ABOUT THIS INTERVIEW:
On December 10th 1969, Ringo Starr made an appearance on the television program 'Late Night Line-up.' Starr was in the process of promoting his new comedy film with Peter Sellers entitled 'The Magic Christian.' Topics of discussion in the filmed interview included politics, business at Apple Corps, his interest in science fiction, drugs, education, and his wife and two children. Ringo's interview was presented in two segments - traveling in a car, and in a rowboat with Ringo at the oars.
While the Beatles had privately disbanded at this point, it would not be announced publicly until April of 1970.
The program 'Late Night Line-up' aired on BBC2-TV from 1964 to 1972 as an innovative and ground-breaking discussion program.
- Jay Spangler, www.beatlesinterviews.org
Segment One: Conversation in car
RINGO: "We have to turn into businessmen because of what we started, you know. I mean, we started it (Apple) as like a toy-- because we weren't businessmen, and we didn't know what it involved, and we'd just started this great empire thinking we could do it whenever we felt like. But it ended up that we couldn't, you know, we had to go in. So what we're really doing now is paying for when we opened it and played about. Because we used to keep everybody on forever, you know, just because they were like a mate or a pal. They never did the jobs what we used to keep them on. You know, it's like another time we were being played on. So now, if they can't do the job then they have to leave, you know, which is fair. If you don't do your work then you've gotta go somewhere else, you know. It's not a playground anymore."
Q: "There's one of the problems of becoming a businessman, which you've said, you had to..."
RINGO: (as he's listening, he comically points to the large 'Magic Christian' movie pin on his hat for the camera.)
Q: (laughs) "Yeah... we got that!"
RINGO: "That's why I'm here, folks."
Q: "...is that you had to, at certain times anyway, be ruthless about hiring and firing and that sort of thing. Do you find that you've had to remove yourself from that so that you have a kind of hatchet man?"
RINGO: "Yes. We're all cowards."
RINGO: "We don't like firing anyone. We have Peter Brown. (laughs) Again, the dreaded Peter Brown. He fires everyone and puts his coat on specially to do it."
Q: (jokingly) "So they know it's coming."
RINGO: "No, no. (jokingly) But he always sacks them while he looks smart!"
Q: "Is your interest in science fiction tied up in any way with what you feel about religion?"
RINGO: "Yes in a way, because I really can't believe that this is the only planet with anything going on. Because there's like-- the law of averages-- If there's fifty billion planets in the solar system, I don't know how many there are, but that's only in OUR solar system. And then there's like millions of other solar systems. So if you just take the ratio of-- in our system of five planets, there's the earth where there's something living for definite, because we're all here. So if you sort of do that, on average, there's gotta be somebody else out there, you know."
"I mean, George has a great scene where-- like, Mars where we say there's no one on it. But that's like, there is someone on it, because it's just in another sort of time dimension which we can't see. Also, like earth, you know-- There's another race going on as well for which the time is just slightly different. So everything is like sort of, you know, one thing. But the times are like that! (gestures to demonstrate with his hands.) So there could be like a hundred races living on just this planet... which is fantastic. And I really think it could be like that 'cuz we really don't know much about time in respect to it being different from OUR time. (laughs) I don't mean one o'clock, two o'clock."
RINGO: "I just mean like time spent and the fourth dimension. I mean, we know there's three dimensions, and there's theories about a fourth dimension, but there could be fifty dimensions. And just-- we're not bright enough to catch 'em all. In America, there's a guy (in the news) who's building a time spaceship. You just get in it and you press a button, and you open the door. And you're somewhere else but purely in time. And this guy's building it purely on instructions from another planet. You know, and all the weird stories about spaceships landing all the time. UFO (sightings) which they keep trying to squash. I mean-- how many sightings there are, all those people can't be wrong, you know. I just wonder why the government is trying to squash that all the while-- which is nothing to do with what we were talking about-- but I just wonder what the governments are doing."
Q: "Do you believe in this particular time machine, or are you merely saying that this...?"
