With Ringo finally getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I thought it might be nice to look at his solo work and share my favorites.
Ringo’s voice is … well, let’s use the word “unique.” It’s certainly distinctive. Whenever there was a group sing-a-long, Ringo’s voice always seemed to come to the forefront (listen to “Bungalow Bill” or “Carry that Weight” — it’s almost like the other three, whose voices blended so well, were his backup singers!).
But Ringo knew how to surround himself with good people, and his best solo work owes much to the musicians he recruited. See for yourself…
In chronological order:
It Don’t Come Easy. Ringo wrote this simple song but George’s production made it special. It has that Phil Spector-ish production that George learned while working on the “All Things Must Pass” album, and the George’s guitar hook at the beginning makes the song special.
I’m The Greatest. John wrote this for Ringo, in which he happily sings “Yes, my name is Billy Shears, Yes it has been for so many years…” John’s backup singing is perfect.
Photograph. This was Ringo’s first #1 song … and he reached #1 before John did! I wonder how that went over. This is co-written by George, who played guitar.
Snookeroo. Elton John was at the height of his career when he wrote this one for Ringo. That’s Elton on piano, too. It sounds exactly like an Elton John song sung by Ringo.
Goodnight Vienna. Another John-penned song and you can hear him counting off and screaming “all right” at the start. That’s him playing piano. Billy Preston is there as well. Although Paul has written songs for Ringo and played on the albums as well (that’s Paul playing kazoo on “You’re Sixteen”) it seems that Paul didn’t give Ringo any really great material.
Vertical Man. Now we zoom all the way from the 70s to the late 90s, when Ringo hooked up with Mark Hudson (of the “Hudson Brothers” – remember them?). Mark Hudson is a huge Beatles fan who loves going to Beatles conventions (where I met him!). His own songwriting shows the Beatles influence so, not surprisingly, many of my favorite Ringo songs are from the albums he did with Mark doing much of the writing and producing. This particular song is just plain fun. (And that’s Ozzy Osbourne singing backup, believe it or not.)
La De Da. This is a catchy one, although the video here is from the short single version. Typical Ringo lyrics. “I’ve lived my life / It’s only right ’cause I can’t live your life for you.”
Never Without You. This is the song Ringo wrote after George’s death. A sad tribute, with lead guitar from George’s old friend Eric Clapton (but Eric isn’t in the video).
Fading In Fading Out. This is another song co-written with Mark Hudson that is just one of those happy pop songs that you can’t help but like.
Don’t Hang Up. This is a nice piece where Ringo shares vocals with Chrissie Hynde. Always makes me smile!
Liverpool 8. Ringo has a lot of songs about his life with the Beatles. I mean, how can you top that? This is one of the best, with production by Dave Stewart.
Since I only listed my ten favorites, I had to leave out many songs featuring other musicians and singers like Marc Bolan, David Gilmour, Levon Helm, Nicky Hopkins, Dr. John, Jim Keltner, Al Kooper, Jeff Lynne, Bette Midler, Alanis Morrisette, Harry Nilsson, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Stephen Stills, Steven Tyler, Luther Vandross, Klaus Voorman, Joe Walsh, Don Was, Edgar Winter, Ronnie Woods, Gary Wright …
Listening to Ringo is sometimes like having a reunion with old friend.
And, if you’re more interested in seeing his Top Ten Greatest Hits (as opposed to my personal ten favorites), here’s a list based on chart success. (The number in parenthesis shows how high on the charts the song reached.)
- Photograph (1)
- You’re Sixteen (1)
- No No Song (3)
- It Don’t Come Easy (4)
- Oh My My (5)
- Only You (6)
- Back Off Bugaloo (9)
- A Dose of Rock and Roll (26)
- Goodnight Vienna (31)
- Wrack My Brain (38)