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Watching Ringo Starr Now and Then -- As in 2008 and 1981
May 2, 2008  | By David Bianculli
 
ringo-and-stewart.jpgRingo Starr talks with Dave Stewart about his life and career, and his new album, tonight at 11 p.m. ET on HBO's Ringo Starr: Off the Record. He also talks about his life and career, and his then-new album, on the new DVD John, Paul, Tom & Ringo: The Tomorrow Show, with Tom Snyder.Those two interviews, more than a quarter-century apart, make for a fascinating contrast.

On tonight's HBO special, Starr is completely at ease. That's because Stewart, the host of these infrequent Off the Record shows, collaborated on Starr's new CD, Liverpool. So when Stewart pulls out old album covers and asks, in effect, "Why did the Beatles cross the (Abbey) road?," Starr doesn't act bored by the question.

(The answer: After tossing around a bunch of complicated ideas for that album cover, they simply decided it would be easier to go outside and walk across the street. The same lazy problem-solving process eventually ended up with them going to the rooftop, rather than some exotic location, for their final live concert.)

Most of the stories are old, as is most of the footage. The fun part comes when Stewart, of Eurythmics, picks up his guitar and coaxes Ringo behind a drum kit. What comes out of that is lots of casual talk about how Ringo came up with some of his signature drum fills, and why he plays a right-handed drum kit even though he's left-handed.

On Shout Factory's John, Paul, Tom & Ringo: The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder, three programs are presented over two discs. One is Snyder's 1980 tribute to John Lennon, featuring his 1975 interview that was Lennon's last. There's also a 1979 interview with Paul McCartney when he was with Wings, and a 1981 interview with Ringo Starr.

ringo-and-barbara.jpgIt was Snyder's first interview with Starr, and it was divided into two parts -- half with Ringo himself, and half with Ringo accompanied by recent bride Barbara Bach. In part one, Ringo and Snyder, both puffing away on cigarettes, banter nervously as Snyder finds ways of putting his guest at ease. That ease becomes evident only once Bach joins them, and Snyder begins by asking her whether she married Ringo Starr or Richard Starkey (his real name). She smiles, and says she married Richie.

For the rest of the segment, Ringo becomes Richie, talking unguardedly about his wife, himself, and his life at that point, the year after Lennon's death. (You can order the DVD here -- and if you're a Beatles fan, you should.)

It's fun comparing the two Ringos -- the vintage and the current ones -- but it's also a total joy watching hours of Snyder on Tomorrow.

What a natural, fascinating broadcaster.

 
 
 
 
 
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