RINGO: "Yeah I believe it could happen, you know. I really think it's possible."
Q: "And you'd welcome this."
RINGO: "Oh yeah. Yeah, fantastic."
Q: "Are you going to move out of the country, back to..."
RINGO: "Yes, we're moving back to town."
Q: "Basically because you like town, or for the kids?"
RINGO: "Well, we've been in the country now for five years. We've been to Weybridge for four, and then we moved to Elstead. And it was just a drag coming into town everyday in the car, you know. It took and hour and a half, and then an hour and a half to get out again. So I just hated the idea of three hours a day of my life wasted; sitting in a car. And also, it's better for Maureen if we come into town because... at least I go into the office and do, you know, see alot of people. Whereas I think she's getting a bit fed-up with being stuck out in the country. So if we're in town then she can leap about as much as I do, you know."
Q: "Zak is, what, four?"
RINGO: "Yes, he's four now."
Q: "Jason's two."
RINGO: "So we need to get settled by early next year so he can start school, which is a drag 'cuz I don't want him to go. (laughs) You know, because I think the way 'I'm' bringing them up is right. And you can get all that rubbish from teachers, you know, where they-- it's like the Army where they make everyone the same, and just shove all those useless facts into his head. And that's the bit I don't like."
Q: "How are you bringing them up?"
RINGO: "Very nicely, thank you." (laughs)
Q: "Yeah, but I mean what's your system, or...?"
RINGO: "Well, I don't know-- I'm just bringing them up, you know. I mean, I don't have a system. I just try and tell him what's right, and try and keep him alive. I mean, that's what I find with the first... well, still with Zak, but especially when they're two to three, and that. Just keeping them alive is hard enough because of the things they get into, 'cuz they're experiencing everything. Like, climbing up the walls, you know, trying not to sort of do anything. But you've got to be near enough so you can leap over there if he falls off, you know. Just things like that. All you can do is love them, you know, and answer their questions, which sometimes drive you nuts. All that, 'Why?' 'Well...' you answer. 'Why?' (laughs) And there's always a 'Why' to whatever you say. And the great scene about electricity-- I went on for hours, and all he said was 'Why,' and you know, when you don't know about it-- 'cuz he was trying to put his fingers in the plug, and I was saying, 'Now, don't do that, 'cuz that's electricity and you'll end up as a puff of blue smoke.'"
RINGO: "And he was saying 'Why?' and I said, 'Electricity comes out of there and it's dangerous,' you know. And we got into 'Where does it come from,' and that. I was saying, 'Well it's like water, you see. Water goes through these machines and it sort of makes it,' because I really don't know how it does it. And he was saying 'Why.' (laughs) It just went on for hours."
(the car they are riding in arrives at it's destination)
RINGO: (to the camera) "OK, we're just getting out the car now. Cut."
Segment Two: Conversation in rowboat
RINGO: (rowing the boat) "I think once we get the voting age to eighteen, they'll have to DO things for younger people. They can't go on forever saying, 'We'll look after the old-age pensions.' You know, it's a nice thing to look after the old-age pensions, but they're not the whole world, you know. There's alot of other people who need looking after."
RINGO: "And when they fetch the voting age lower, and also members of Parlament are getting younger, and so I think it will work itself out. With the young vote and the younger members of Parlament, then we can get somewhere. You don't have to be like forty-five or fifty before you actually get into the house. And I think, maybe in the next generation, the Prime Minister will not only be black, but he'll be beautiful and twenty-six." (laughs)
Q: "What sort of minor social failures do you see? I mean, for example on the drug scene, do you think that is going to change radically?"
