And so I get to 250 posts. It would be great to get to 365 and then stop because all of this is over. I’ve been thinking how I’ve managed to cope with a lack of social activity. There are three aspects that have got me through this. Most important is the regular communication with friends via Zoom, WhatsApp, text or even telephone. The second thing is writing this blog. The third thing is Samaritans. There are three phases when training new Samaritans and I am now involved in all of them. I also deliver training to outside organisations, act as a Leader once a week and co-ordinate the Leader shift every six weeks. I also take a shift once a week and an anti-social shift every six weeks. I say this, not to boast, but to explain how I am getting through the complete and abrupt shift in my life. The lockdown in March coincided with my final retirement. Although I didn’t work between September and December last year, I knew that I was going back to cover the maternity leave so it didn’t seem so final. I think that having a lot of work to do as a teacher is deeply ingrained and although it’s nice to have the odd day when I’m not working, I would find it deeply unsettling, demoralising and unfulfilling to spend days on end without some work. I don’t find any of this work to be unpleasant but it feels like an obligation which I think helps a lot. I can remember the six weeks of Summer Holidays, when I was living on my own, when I had nothing to do and I felt lethargic and probably veered towards mild depression. Having had a lot to do for most of the last forty years, it would have been extremely difficult to switch off completely. It is commonly said that we must plan for retirement – it wasn’t exactly possible to plan for a pandemic.
How did Ringo Starr manage? For nearly eight years, he was an integral member of The World’s Best Band and suddenly, over the course of a few months, everything unravelled. How did he keep busy and cope with the loss of his job? He kept busy. He became a session drummer for hire appearing on albums by John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ravi Shankar, B.B. King, Carly Simon, Nilsson and many others. Between 1970 and 1983, he released nine solo albums along with numerous singles, five of which reached the UK Top Thirty. He also developed a career as a film star. Leaving aside any Beatles films for the moment, between 1968 and 1983 he starred in ten films. Some of these are terrible. Here are some sequences from “Candy” in 1968 starring Richard Burton. Every racial stereotype about Mexican Gardeners are on show.
Not a lot better is “The Magic Christian” from 1969 starring Peter Sellers. This film started shooting in early February 1969 and this deadline forced The Beatles to perform their live performance on the roof of the Apple offices on January 30th.
Probably his best performance is in “That’ll Be The Day” in 1973 with David Essex. He plays a barman at a Butlin’s Holiday Camp in the Fifties. He had direct personal experience of this so all he had to do was act naturally. This is a great film and after a bit, I forget that I am watching a Beatle in a movie – his acting is good and I can get lost in the story. He declined to appear in the follow up, “Stardust”, because he felt the story of the rise and fall of a Sixties rock star was a little too close to his own story. Adam Faith played the role in “Stardust”.
Arguably, being invited to take part in these films was a result of the good press he got in the two Beatles’ films, “Help!” and “A Hard Day’s Night”. In “Help!”, from 1965, he has been sent a ring by an Indian fan which he can’t remove from his finger. The plot involves various interested parties attempting to remove the ring. I love this film, mainly because I saw it when I was eleven years old. It was in colour, it was filmed in exotic locations and it had brilliant music. I’m not sure I loved it for the acting ability of the Fab Four.
Ringo Starr’s leading role in this film was probably as a result of one scene in The Beatles’ first film, “A Hard Day’s Night” in which, fed up with being the target of the humour of the other three, he goes for a walk by himself and gets into minor mischief, resulting in him being arrested.
It could be said that it was this scene from “A Hard Day’s Night” that started Ringo Starr’s acting career. Here’s what he had to say about it.
“Getting up early in the morning wasn’t our best talent and there’s an example of that in one scene: the one for which I got really good credit, walking by the river with a camera – the ‘lonely guy’ piece. I had come directly to work from a nightclub (very unprofessional) and was a little hungover, to say the least. Dick Lester had all his people there, and the kid that I was supposed to be doing the scene with, but I had no brain. I’d gone. We tried it several ways. They tried it with the kid doing his lines and someone off camera shouting mine. Then they had me doing the lines of the kid and the kid going ‘blah blah blah’. Or me saying, ‘And another thing, little guy…’ I was so out of it, they said, ‘Well, let’s do anything.’ I said, ‘Let me just walk around and you film me,’ and that’s what we did. And why I look so cold and dejected is because I felt like shit. There’s no acting going on; I felt that bad.”
If anyone ever says that staying out all night, drinking and partying, isn’t likely to help your career, simply tell the story of how one night out for Ringo Starr forged his career, post-Beatles.
For many people, “A Hard Day’s Night” is the best Beatles album. For anyone who prefers the first part of their career when they were producing perfect pop songs and before the experimental second half of their career, this album is the best. Here are some facts about the album.
This is the only Beatles album where every song is a Lennon-McCartney composition.
There are thirteen tracks on the album making it the only one out of the first seven Beatles albums which did not have fourteen tracks on it. The running time of this album is a few seconds over thirty minutes. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, which is the next album to have only thirteen tracks lasts nearly forty minutes.
In 1964, The Beatles played a residency in Paris before their USA trip. They were persuaded, against their better judgement, to record German language versions of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” in EMI’s Pathe Marconi Studios in Paris. Having completed these in a short time, they laid down the instrumentation for “Can’t Buy Me Love”, this being the only time that any Beatles music was recorded outside of the UK. The lead vocals were later recorded at Abbey Road studios but there were no backing harmonies on the song, their first single without them.
In early 1967, The Beatles released “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” as a double A side. It didn’t get to Number One because of Englebert Humperdinck’s “Please Release Me”. George Martin was quoted as regretting the decision to release these two songs as a single because they had originally been slated for inclusion on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. He said that having released the two songs as a single, they couldn’t release them on the album because The Beatles never included singles on albums. This myth has been repeated many times since but it’s not true. “Can’t Buy Me Love” and its B side, “You Can’t Do That” are on this album along with the title track and its B side, “Things We Said Today”.
The film sequence for “I Should Have Known Better” shows Paul McCartney miming to the song even though he doesn’t sing on the track. Patti Boyd appears in this sequence, this being the first time that George Harrison met her.
For many years, “I’ll Be Back” was the only Beatles song I didn’t own. I had both singles and both EPs but this song wasn’t on any of these. It’s a lovely, unusual song, oscillating between major and minor keys. There’s no chorus but two different bridges. As the last song on the album, it makes for a very downbeat and unusual end to a Beatles album. They had other material available and had recorded “Long Tall Sally” for release on an EP in June, a month before the album’s release. This would have made for an upbeat ending in the spirit of “Twist And Shout” and “Money”. Maybe they wanted to keep it an all Lennon-McCartney affair.
I know I lack critical faculties when it comes to The Beatles but, in my opinion, any one of these thirteen songs could have been released as singles and would have sold in their millions. “Any Time At All”, “And I Love Her”, “You Can’t Do That”….. These are magnificent songs. In 1964, John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote twenty three new songs and they’re all part of the most remarkable musical legacy that our descendants will enjoy for millennia. In the meantime, I’m waiting for the opportunity to stay out all night, drinking and partying, so I can forge a new career.