reeves and Merry Clayton (best known for her work on the Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’), also went to the Top 5.