Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Postcards from the Boys

by Ringo Starr

A sensational collection of 51 postcards from John, Paul and George to Ringo Starr offering a unique and revealing insight into the real life of the most famous band in the world.

This fabulous book is an essential addition to the bookshelves of anyone interested in the story of The Beatles phenomenon.

Each card, eccentric or banal, is accompanied by Ringo's memories of his private life and the trials and joys of the band, triggered by the in-jokes, fond wishes and doodlings on the back of each image. Touching evidence that throughout all and everything they remained friends, even if they couldn't go on being The Beatles.


'A lot of other people know more about my life than I do' writes Ringo Starr here.

He may well be right. Many others' lifetimes have gone into chronicling those of The Beatles. Countless hours of research, analysis and debate have consumed amateur myth-makers and professional pedants alike. Such has been the Fab Four's impact on western society, the facts of their lives have become public property.

We know, for instance, that they meditated with the Maharishi, and that they played their last concert on the roof of the Apple building. And we know that in the final years, recording sessions could be tense, fractious affairs.

But lives are more than a series of facts cemented together into a proper order. For all the factual breeze-blocks of the Beatles' lives we piece together, we only ever see the outside of the building. We rarely get to peek inside the rooms where John, Paul, George and Ringo played together, laughed, bickered and forged relationships stronger then mere friendships. In this book, Ringo opens 51 small windows into those rooms.

On the following pages are a selection of postcards sent to him by 'the boys.' Accompanying them are Ringo's comments; whatever thoughts and memories came to him as he thumbed through this collection. The well-known stories do not need to be re-told; as Ringo observes, 'it's in all the books.' Instead these little windows throw light in unexpected places.

There are the three sent by Paul between 27-31 January, 1969, while the band were finishing the trouble recording of Let It Be; one is a cryptic apology from 'Mr B Lumpy' while another, sent the day after the band's performance on the roof of Apple Studios states simply: 'You are the greatest drummer in the world. Really.' There's news from the band's retreat in Rishikesh -- Ringo had returned home early -- that John and George had managed seven hours of meditation; Paul and his girlfriend of the time, Jane Asher, two and a half. And that the Maharishi was planning to build a new swimming pool.

Less than a month after the initiation of court proceedings to bring about a legal dissolution of The Beatles, on a card dated January 21, 1971, John has written simply and despondently, 'Who'd have thought it would come to this?' By the late Seventies, when Ringo's solo career was -- in his words -- 'turning to hell,' John is suggesting Blondie's 'Heart Of Glass' is 'the type of stuff y'all should do.'

One card, bearing just a cartoon and the legend, 'Hiya Toots', stirs Ringo's memories of a fireworks party he and John gave for their kids. Another reminds him of quitting The Beatles in 1968. As the rest of the band got on with mixing The White Album he flew to Sardinia where he spent an afternoon on Peter Sellers' yacht and wrote 'Octopus's Garden'. When he returned ten days later, it was partly as a result -- Ringo has since revealed -- of several telegrams and postcards from the boys he received in that time.

The postcards themselves range from the bizarre to the banal; from naked Hawaiian beauties to cats playing with balls and a photo of Scotland's Campbeltown high street. On them the correspondents have scribbled haikus, drawings, odd references to long-forgotten private jokes and wishes of love and happiness for a good friend.

In fact, this is the most revealing aspect of these cards: that no matter what we might have read, no matter what we've been told and no matter how it sometimes might have appeared to the world at large, John, Paul, George and Ringo retained a familial bond throughout all and everything. They stayed friends, even if they couldn't stay as The Beatles.

As Ringo writes: 'It didn't matter what people's perceptions of us were, you can see from these cards that there's still a lot of contact, a lot of thought. The relationship never went away.'

R B Elson

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