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Thursday, 2 October 2014

Ringo goes digital

Ringo's Rotogravure, 1976
Two of Ringo Starr's out-of-print CDs have been made available for digital download on iTunes, "Ringo's Rotogravure" and "Ringo the 4th".
When Ringo Starr's recording contract with EMI ended on 26 January 1976, he signed with Atlantic for the USA and Polydor for the UK market, on 10 March. The first non-Apple album was this, "Ringo's Rotogravure" - but it was still based on the winning formula of 1973's "Ringo" and 1974's "Goodnight Vienna". The formula was to invite Ringo's superstar friends to write songs and play on the recordings. Friends this time was Eric Clapton, Harry Nilsson, Peter Frampton, Melissa Manchester, Dr. John, and Beatle buddies John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Produced by Arif Mardin, sessions began in April at Sunset Sound Recorders in Los Angeles, and eventually moved on 12 June to Cherokee Recording Studios, also in LA. Ringo was joined at this session by John and Yoko, recording "A Dose of Rock 'n' Roll", which featured Lennon on piano, and the Lennon-penned "Cookin' (In the Kitchen of Love)".

Paul and Linda, while on break from the Wings Over America tour, made the backing track to "Pure Gold", which McCartney got Starr to sing over, on 19 June. George donated a song too, but because of his commitments to get his album "Thirty Three & 1/3" done on schedule, he couldn't take part in any recording for Ringo's Rotogravure. Harrison's contribution was a song previously known as "When Every Song Is Sung", which he had attempted to record first with Ronnie Spector in 1971, then with Cilla Black (on which Starr also played), and later still with Leon Russell's wife Mary. Ringo's version of the song was renamed "I'll Still Love You". Eric Clapton played guitar on the track "This Be Called a Song".

The back cover of Ringo's Rotogravure featured the front door of 3 Savile Row, the Apple HQ.
"Pure Gold" had been influenced by Starr's then-girlfriend Nancy Andrews. "Cookin' (In the Kitchen of Love)" was written specifically for Ringo by Lennon. "Las Brisas", a track co-written between Starr and Andrews in Mexico, features a local Mexican Mariachi band with Ringo on maracas. Ringo claimed that he had "looked around all these Mexican restaurants and found this band who were sensational." "Lady Gaye" was based on Clifford T. Ward's "Gaye", which in turn gave him co-credit on the Starkey–Poncia composition. "Spooky Weirdness" is an ad-libbed piece that closes the album.

"Ringo's Rotogravure" (the album's title came from the film "Easter Parade" from 1948) was released on 17 September 1976 in the UK, to a lukewarm response. Despite letting him record the song, Harrison was not pleased with Starr's version of "I'll Still Love You", and proceeded to take legal action against Starr, which was soon settled out of court. This was what the guys were referring to, when they both appeared on the talk show "Aspel & Company" in the UK in March, 1988. At the time living as a UK tax exile, Starr promoted the album with interviews in Denmark, France and Italy.

The album was packaged with a free magnifying glass so that those who bought the album could read the graffiti that was featured on the album's back cover. Things were a bit more fun in the LP era.

Magnifying glass.

The "A Dose of Rock 'n' Roll" single, backed with "Cryin'", on 20 September in the US, reaching number 26.
Released in the US on 27 September, the album performed poorly, only reaching number 28 in America and quickly falling off the charts, while it never even appeared in the UK charts.
A music video was made for "You Don't Know Me at All".

Ringo with a shaved head in this video, where he also revisits old haunts in Hamburg.

On 15 October the "A Dose of Rock 'n' Roll" single was released in the UK and elsewhere.

The follow-up single, his cover of Bruce Channel's "Hey! Baby", backed with "Lady Gaye", was released on 22 November in the US and stalled at number 74. The single was released in the UK on 26 November.

A music video for "Hey! Baby" was also made.

A single comprising "Las Brisas" and "Cryin'" was released in Mexico.

"Ringo's Rotogravure" was issued on CD on the same day as "Ringo the 4th", on 16 August 1992, in the US by Atlantic. The album has now been remastered for iTunes, marketed by Rhino Entertainment Company, and can now be downloaded.

Ringo the 4th, 1977

After the commercial disappointment of "Ringo's Rotogravure", Ringo decided to shift his formula of using his well-known musician friends to write songs and appear on his albums. Instead, he intensified his partnership with Vini Poncia, with whom he wrote several of the songs featured here, while using the input of different musicians. Sessions began on 5 February 1977, at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles, again produced by Arif Mardin. In June, recording sessions were held at Atlantic Studios in New York, where the tracks that ended up on the album were recorded. In addition, the B-side "Just a Dream" was recorded.

Promotional copy of the "Wings"/"Just A Dream" single.

"Wings", backed with "Just a Dream", was released as a single in the US on 25 August 1977. On 16 September, "Drowning in the Sea of Love", backed with "Just a Dream" was released in the UK.

Music video for "Drowning in the Sea of Love".

"Ringo the 4th" was released on 20 September in the UK and 10 days later in the US. The album was a failure upon its release, both commercially and critically. Never touching the UK charts, the album managed to make it to number 162 in the US. The "Drowning in the Sea of Love" single, originally planned as the first US single, was released in the US on 18 October. Shortly thereafter, disappointed record company Atlantic dropped Ringo from their roster.

Neither of the two singles pulled from Ringo the 4th, "Wings" and "Drowning in the Sea of Love" charted in the US. In other countries, other songs were released as singles: "Sneaking Sally Through the Alley", backed with "Tango All Night" (Australia) and "Tango All Night", backed with "It's No Secret" (Spain). The cover photos were by Starr's fiancee, Nancy Lee Andrews. Ringo the 4th was reissued on CD, on the same day as Ringo's Rotogravure, in the US on 16 August 1992 by Atlantic. The song "Wings" was re-recorded years later, and released on Ringo's "Ringo 2012" album and again as a lead single in 2012. Like "Ringo's Rotogravure", "Ringo the 4th" is now marketed by Rhino Entertainment Company, and has been remastered for iTunes.

Ringo's follow up album to "Ringo the 4th" was called "Bad Boy" in 1978. This too was a commercial failure, and Ringo was to return to "the formula" after that, with "Stop And Smell The Roses", which originally went under the working title of "Can't Fight Lightening" and was again going to feature all three Beatle buddies. However, John Lennon was gunned down and killed a little over a month before he was supposed to join Ringo in the recording studio.
The album was delayed but eventually completed with a lot of help from Paul, George and Harry Nilsson. Even though it was a return to form from Ringo, the record buying audience had lost faith in Ringo, and it flopped.


Mark M said...

Just a note regarding the Lady Gaye song, you mentioned that it was inspired by Clifford T Ward's track Gaye, that it might be, but the tune is really a direct lift from another Clifford T Ward song called Birmingham, off his 1975 album No More Rock 'N' Roll.

Great site as always:-)

Foxx said...

Pity they did not include Just A Dream as a bonus track. I have it on a single, someplace.