Ringo Starr's "Rotogravure"

Editor's Note: During February, we featured Ringo's Rotogravure album. Please tell us what you like or don't like about the album and rank it from 1 ( positively awful) to 10 (great beyond your wildest dreams). Please send your comments to gshultz@airmail.net , and be sure to include your name.

 General Commentary

The Beatles' recording contract with EMI ran out on January 26, 1976, but Ringo was not too concerned. The success of Ringo and Goodnight Vienna gave Ringo some bargaining power in negotiating a new contract. In a 1976 interview with Circus Magazine Ringo said, "My lawyer goes out and he says `OK it's a market. What am I bid?' Meanwhile, I was reading all these fantastic stories about my signing with this one or that one for incredible sums. It does not bother me, not al all."
When EMI offered Ringo less than he was being offered by other companies, Ringo decided to throw his lot elsewhere. In early spring of 1976, at a ceremony in Amsterdam, Ringo signed with Atlantic Records for the US and Canada. and for Polydor for the rest of the world.
In April of that year at Los Angeles's Cherokee Studios, Ringo began work on the album which came to be called Ringo's Rotogravure. Ringo had gotten the idea for the title from the Judy Garland song, "Easter Parade." Ringo explained his title choice in a 1976 interview."You know the song, `Easter Parade?' `We'll get a photograph in the Rotogravure' and I thought she was talking Russian or French...What's she saying?... I have a book and I write odd things down and that was one of them. So this year we did the album. It's a great title, Ringo's Rotogravure. ...The tracks ae like pictures in their own way. Each track on the album is a visual."
The Atlantic contract brought with it an opportunity to work with one of the company's best producers, Grammy award winning Arif Mardin. