A trim and tan Ringo Starr regaled a select group of fans yesterday in at a SiriusXM “Town Hall” held the Troubadour in Los Angeles, to promote the release of his new studio album Ringo 2012, out today. If you didn’t know the former Beatle was 71 years old, you would not have believed it — rarely has a septuagenarian rock star looked this good. He gamely bantered with host Russell Brand, who has held back on a sex joke. “The whole day is sort of designed to elicit relentless ejaculation,” Brand told the crowd at the Troubadour before the event began. (“If I talk about relentless ejaculation now,” Brand added, apparently talking to a SiriusXM producer, “it probably won’t be part of the broadcast.”)
Sex jokes aside, a great deal of the hour-long audience Q&A — the second half of which was moderated by music producer Don Was — was spent on Beatles nostalgia, from reminiscing about their final rooftop concert (yesterday was that event’s 43rd anniversary, a fact that took Starr by surprise), all the way back to when the drummer would watch the Beatles perform before he’d joined the band. Starr told stories about how tough it was for him to get his own songs on a Beatles record, and how he phoned up Paul McCartney after 2003’s Let It Be…Naked was released to tell McCartney the album really did sound better without Phil Spector’s orchestral wall of sound. With real pride, Starr remarked more than once that no matter how they felt about each other personally, his bandmates “were all supporting each other [on stage] — in ’62 were like that and in 1970 we were still like that, musically.”
The thing about the Beatles, though, is that there is scarcely a molecule of the band’s ten-year history (or eight-year history, in Starr’s case) that hasn’t already been covered, scrutinized, and dissected many times over. The median age of the assembled crowd of SiriusXM contest winners was pushing 50, and although there were questions about Starr’s current album — as well as his charity work, his feelings about the digital music revolution, and his many collaborations over the years — not even Starr was under the illusion that anyone was there for any other reason than he’s one quarter of the Fab Four. When Starr capped off the event by playing with his band, two of the songs were Beatles hits (“I Wanna Be Your Man,” “With A Little Help From My Friends”). The only song he played from Ringo 2012, “Wings,” actually dates back to his 1977 album Ringo the 4th.
Of course, none of this appeared to bother any of the assembled audience. Starr still clearly means something to them whether he’s making much of a dent in the charts or not, and, really, what else matters? The Town Hall will be rebroadcast on SiriusXM channel 28 on Wednedsay at noon, Friday at 9 p.m., and Saturday at 2 p.m. (all times Eastern), and anyone wishing to luxuriate in a charming hour of light-hearted reminiscence will find nothing to argue about. Those hoping to spark to something fresh and new about Starr, the Beatles, and music in general should likely look elsewhere.