Ringo Starr’s Lifted, the 232-page hardcover memoir of his life in the Beatles — published on February 14 in a limited edition of 1000 by Los Angeles’ Julien’s Auctions — bears the fetchingly verbose and Ringo-ishly upbeat subtitle “Fab Images and Memories In My Life With the Beatles From Across the Universe.” The book delivers on the promise of that somewhat grammatically challenged mash-up of two key song titles (“In My Life” from Rubber Soul and “Across The Universe” from Let It Be) in breezy, conversational form, documenting the group’s humble beginnings in Liverpool and motoring right on through to Let It Be.
The narrative voice is wholly Ringo’s, at once irreverent, heartfelt, unafraid of its story, and laced with that fine sort of irony native to Liverpool that Ringo’s colleagues Lennon and McCartney mined so adroitly for their lyrics. It’s an ambulatory, picaresque sort of narrative, as if we’ve embarked on a series of dinners with the rock star, who’s decided to take us on a long, colorful walk through the backstory. The author makes the salient distinction in the first lines of the introduction that he’s no “Beatle historian,” rather, that he’s “a Beatle with some history,” and it’s precisely in that reminiscent mode that the value of the book — to the history of 20th-century music — lies.
This, Ringo tells us, was the enormous value of what George Martin did for them in bringing the group together and producing their sound; this is what it was like on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964; this is what happened on that first tour of the States; and not least, this is the kind of work it actually took to produce that most intense and intensely revolutionary arc of albums that the Beatles made between 1966 and 1972.
That the book is being published by Julien’s is the result of a years-long relationship between the Starrs — Ringo and his wife Barbara Bach — and the Los Angeles-based auction house, with whom they first collaborated on a very successful de-accessioning memorabilia sale some six years ago. As then, the proceeds from the book will support the couple’s Los Angeles-based Lotus Foundation.
Credit for this winning perambulation through rock history, via the drummer of one of mid-century rock’s most influential groups, goes also to Ringo’s choice of collaborator in the irrepressible writer, peripatetic intellect and award-winning Grammy producer David Wild. Wild and Starr have the best sort of priors — as a writer for Rolling Stone back in the day, Wild interviewed Starr some thirty years ago.
The two gentlemen became firm friends, and it’s that friendship — in addition to the friendships among and between the Beatles as described by Ringo — that shines through in Lifted. Essentially, Ringo has talked this book out quite naturally and with great and sovereign ease, but, as any musician will tell us, it matters very much to whom that was done. The book carries a very elegant listened-to quality — reading it, it’s possible to picture Wild and Ringo in the room.
To Forbes, Wild had this to say about the process: “Listening to him is not a hard day’s night. The book is really him paging through and reacting to the photos of the Beatles his eye online enough to lift. I find his perspective so positive and funny. And as I have often told younger musicians, ‘The Beatles are REALLY nice people, so what’s YOUR excuse?’”