Ringo Starr held court Monday at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, and even if it was an invitation-only affair for the taping of one of Sirius XM satellite radio’s Town Hall sessions, it offered a rare chance to witness a Beatle in a club setting.
Starr bantered with a pair of co-hosts, first with comedian and fellow Brit Russell Brand, then with producer Don Was. Both helped field questions for the 71-year-old musician from members of the invitation-only audience, some of whom flew in from as far away as New Jersey.
Some came seeking words of wisdom, as in the case of a dad who asked Starr what advice he’d give the man’s young son. “What I’ve always tried to do,” Starr said, “is not tell other people what to do. I just do what I do.”
Others answered the riddle of how interview questions are like men: good ones are hard to find. Several came up with long and convoluted windups that sounded as if they’d been researched deep in the bowels of UCLA’s ethnomusicology department — or perhaps the philosophy department. At times, it took on the flavor of a Starr Trek convention.
One of the more interesting queries came from a drummer who asked how Starr came to use the “matched hand” technique, in which both drumsticks are wrapped tight in the fists, rather than the conventional drum kit style with the right hand stick held more like a dinner fork and the left in the fist.
“I didn’t know any better,” Starr replied unapologetically — then explained that the conventional grip was developed by military and marching band drummers who had to play an instrument that was suspended at their waistline.
Another fan asked whether he regretted that the impromptu “Let It Be” concert on the rooftop of the Abbey Road studio in London, which had taken place exactly 43 years earlier, turned out to be the Fab Four’s final public performance, rather than a meticulously planned farewell blowout that a popular band might engineer today for its swan song.
“I have no regrets,” he said. He confessed that at the time, the Beatles had toyed with the idea of an exotic performance space, such as an Egyptian pyramid or some other far-flung location, for the concert part of the “Let It Be” documentary. “But then we just decided, ‘Oh let’s just go up to the roof and have done with it.’
“That’s the way we worked a lot of the time: There would be all these grand plans, but in the end it came down to, ‘Let’s just get the job done.’ ”
He said that he’s resisted many offers to write a book and will continue to do so, but that he has tried to share his life story through songs he calls “audio-biographies” on his three latest albums.
After about an hour’s worth of questions and answers, Starr was joined by members of his band for a short set including a couple of Beatles tunes (“I Wanna Be Your Man,” “With A Little Help From My Friends”), vintage solo Ringo (“It Don’t Come Easy”) and, not coincidentally, “Wings” from his brand-new “Ringo 2012” album, which was released today.
He was joined onstage by guest guitarist Joe Walsh, who became Starr's brother-in-law in 2008 upon marrying Marjorie Bach, the sister of Starr's wife, actress Barbara Bach. Both women cheered their husbands on from their seats in the Troubadour's balcony.
He noted during the Q&A that he plans to put together another edition of the Ringo Starr All-Starr Band to tour this summer, but said he wouldn't talk about the personnel lineup yet.
The session aired live Monday, but will is being repeated today at 3 p.m. Pacific time, Wednesday at 9 a.m., Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m. on the Spectrum, Sirius XM Channel 28.
He's also making album release-week appearances tonight on CBS-TV's "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson" and Wednesday night on NBC-TV's "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." Then on Feb. 12, he'll be a presenter at the Grammy Awards ceremony.
Album review: Ringo Starr's 'Ringo 2012'
Ringo Starr and Make-A-Wish: A teenage drummer gets to meet the Beatle
Photo: Russell Brand, left, and Ringo Starr at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. Credit: Rob Shanahan.