Ringo Starr found a formula for success with his self-titled third album, which was selling platinum, and essentially threw it down. Good night Vienna, the follow-up, again featured a slew of guest stars, plenty of genre breaks, and Beatles-related contributions – but it sold half as much.
By the time Starr got everyone together for a new try, he had changed labels – and that meant a new producer at Arif Mardin. But otherwise Ringo’s gravure arrived on September 17, 1976, with the same plan. It also continued its downward trade slide.
“Whatever we do, it’s always me,” a clearly optimistic Starr told ABC in Australia in 1976, “and what I’m trying to do is come in and do a lot of singles. J ‘like singles, you know? So we find songs, I ask people to write me songs, write some of them. There is a change at the producer level, and so it’s a change major and it will be different because of that. But it’s still a lot of good songs, written by good people. “
Unfortunately, that really wasn’t the case. Paul McCartney’s “Pure Gold” is the best of the fab-offs, and he probably wouldn’t have made a B-side for the Wings. John Lennon’s “Cookin ‘(In the Kitchen of Love)” is simply a blunder, notable only as the last session he attended before a long period of housekeeping. George Harrison hated the final version of Starr’s “I’ll Always Love You” so much that he briefly took legal action.
“Well, Paul asked to write a song. I asked John, and he worked on it and worked on it, and finally he came up with it. [‘Cookin’ (In the Kitchen of Love)’]. You know he really enjoys it now – cooking! “Said Starr in The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After the Breakup 1970-2001. “I also asked George to write one, but there was an old one that was never published by someone I have always loved. I was on the session when it was recorded. so at the end I asked him if instead of writing a, could I have [‘I’ll Still Love You’]? “
Listen to “I will always love you” by Ringo Starr
Harrison originally called this track “Whenever”, and it turned out to be quite apt: the hugely popular “I’ll Still Love You” was his third name and had been tried by several other performers before. Harrison originally wrote “Whenever” in the 60s thinking of James Bond singer Shirley Bassey, did a demo of the track (now called “When Every Song Is Sung”) for the 1970s All things must pass and tried unsuccessfully to do something with it in sessions with Ronnie Spector, Cilla Black, and Leon Russell over the following years.
Mardin and Starr ultimately didn’t do better, as Mardin’s decision to use a plasticine Arp string set almost single-handedly ruined things. “I will always love you” had been transformed into a tearful trail, leaving a seemingly embarrassed Harrison to contact his lawyer. The case was reportedly settled out of court.
Elsewhere, a band that includes Dr John, Melissa Manchester, Jim Keltner, Klaus Voormann and Peter Frampton still can’t seem to get “A Dose of Rock ‘n’ Roll” out of its slumber by heart. Eric Clapton’s “This Be Called a Song” is a thin inflected calypso oatmeal. There’s also a useless cover of an old Bruce Channel song (“Hey! Baby”), another swing through Nashville (“Cryin ‘) and, rather confusingly, a song with a real restaurant mariachi band. Mexican (“Las Brisas”).
The results were dead on arrival, a sentiment underscored by the sales figures for Starr’s single “A Dose of Rock ‘n’ Roll”. It slipped to No.26 in the US but failed to rank in the UK – heralding the album’s disappointing ending. “Hey! Baby” didn’t go past # 74 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“You talk about picking singles: I thought ‘Dose of Rock’ n ‘Roll’ couldn’t fail – and ‘Hey! Baby’, I mean, are you kidding? And they didn’t do anything,” said Starr now confused at Bill Minkin in 1977. “After all these years I don’t know what a No. 1 is. I think I do, and I released the records and ultimately they aren’t. Something’s going on. I don’t know. “
Listen to “I will always love you” by Ringo Starr
Everyone agreed that the sessions were easy going and fun. Paul and Linda McCartney stopped in for a break on their Wings Over America tour. Lennon’s backing group for “Cookin ‘(In the Kitchen of Love)” included guitarist Danny Kortchmar, who had also collaborated with others. Rotogravure guest Harry Nilsson about 1974 Pussy Cats. Kortchmar ended up appearing on “A Dose of Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Lady Gaye”, too.
Lennon “asked me to play; I was totally thrilled,” said Kortchmar Billboard in 2001. “Good conductor. He knew how to lead a group in one direction. It’s not a skill that all singer-songwriters have. the same.”
Yet the unifying concept guiding Ringo’s gravure had passed his expiration date, and there was nothing Starr, still on the line, could do to save him. Ditto with Mardin. He was certainly a big name, but Starr’s new producer had just gone through a transformation with the Bee Gees. Ringo’s gravure Could not have been further from their recent smash at the helm of Mardin “Jive Talkin ‘”.
“You can’t ask Arif to perform for you unless you sign with Atlantic,” Starr told Minkin. “We met Arif, he came to London for five hours to chat and at the end I said, ‘I would like to work with you’, and he said, ‘Well, I would like to work with you. . ‘I brought him over to LA, and we were still getting to know each other in a way, and he didn’t know the players. “
Ringo’s gravure came in at No.28 in the US, but it was still a far cry from the Top 10 pace set by Ringo and Good night Vienna. Worse yet, he didn’t feature in Starr’s native UK at all, signaling the end of an era. “There isn’t much I can say about Rotogravure“Starr added.” It was a nice meeting place for Arif and me. “
From there, Mardin took on a more assertive role in the 1977s. Ringo the 4, following his dance-oriented approach at the time. However, when that LP flopped, Starr’s brief association with Atlantic came to an end. He never had another Top 40 album.
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