“If you ring my doorbell, you’re on the record — that’s how it works,” says Ringo Starr, who wrote and recorded his 17th album, Ringo 2012, with a little help from friends like Joe Walsh, Dave Stewart and Van Dyke Parks. Highlights range from “Wonderful,” a sweet ode to Barbara Bach, his wife of 30 years, to “In Liverpool,” about his first skiffle gigs at clubs like the Iron Door. And in June, Ringo hits the road with his All-Starr Band — featuring returning member Todd Rundgren and freshmen including Toto’s Steve Lukather and ex-Santana singer Gregg Rolie. “We’ll play all of our hits,” says Starr, checking in from his L.A. home. “And we’ll try and bring some peace and love to this world of ours.”
You’re playing the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on your 72nd birthday, July 7th. Any special plans?
How exciting is that? I’ve never been to the Ryman. Anyone who knows anything about me knows I love country music. And at noon that day, I’ll be at the Hard Rock to do the peace and love. Wherever you are in the world that day at noon, just put your fingers up and go, “Peace and love.” It’s that easy.
On the new song “In Liverpool,” you sing about “breaking the rules” as a kid. Were you, in fact, breaking the law?
In which way?
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In the law way.
What the hell does that mean, “in the law way”?
Like you should have been arrested.
[Laughs] Well, I was in a crowd of guys that got all dressed up — we thought we were the bee’s knees. Between the ages of five and 16, we’d walk to school through the park, and many times we’d never make it to school. When we got into our teenage years, we’d just act like fools trying to get with girls.
Have you ever thought about an autobiography?
When I’ve been asked to write my autobiography, they really want me to write about 1962 to 1970. But I’m afraid I had a huge life before that — volumes before I got to the Beatles — and after it I’ve had a huge life. The songs are my mini-autobiographies.
Some of Ringo 2012 has a reggae vibe. Who are your favorite reggae artists?
I’m still listening to the old guys — Burning Spear, Peter Tosh. We all love Bob Marley, can’t help it.
You were supposed to present at the Grammys, but got sick. Would you have joined the Abbey Road medley?
You never know, do you? I could have got up there with Dave Grohl and hit some of his tom-toms. He’s got enough of them [laughs].
How many drums do you really need, right?
Yeah! When we were in the Beatles, George brought me this kit of, like, 15 drums. When it came time to do a fill, I couldn’t hit anything. It was too contusing. I said, “Fuck it, take these away!” Give me the four drums I know and love.
You went to Paul’s wedding last fall. Do you see much of him?
We love him and we love Nancy — it’s fun when the four of us hang out. They are caring and loving people.
One of the most powerful moments in Martin Scorsese’s Harrison documentary is when, on his death-bed, George offered to visit your daughter while she was in the hospital with a brain tumor. How is she?
She’s doing great. George was so generous. At that point he weighed nothing, he had the energy of a dead fly, and he said, “Do you want me to come to Boston with you?” I well up every time I think of it. It’s far out.
Has George’s wisdom made it easier for you to face the inevitable?
Yes. You can’t be that close to someone without it rubbing off on you. We all get to the end of the line — I heard Davy Jones just left us. The main thing is not to be afraid of that, to get to a place where you’ll go gracefully, not screaming and kicking up a fuss.