Wednesday, 14 October 2015


My First Beatle!!!

Only a single soul on this planet can tell his audience, “John Lennon wrote this song for me,” and then perform ‘I’m the Greatest,’ singing it somehow with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. Ringo brought his All-Starr Band to an intimate Edmonton auditorium Monday night and provided a fun finale to our Thanksgiving Day long weekend.

Some 30 or 35 years ago I lined up outside of the Montreal Forum hoping to score tickets for Paul McCartney. Back then his hair was still jet black and mine wasn’t grey. I never even got to within sight of the box office. And so Ann and I saw our first ex-Beatle in concert. The Earth did not move, but it was still good for us.

Before launching into ‘Boys,’ a song the Shirelles are not remembered for, Ringo informed us he used to perform “this next one” with a band he used to be in. Cheers rose from the seats. “Rory Storm and the Hurricanes,” he chuckled. His is a dry and gentle wit; something required if you’ve been derided as the second-best drummer in the Beatles.

Because of his out-sized stage name, his role on screen in ‘Help!’ and a song catalogue which includes ‘Act Naturally,’ ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘No-No Song,’ it’s difficult not to perceive Ringo as something of a cartoon, an elf flashing peace signs and given to aphoristic malapropisms: “It was a hard day’s night.” My image of Ringo stems from footage in the Who documentary ‘The Kids Are Alright’ in which he and fellow drummer Keith Moon attempt to interview each other. They are absolutely and hilariously plastered, swishing their brandies and giggling about teeny-boppers. Ringo’s son Zak Starkey is now the Who’s touring drummer - I saw Zak play years before I ever saw his dad. Keith Moon did not live to see the 80s; Ringo survived his excesses and has been clean and sober for decades.

The 80s were hard on everyone who was there, especially rock fans who had to endure the likes of Toto and Mr. Mister. And that is one of the problems with the All-Starr Band format. The cost of Ringo’s ‘Photograph’ was so high as to include the corporate radio sheen of ‘Hold the Line’ and the sublimely wretched ‘Broken Wings.’ It don’t come easy; nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. The other issue was that the lone certifiable pop genius on stage (and apparently having the time of his life), Todd Rundgren, was necessarily limited to just a few songs. My prayers for ‘Hello, It’s Me’ and hearing him croon that wonderful opening conversational lyric from ‘We Gotta Get You a Woman,’ “Leroy, boy, is that you?” went unheeded.

Our evening climaxed, as it had to, with Billy Shears. I will always argue that Joe Cocker utterly owns ‘With a Little Help from My Friends.’ Yet what a treat for us to be serenaded by the one and only 1967 voice even though one of Ringo’s new friends played guitar for Toto. The encore was a brief rendition of ‘Give Peace a Chance.’ Wouldn’t it make a fine Thanksgiving if citizens of the world could do just that? Ringo then sprinted from the stage and likely exited the venue before we even had the chance to rise from of our seats and cheer our thanks or mob him outside the backstage door; once a Beatle, forever a Beatle.

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