Looking spry and brimming with stories, rock and roll survivor and forever Beatle Ringo Starr (sorry, that’s Sir Ringo Starr to us) returned to the Ed Sullivan Theater for Monday’s Late Show. Oh, all right, because of the ongoing unpleasantness, Ringo was Zoom-ing in to talk to host Stephen Colbert from his own, suitably groovy house, while Colbert noted that his pandemic Ed Sullivan digs are essentially a “storage closet.” But it was still momentous enough for the 80-year-old legend to wax nostalgic about The Beatles era-defining Ed Sullivan Show appearance, an impossible 57 years ago. “It was like, ‘What?!,’” recalled Starr, as he explained how the the then just Europe-famous band were uncertain how well their burgeoning British stardom would translate in the land of Starr’s musical idols. (Spoiler: they did fine.)
Starr, who’s preparing the release of both a new, lockdown-recorded EP and a book about his 30-year tenure as leader of the ever-evolving supergroup Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band, shared with Beatles fanatic Colbert that, even for him, all these anniversaries are bewilderingly historic. Citing the sad milestones of George Harrison and John Lennon’s deaths (a sobering 20 and 40 years ago, respectively), Starr yet noted that his own hard-won optimism remains intact, his signature “peace and love” greeting still buoying his enthusiasm after all these years.
That’s part of why Starr told Colbert he’s so excited at the prospect of Peter Jackson finally getting to release his COVID-delayed documentary Get Back, culled meticulously (and with some trademark Jackson restoration magic) from the same 56 hours of recording studio footage that formed Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s seminal—and seriously disillusioning—1970 Beatles documentary Let It Be. Starr—who only referred to the long out of print Let It Be as “the original documentary” throughout—said that those sessions weren’t all the tense and fractious bummer that Lindsay-Hogg’s editing chose to present. Saying of Let It Be, “it was very narrow and it was built around a moment of [pantomimes defensive ‘Grrr’ pose],” Starr says that the in-progress footage director Jackson has been showing him will present a fuller—and much more joyous—portrait of the band’s final days.
Agreeing with Colbert’s assessment of the undeniable prickliness present in the Beatles’ career-ending sessions, “brothers fight,” Starr assured Colbert that Get Back will let fans see that the Beatles finale wasn’t the stiff and splintered affair Let It Be has portrayed it as all these years. “I’m an only child and suddenly I had three brothers,” noted Ringo of his bandmates, with Jackson pal Colbert adding that, in the top secret clips he’s seen of the new film, “You clearly just love each other so much.” And, indeed, the sneak peek Jackson’s given us shows that while, sure, Paul could be a control freak at the time, the four friends were still just a bunch of goofs having fun making music.
Ringo Starr’s Zoom In comes out on March 19, and the book Ringo Rocks: 30 Years Of The All Starrs is out now. Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back is looking at an August release date.