Ringo Starr on The Beatles’ rapid rise to fame: ‘We all went mad at different times’

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Ringo Starr is opening up about being a Beatle.

During a recent interview with AARP, The Magazine, Starr looked back on his time as a member of The Beatles, and what he’s been up to since. While Beatlemania was in full swing in England, the band was virtually unknown in America until their performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February 1964. The appearance drew in 73 million viewers and sent them into a new stratosphere of fame.

“We all went mad at different times. You can’t imagine what it was like, being in the Beatles. It got bigger and crazier,” he told AARP. “We were playing clubs, and then we made a record, ‘Love Me Do.’ My God, there’s nothing bigger than that, our first vinyl. We found out the BBC was going to play ‘Love Me Do’ at 2:17, or whatever time it was, and we pulled the car over. ‘Wow! We’re on the radio, man!'”

Starr joined the band as a fan, having seen them perform at a nightclub in Germany, with another drummer. With Starr on board as drummer, a legendary partnership was formed between him and the other members of the band, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison.

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Reflecting on the band’s dynamics, the drummer joked he “used to be a rock drummer,” before his bandmates “ruined [his] whole career” by continuing to write songs for him. Throughout his time in The Beatles, Starr sang lead on “Yellow Submarine,” “With a Little Help from My Friends” and “Octopus’s Garden.”

“They know me,” Starr said about his former band members. “Paul loves me as much as I love him. He’s the brother I never had. As an only child, suddenly I got three brothers.”

Ringo Starr on the cover of AARP The Magazine

The love McCartney and Starr had for each other, and the band, still exists today, as they recently came together to release, “Now and Then,” a Beatles’ song that the band started recording but never finished. 

“Last year, Paul called and said, “You remember that unfinished song of John’s, ‘Now and Then’? Why don’t we work on that?” He sent it to me, and I played the drums and sang. We had a great track of John singing and playing piano and George playing rhythm guitar. There were terrible rumors that it’s not John, it’s AI, whatever bulls- - - people said. Paul and I would not have done that. It’s a beautiful song and a nice way to finally close that door.”

Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney in 2017

The band eventually broke up in 1970, seven years after the release of their first album, “Please Please Me.” Following their breakup, each artist went on to pursue a solo career, with Lennon releasing “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” in December 1970, Harrison releasing “All Things Must Pass,” in November 1970, McCartney releasing “McCartney,” in April 1970 and Starr releasing “Sentimental Journey” in March 1970.

Starr went on to form Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, which featured him as a singer and drummer, along with other famous musicians, who only perform songs Starr sang as part of The Beatles and as a solo act. He has also released the albums, “Beaucoups of Blues,” “Ringo,” “Goodnight Vienna” and “Postcards from Paradise.”

Since his third album, “Ringo,” featured all The Beatles, he joked he “was the glue” of the band, and didn’t argue with anyone.

“That’ll be in big letters: I WAS THE GLUE, SAYS RINGO,” he joked. “George was the first one to make a solo album [‘Wonderwall Music’], and I was the drummer. John started the Plastic Ono Band, and I was the drummer. Paul likes to play drums himself, or I would’ve been on his albums too.”

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The Beatles in 1967

Most recently, Starr released a four-song EP called “Rewind Forward.” He once again collaborated with McCartney when he asked him to write a song for the EP, which went on to become “Feeling the Sunlight.”

The performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” which started it all for Starr and the other Beatles, will be celebrating its 60th anniversary in February 2024. 

“I can’t tell you how incredible it was,” Starr said about the performance, revealing “all the music I loved came from America,” such as Motown, blues and country, saying, “It was always American music, and 60 years later, I’m still here talking about.” 

“Ed Sullivan was at the airport in London when we came back from a tour of Sweden. He didn’t know who we were, but when he saw the reaction of the crowd, he booked us,” Starr explained. “By the time we got to America, we had a single [“I Want to Hold Your Hand”] that was number 1. Everything just worked out for the Beatles.”

Speaking on the lasting popularity of the band, Ringo credits their work ethic, and their desire to keep making new and different music.

The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show

“I was 22 when I joined the Beatles in 1962, and I was 30 when it was all over. We did eight years, and look at how much we packed in,” he said. “We loved to work — well, Paul loved to work more than all of us. John and I would be hanging out in the garden and the phone would ring. We were psychic — we knew it was him. ‘Hey, lads, should we go into the studio?’ Otherwise, we’d have put out three albums and then vanished.”

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