RINGO: "Yes. Everyone will have a right to take them if they want. I don't mean hard drugs because I'm not for them and they're banned. But I think we should all have the right, in our own homes, to smoke pot if we want to. I don't anymore personally. But, you know, I did it and I was annoyed that I had to hide. They keep saying, 'Well if you smoke pot then you're going to go on to heroin or something harder,' which-- it doesn't follow, because it's the same chance as if you drink a bottle of beer you're gonna end up in an alley as an alcoholic. I mean, it's just the same, you know; the argument is silly. And so I don't see where they can give me the right to drink me-self to death and not smoke me-self to death, if that were the case. I just hate someone saying, 'Well, you can do that... and you CAN'T do THAT,' when it doesn't harm anybody. I agree when they say, 'You can't kill anybody,' you know, 'cuz I don't like violence and I think that's a good rule. As long as I don't hurt society I think everything should be alright-- as long as I don't offend anyone enjoying myself."
(The wind catches Ringo's hat and blows it into the water. They joke as they attempt to retrieve the hat with the rowboat paddles.)
Q: "It's in the water. Try and get it." (laughs)
RINGO: "Get a film of that! Ahh! Sink the 'Magic Christian'!"
RINGO: (comically) "Spin 'round. Spin."
(Ringo does finally recover the wet hat. The subject of the conversation turns to Zak and Jason, Ringo and Maureen's two sons.)
RINGO: "When we got the kids, I was frightened at first, you know, when Maureen had the baby and I went in to see her. You know, just after she'd had it-- it was all purple and crinkly. And the doctor says, 'Here you are. Here he is.' And they laid it on my arms saying, 'Ok, can you take it?' And I couldn't move because I just thought it would break. And this big nurse comes up and goes..." (demonstrates huge nurse quickly grabbing the tiny baby)
RINGO: "And really, they're incredible, you know. And you can't get into children until you've had some. You really can't, you know. You can be very friendly with them, but when you've got them you really-- such scenes you go through, it's incredible. I love it when they won't let me play with 'em 'cuz I have a tantrum! (laughs) It's sensational when we all play together, 'cuz I'm a kid."
Q: "You had alot of illness when you were a child. So much so that you lost out on alot of your education."
Q: "Does this now bother you?"
RINGO: "Occasionally. When I talk to people as intellectual as you talk."
Q: (jokingly) "Ahh. But only with people like me."
RINGO: "Only with people like you. No, sometimes it does-- where people put words that I really have never heard in my life, and I have to sort of stop and say, 'Excuse me what does that mean?' It's just a bit of a hang-up like that. But it doesn't bother me too much anymore."
Q: "But I mean, you've got time now if you wanted to, to have a little course of self-education if you like."
Q: Do you read alot for instance?"
RINGO: "Yes, I read all the time. See, I always say, 'I'm intellegent but uneducated.' (laughs) You know, that's how I put it. But I don't know the actual spelling of the words. I can read any word you want to give me, and I know what alot of them mean, but I can't spell most of them."
Q: "What do you do when fans come and camp outside of your house?"
RINGO: "It depends on the day, you know. If I'm in a bit of a mood I go out there and say, 'Go on! Get off! Out of here!' and if I'm feeling friendly I sort of, you know, give 'em an autograph. With a very few, we fetch-in. We brought one girl in who was, umm-- She'd ran away from home in Switzerland, you know, and we brought her in. She hadn't eaten for two days. And then we just called the police and they sent her home, you know-- they took her to the embassy. And just the other week I got followed all the way home. There was two people in a car, and I was in a good mood so I said, 'Alright, come and have a cup of tea,' you know. So it depends what mood you're in."
Q: "But does it really seem to you to be an intrusion, or..."
RINGO: Yes, yes. I really feel that they should leave me alone, you know. Maureen keeps shouting at me, 'cuz she's always nice to them."
Q: "But I would think the problem is bigger really when it comes to your children."
RINGO: "Uhh, yes. We had to cool it a bit one time. Zak was sort of, when there was crowds around, he used to think that everyone had come to see 'him.'
RINGO: "And he'd pose for the photos. So I had to tell him (laughing) it was daddy that was famous and not him!"
Q: "But I mean, do you mind him knowing that you're famous?"
