The Return of Ringo
Early in 2008, after a light-hearted joking response to a question from TV chat host Jonathan Ross on the subject of Liverpool, Ringo Starr became a lot less liked in his hometown. In fact, I think most Liverpudlians turned their backs on Ringo completely. He had just visited the city on the occasion of the release of his 2008 album, Liverpool 8, and because Liverpool was joint holder of the “City of Culture” title that year, along with Norwegian city Stavanger. He had a look around the city, performed at a couple of gigs, visited his old school and that was that. On direct questions from Jonathan Ross, Ringo said he loved Liverpool but he didn’t miss it and he wouldn’t want to live there. And for me, that’s fair enough. I love Liverpool as well, but I prefer just visiting it occasionally. Ringo, having a house down south, another in Los Angeles and an apartment in Monaco I’m sure can be excused for not wanting to live in his rainy hometown anymore. After all, his parents and his stepfather are all gone, he has got an elderly aunt still alive, but the new generations of Starkey’s still living in Liverpool are too young for him to remember. Sure, he held a “family get together” in a room in Liverpool’s Echo arena when he played there in 2008, but he’s too busy living his life to do that on a regular basis.
I have to say, I know exactly where he’s coming from. I’m from Trondheim, one of the bigger cities in Norway, and I’ve moved south to the outskirts of Oslo. My father and his part of the family still lives up there, and I still love Trondheim, but I wouldn’t want to move back. Neither do I miss the city, because I can go back whenever I want to, and every time I’m there, I’m enjoying every minute of it. But I’m never coming back for good.
I had the pleasure of attending Ringo’s homecoming to Liverpool this summer. A friend had two tickets to spare, I asked my girlfriend, and off we went. She’s no biggie on Ringo, in fact she dislikes his songs and his singing voice, but she loves Liverpool, so a revisit was okay with her. I went with mixed feelings, because I knew that Ringo was generally disliked in Liverpool, and I was hoping that people would behave in a civilised manner. And they did. The Empire Theatre was not filled to capacity, but the people who turned up were the real fans and Ringo got a marvellous reception. Every song he sang got a standing ovation, and the “peace and love” sentiments ruled the day.
I felt a bit like being on “holy ground” as well, because it was an old Beatles venue. The fabs played the Empire Theatre in Liverpool several times, from 1962 to 1965, George played there with Delaney and Bonnie with Friends in 1969, Paul McCartney and Wings played there in 1973, and ’75 and Ringo played there back in 1992. Paul McCartney made an unnannounced surprise appearance there in 2002, to honour the memory of George Harrison. And I must say I was pleasantly surprised about the place. It was intimate and stylish, it reminded me a bit of l’Olympia in Paris.
Ringo came prepared. Before going to Liverpool, he said in an interview that his favourite live venue was the Empire in Liverpool. He went back on the BBC to give an apology, and this was also reported in the local Liverpool media. To no avail, it seems, because the Liverpudlians in general were unimpressed, and didn’t have any kind words to offer.
And that was my impression too. Whenever I talked with the locals, they were slagging off Ringo – even at his local pub, The Empress. It’s sad, really. But the gig was great! And I did get to hear the songs that were left out from the concert in Norway.