"Liverpool 8" / Ringo Starr
You've gotta love Ringo. Whatever psychodramas consumed the other Beatles, Ringo always was their rock. Still, I haven't followed Ringo's solo career too faithfully (I do have a vinyl copy of his 1973 album Ringo around here somewhere, and all the Thomas the Tank Engine videos where he played The Conductor). But there were an awful lot of Paul McCartney albums to buy instead, and anyway, let's be honest; Ringo Starr is neither a great songwriter nor a very good singer.
That's why I'm so happy to see that Ringo's got a new single we all can love. It's called "Liverpool 8," and just like the title suggests, it's a breezy snapshot of his own memorable life. Looking back on the Beatles, John Lennon wrote a vicious rant called "How Can You Sleep?" (so vicious that even he recanted it later), but when Ringo looks back on the Beatles, it's a sunny, genial picture--a real heartwarmer.
Ringo is a man who knows his limitations, and this song is as simple as possible. In the verses, the lines are short, the rhymes elementary, the rhythm punchy. "I was a sailor first / I sailed the sea [cue up a little nautical pipe] / Then I got a job / In a factory." But it hits all the buttons, fast-forwarding through his early career: "Played Butlins camp / With my friend Rory" (for the Beatle-ignorant among you, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes was Ringo's first band); "Went to Hamburg / The red lights were on / With George and Paul / And my friend John / We walked all night / We all looked tough / We didn't have much / But we had enough." (I told you the rhymes were basic.) True, Ringo wasn't in the Beatles when they played Hamburg, but Rory Storm was gigging there at the same time; when George Martin told Paul and John to fire drummer Pete Best if they wanted a record contract, they knew immediately who they wanted instead.
In the chorus, Ringo switches to a longer, more legato line, with strings added for sentimental value: "Liverpool I left you / Said goodbye to Madryn Street / I always followed my heart / And I never missed a beat" (excellent word play there -- good job, Richie!). "Destiny was calling / I just couldn't stick around / Liverpool I left you / But I never let you down." The third time around, Ringo changes Madryn Street, his early childhood home, to Admiral Grove, where the Starkeys later moved. You get the idea that those early years are still very present, that the poor kid from the Dingle was never lost in the scrum of fame.
A few other touches I love in this song: the way his voice slides up to the high note on "couldn't stick a-rowwwwnd" (Ringo never could reliably hit those intervals); the guitar riff at the end of the chorus, stolen from Manfred Mann's "Sha La La"; the crowd noise in the background of the verse about Shea Stadium; the Penny-Lane-like horns at the end, while Ringo and a chorus of mates repeats "Liverpool" like a football cheer. Priceless.
Usually, I'd feel sorry for a guy who's still harping on what he did 40 years ago--but what Ringo Starr did 40 years ago was so big, I don't mind. Besides, it's Ringo. There's not a single sour note here, no chip on his shoulder, no grandiose claims. "We were number one / Man, it was fun." That's how he remembers it, and I buy it. Now if I could just figure out why it's Liverpool 8, instead of Liverpool 4 or 5 or whatever . . .
Liverpool 8 sample