RINGO: "No, he doesn't really know what it is. He gets excited if we're on the television, and that. At first he couldn't understand, like, we were on the telly and I was sitting next to him watching it, you know. And it threw him for a while-- you could see him trying to figure out, you know, 'cuz he didn't really understand what television is. But it just threw him, like there was two daddies in one room-- and one comin' out of a little box. But now he knows I'm in something, you know; he likes the records. But I don't think he really knows what the Beatles are-- just that they play instruments and make records he can put on, and occasionally their on telly."
Q: "Yes, but he's going to know, isn't he. I mean, when he's about..."
RINGO: "Yes, well, that was the drag for sending him to school as well, is that I just don't want him to make all these pals 'cuz someone-- it won't really happen while he's five, and that. But when he gets older, you know, and you get all these pals because of what 'I' am, you know; I dont want that. He may get it when he's five with all these crazy mothers pushin' their daughter on him. But you just have to watch it, you know. He'll have to learn like I had to learn. I was put-on for years 'til I sussed it out. You know, everytime you'd go to a club I'd think, 'Wow, it's great having all these friends,' and then you realize that half of them are sitting with you so that, if anyone'd come in, they're all: 'Hello, guess who I'm with!!' You know, it was all that scene. But it took you a while to learn that. You know, then you don't stand there anymore."
(after checking the direction of the rowboat, the conversation turns to his acting career.)
RINGO: "When we finished touring, everyone sort of found something to do-- like umm, Paul and George produced (albums for) people. John then got with Yoko, and produced himself and Yoko. And I was sort of at a loose end for a while, and I always enjoyed filming."
Q: "More than the others do you think?"
RINGO: "Yes. And when Brian (Epstein) was alive I said, 'Well, let's make a film with something,' you know, and he had a few scripts then. We decided that 'Candy' was the best one. And 'Candy' was good for me as a trial because it was only two-weeks work and I had a small part, so I didn't have to sort of hold anything up, you know; it (the responsibility for carrying the movie) wasn't on my head. And after 'Candy' I thought it was so easy, then 'Magic Christian' came in-- it was also by the same writer, Terry Southern, who I think is a fantastic writer. 'Cuz I think the lines in a film a more important than the camera. You know, what you have to say. And so I decided to do 'The Magic Christian.' (joking about the row boat) This is the slowest trip we've ever been on!" (laughs)
Q: "You said you want to be a film star. I don't believe that; you don't really want to be a film 'star,' do you?"
RINGO: "No, no. I want to be a film 'actor.' I don't want to be like Cary Grant or one of them who, like, really do the same performance in everything, and the story is the only thing that changes."
Q: "Would you be prepared, for the sake of argument, to go to drama school or something?"
RINGO: "No, no. I'm not interested in that part of it, because I think it's much better if you can just, you know-- I keep reading about how I've got natural ability." (laughs)
Q: "Your co-star is Peter Sellers..."
Q: "...and he's somebody who really came to film acting from a very different sort of background."
RINGO: "Not really, because he was a drummer as well, in a band. How did he come different? The only difference-- he had to work at it. He started with, like, walk-on parts and then he got a bit bigger part, and then he got his own films. The only difference is I, because of the name Ringo as a Beatle, I was allowed to walk right into a good slot, you know. I didn't have to stand-in, or do any of the small jobs."
"I'm getting sick personally of message films. It's about time we got back to Doris Day-- Films like that where you can get involved, you know. I can't get involved in films anymore. I want it to be like when I was a kid, where whatever was on-- if it was a western, I'd come out the theatre and I'd be shootin' and ridin' and whatever you do. And if it was a buccaneer film I'd sword-fence everyone in the street. And I'd like to get films back to that, you know, because that's what the function was-- was to take it out to the real world. James Bond films, you know. Guys come out after seeing James Bond films... (laughs) Some WIVES have a great time, you know, when the guys come out..."
RINGO: "...they strut up to her and say, 'Howdy, honey!'"
Source: Transcribed by www.beatlesinterviews.org from video copy of original film footage