Richard Starkey, called from Los Angeles — where he’s based with his wife of 38 years, actress Barbara Bach — to dish with The Post on his relationship with Paul McCartney, that time he quit the Beatles and how music saved his life.
“What’s my name” is a refrain you use in your shows. When and how did that first happen?
It happened years ago. I’d go off for one or two songs in the middle, and then I’d come back and introduce the band. At the end of that, I’d say, “Well, so I don’t feel left out, what’s my name?” And the audience all join in and say, “Ringo!”
Was it a daunting prospect covering one of John Lennon’s last songs, “Grow Old with Me,” on the new album?
It was emotional, but it wasn’t daunting. I love John and . . . I decided I loved that song, and I started producing it and putting it together. And then I thought, “Well, the only bass player I need on this track would be Paul.” And then as Jack [Douglas] was putting the string section down, I hear a reference to George [Harrison]. So it’s really like, in a weird way, we’re all there. That made me feel good.
What do you think John would be like now, if he had grown old?
Well, “growing old” is an expression. I don’t feel like I’ve grown old — I’ve just grown up. I honestly think — like Paul, like myself — John would be on the road. That’s where we come from.
What do you miss the most about him?
I miss his friendship. I miss hanging. I miss . . . just that we’re not together right now. That’s what I miss. I go to New York a lot, I say hi to Yoko [Ono], and it sucks, you know? But he’s still in my heart.
You and Paul are still going strong, though. How has your relationship evolved over the years?
I think we have a great relationship. He played on this album, but he’s also played on several of my other albums. We hang out, we have lunch. He’ll have something at his house, or he’ll come over here to visit. But we don’t live with each other anymore.
One of your new songs is called “Thank God for Music.” What do you think you’d have done in your life if it weren’t for music?
Well, music is my lifesaver. It got me out of the factory, and it was a dream I had at 13. I was very ill at the time, but I just wanted to be a drummer. When I was 17 1/2, my stepdad got me this old kit of drums. And then when I was 18, I got my first new kit of drums…You don’t know it’s gonna go where it went. My story is really incredible because of The Beatles.
Last month was the 50th anniversary of “Abbey Road.” Your great song on there was “Octopus’s Garden,” which you wrote when you had temporarily quit the band.
I did. I’d left the band because it was too crazy and too tense. I just said, “I’m going,” and I got Maureen — my wife at the time, God rest her soul — and the kids, and we went to Sardinia [Italy]. And it just happened: While I’m there, Peter Sellers had his boat there, and so we went out for a day on his boat. I was just hanging out talking to the captain, and he was telling me that octopuses go ’round the ocean finding shiny stones and things to put around their cave entrance. So it’s like their garden. And at the time, thanks to marijuana, it seemed like the best idea I’d ever heard!
What do you think is the quintessential Beatles song?
I can’t pick one. You can go from “Paperback Writer” to “I Am the Walrus.” “Please Please Me” is great, too. It’s too diverse. And I was there for all of them.