There’s something overwhelmingly endearing about Ringo Starr’s “What’s My Name?” — the title track off of his 20th studio album, which dropped in October. Perhaps it’s because, despite being all about Ringo, it was written by long-time All-Starr Band member Colin Hay. Or maybe it’s the fact that the chorus comes from a refrain Ringo often throws out at live shows. Or maybe it’s simply because the song is fun — my husband and I often throw up the peace sign while dancing to it in the car.
“Well I’ve seen it all from the mountains of Napal to Reno, Nevada,” Ringo boasts, “I’ve taken all the falls, I was climbing up the walls and now it doesn’t matter/Nothing stays the same, but I’m still in the game/What’s my name? Ringo!”
What’s My Name?, on the whole, doesn’t take itself seriously in almost delirious fashion. It’s the sound of a klatch of seasoned performers letting loose. Joe Walsh ambles in on the stomping “Gotta Get Up to Get Down” to deliver a sprightly, absurd rap: “Everybody’s on the Internet, what’s up with that/Your body just waitin’ for your brain to come back.” Even Macca makes an appearance, teaming up with Ringo for a rendition of John Lennon’s “Grow Old With Me,” one of the last songs Lennon wrote before his death. It eventually appeared on his posthumous 1984 album with Yoko Ono, Milk and Honey.
“I sang it the best that I could,” Starr said of the recording in a statement. “I do well up when I think of John this deeply. And I’ve done my best. We’ve done our best. The other good thing is that I really wanted Paul to play on it, and he said yes. Paul came over and he played bass and sings a little bit on this with me. So John’s on it in a way. I’m on it and Paul’s on it. It’s not a publicity stunt. This is just what I wanted. And the strings that Jack arranged for this track, if you really listen, they do one line from [George Harrison’s] ‘Here Comes The Sun.’ So in a way, it’s the four of us.”
Coming up with the Beatles, Ringo is usually known as a drummer first, songwriter second — at least compared to Lennon and McCartney.
“I used to write songs and I’d present it to the boys, and they would be rolling on the floor laughing, because I’d just rewritten another song and hadn’t noticed it!” he recently told Dave Grohl in Rolling Stone’s Musicians on Musicians issue.
Still, he’s always had a knack for making lighthearted music that somehow keeps you coming back — “Octopus’ Garden” is a prime example. It’s not “Strawberry Fields Forever,” but it sure is Ringo!