With a little help from his friends, Ringo puts on slick show


Ringo Starr &

' His All Starr Band

When: Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia.

Tickets: Pavilion, $21.50; lawn, $15.50.

Call: (410) 481-SEAT to order tickets; (410) 730-2424 for


There's something ironic about Ringo Starr singing "It Don't Come Easy." He joined the Beatles just a year before Beatlemania hit -- and amassed fame and fortune though he never could do a decent drum roll. He cut seven novelty hits in the early '70s though he can barely carry a tune.

In the Dabbling Years that followed he made a truly dreadful movie -- remember "Cave Man"? -- but went on to score as a TV actor: the Conductor on PBS' very successful "Shining Time Station."

Now Mr. Starr has embarked on a U.S.-Europe tour that started June 2 in Florida and will end in Rome in late July. (It comes to the Merriweather Post Pavilion Wednesday.) And though his recent "Time Takes Time" LP -- Mr. Starr's first studio effort in nine years -- is something of a clinker, his heavy-duty music pals touring as Ringo's All Starr's will put on a slick stage show.

All he's got to do is . . . act naturally.

In a recent phone interview, he sounded much as you would expect: self-effacing, with dry humor so low-key you could misplace it in indoor/outdoor carpeting.

Q: When you did the first Ringo's All Starr's Tour in 1989, you did all old material. This time around, you have an album out. Did you make "Time Takes Time" for the tour, or are you touring for that release?

A: We made the album and, of course, put the tour together around it.

Q: It's been about nine years since you had a new album out. What caused you to make one now?

A: It hasn't been nine years; 1984 was the last year I had one out. I made an LP in 1987 with (producer) Chips Moman that came out in court. (In 1989, Mr. Starr won a suit barring its release; he claimed it was a substandard product and its issuance would injure his reputation.)

There have been some repackages, but it's true I haven't been in the studio. In '89 there was the tour and in '90 the live album from it.

Q: None of the people you're touring with were on the LP. Is there a reason?

A: Well, [All Starr guitarist] Joe Walsh is in the video. This is how it happened: This is a studio album. I asked Joe if he had some free dates [for recording], but he was in Charlottesville, Va., so he couldn't. The producers mainly brought in the musicians and booked the studio and that's how it happened.

Q: Nils Lofgren and Joe Walsh were on the first tour; the others are all new. Comment?

A: [All Starr] Dave Edmunds and I also did the Carl Perkins show together. Also, because we're British, he and I bumped into each other down the line.

With Joe and Nils . . . we've got a huge guitar lineup. A total of four guitars here, with Tim [Schmit] on bass. I just wanted it more "guitar" this time. More rocking. The last time, with Dr. John and Billy Preston, it was really "keyboards."

Q: The '89 tour wasn't a Ringo show as much as a multiartist showcase. Is that how this tour's shaping up?

A: Exactly the same.

Q: How much of the show will be Ringo -- Ringo doing oldies and Ringo doing new material?

A: It will be oldies and new stuff. Beatles material and solo career material and new material. That's the change, for my part. And that's the change for [the musicians'] part. Joe and Nils will be doing more new material than they did last time.

Q: And your son Zak will handle the drums when you're not? Is that when you're the featured artist?

A: We're handling them together when I'm not in the front. When I'm down in front, he'll handle them. We have Timmy Capello on percussion as well as on sax and synth.

Q: What about when the other All Starrs are in the spotlight? Will they do signature songs?

A: They'll be doing stuff they love, and new tracks -- some of them have new products out -- as well as the older stuff.

Q: What's going to be the running time for the show?

A: Two hours.

Q: Two of the All Starrs -- Edmunds and Todd Rundgren -- are auteurs: They've put out releases where they've played all the instruments, worked the boards -- the whole bit. Is this a help or a hassle for the tour?

A: Everyone in the band is just in the band. That's what we do. Nils and Joe are like musical directors -- pulling the chords together, and the breaks and solos.

But everyone is such a fine player, and everyone knows what they're supposed to be doing. We've run down in a week . . . 18 numbers.

Q: What cuts from your new album?

A: "Weight of the World," "Don't Go Where the Road Don't Go," "After All These Years," So far, they're the only three we've run down.

Q: The album's lyrics have a strong past-tense feel -- like you're giving advice or speaking from experience.

A: I hope not. I'm not living in the past anymore. That's the thrill of it. I'm not living in the future, either.

Q: The pseudo-'60s illustration on it is by the same guy who did Michael Jackson's "Dangerous." Your thoughts?

A: I was looking for someone who could create a mandala for me, what with the elephant, owl, dragon . . . animals I liked. The ones inside the circle are endangered. In fact, there are 21: I'm in the middle.

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