SONG-BY-SONG WITH RINGO STARR
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Steve Lukather is Mr. Vitality when he’s rocking, and that’s how we got this rocker going. Luke and I were hanging out, and we had a bit of a rhythm pattern going and started to put a track down. We got a bit crazed in the beginning thinking that there’s already Willie Nelson — who we love — singing his “On The Road Again”. But we realized Willie doesn’t own that line, and our road trip is a lot more rocking. Yes, that is Paul McCartney on bass and on screams too. I didn’t ask Paul or others on this song to scream — they just did it; like Paul, Edgar Winter and Joe Walsh at the end. They all went off and rocked. Real rock & roll and screams just seem to go together.
This is the first song that I’ve ever written with Peter Frampton. Pete came up to the house, and he had that line about things these days being, “Laughable/If it wasn’t sad.” That’s all we need. Anyone can have a good line, and we can write a song all around it. Pete wanted this song to get a little bit more political, and I thought it was political enough. And in every interview, I am not political — I’m about Peace & Love. But the expression of the song does speak to the times we are in now.
SHOW ME THE WAY
“Show Me The Way” is for Barbara. She shows me the way. We’ve been together 37 years, You have ups-and-downs. I’ll cry. She’ll cry. We’ll cry — there are those days. But there’s so much love and so much support. We’re still getting to know each other and loving it. Steve Lukather co-wrote this one with me. I really wanted Paul to play bass on this track because it’s an important track to me because of the expression to Barbara, and Paul said “Yes.” For me, he’s still the most melodic, incredible bass player. Paul plays every note great. And yes, we have some history and chemistry. That also comes into play. I’d love someone with a big, great voice like Celine Dion to sing this song because I love it and it’s important to me. But until then, I’ll have to do.
SPEED OF SOUND
I was writing with Richard Marx and he said, “I want to do something raucous” because usually we do something more ballady. Richard had a good line about the “Speed Of Sound,” and I thought, how can we show that? That’s why I asked Pete Frampton about doing a little talkbox for me — something he and Joe Walsh both know a lot about. Richard is so great and so easy. We have a competition, he and I. We have to write the song in 25 minutes, so if it takes 34 minutes, it’s like, “Oh no, it took FOREVER.” I love Richard. These days, I don’t have time for hard cases. We have fun, and we know what we’re doing.
Gary Burr was in Ringo and the Roundheads for years, and we’ve been friends ever since. Now Gary’s with Georgia Middleman and she’s a great writer and a country girl. Gary and I wrote this song together, and then Gary and Georgia came back and do the harmonies. It’s great to have people you love on your record. I’m still thinking of putting a country record together, but I don’t know if I’ll do it at home or in Nashville. I went to Nashville to record before a lot of people, but lately, Nashville’s been coming to me. And what about that Greg Leisz on Dobro? He plays with such emotion, and it was so great to find him.
KING OF THE KINGDOM
Van Dyke Parks is an old friend. I’ve known Van Dyke since like 1975. And on most of my records lately, we’ve written a song together because I do tend to call my old pals. Van Dyke came over one day and I had a bit of a track, and I said something about, “She’s the king of the kingdom, and I’m in charge of the band.” Then because the emotion on this song was kind of reggae, we started talking about Haile Selassie. So we went on the Internet to read up on him, and that led us to “One Love” and, of course, to Bob Marley. I wanted to reference Bob Marley and give credit to Bob Marley because I loved him and what he brought to music.
“Electricity” was written with Glenn Ballard who I originally met through Dave Stewart. This is another one of my personal history lessons that talks about my old band Rory and the Hurricanes, and Johnny “Guitar” Byrne who was an amazing player we had in the group. There’s also a reference to “Gangster of Love” which is a classic by another great player Johnny “Guitar” Watson from America. Glenn had the bit about “electricity going through his fingers,” so I put that crazy vocal effect on so this track would feel very electric. This was the first track we put guitar on for the album and I got Joe Walsh to come down because he’s a relative and a very electric guy too, a beautiful human who plays great. What else do you need?
SO WRONG FOR SO LONG
Here you have two Brits — Dave Stewart and I — writing a great country song. In a way, this was the start of this record because we were originally going to go to Nashville last June to do a country album. We wrote a few songs before we’d go there so we’d sound professional. Then they offered me a summer tour, so I went on road instead. Dave’s a great friend who’s very inventive and great to have around. I remember I had the line, “I hope you’re happy/I hope he’s happy too/But just like all the others/ I’ll get over you.” That’s my favorite line — some of my own lines blow me away!”
SHAKE IT UP
I love Gary Nicholson. As soon as this record is out, he’ll be calling me and saying, “So are you starting a new record because I’m coming to town.” We have a good time writing together. He is so professional. He has a computer full of things and phrases he’s said. Usually there’s a good title going down. For me, “Shake It Up” is like the school hop — on this track, it’s like we’re in white jackets and we’re rocking. He’s on guitar. I’m on drums. Edgar Winter is on it — Edgar is rock & roll and so is Don Was, who I first worked with in 1990 on Time Takes Time. I had four producers then because I was soinsecure. It was sort of left in his hands. Don always does a great job.
GIVE MORE LOVE
I wrote “Give More Love” with Gary Nicholson too, and it’s a great message for the album because it’s what I’m all about. This track features so many friends new and old. Jim Cox is back on keyboards and it’s great to have him. We have Matt Bissonette on bass, and his brother Greg Bissonette on Hang Drum. Olivia and Dhani Harrison gave me this steel drum, one you can just sort of have on your knee, and that’s what Gregg was playing. And you can’t do better than Timothy B. Schmitt, Richard Page and Amy Keys on backing vocals. What a beautiful sound with the three of them: Amy and the boys who can sound more like girls than she does!
BACK OFF BOOGALOO
We were moving house to Los Angeles, and a ship brought six containers of my stuff — of course, most of it was Barbara’s. But I’m going through it, and found a box of little two-inch reel-to-reel tapes. My assistant Scotty was checking out everything in the office, and he said, “You should listen to this.” It’s me singing “Back Off Boogaloo” with this great guitar. I’m thinking who the hell is that playing? Then I realize, I’m on guitar! It’s 1971, Marc Bolan had been over the night before and used the word “Boogaloo,” and I woke up and the reel-to-reel captures the song coming. So I gave the tape to Jeff (Lynne) to do some new production around that, which he did, then he got busy on tour, but his guitar is on it, so are Nathan East and Joe Walsh.
YOU CAN’T FIGHT LIGHTING
For my birthday “Peace & Love” celebration last year in Los Angeles, my publicist Elizabeth Freund arranged for a few talented young groups to perform. Alberta Cross — a Swede and a Brit who come from Brooklyn — picked “You Can’t Fight Lightening” which was a wild choice of an obscure song I wrote a long time and recorded with Paul and Linda many years ago. Paul produced that track, and I played guitar since it was all one chord. But Alberta Cross did such a great job with the song, it made me want to rediscover the song again with their help. I love it.
PHOTOGRAPH/DON’T PASS ME BY
These are two songs that people already know and love that I did here with Vandaveer who also played my birthday party in Hollywood. Vandaveer is a very cool musical project from Louisville, Kentucky led by a man named Mark Charles Heidinger. These are not obscure songs at all, but Vandaveer did them great and they did them differently, so that even the old songs on this album feel new.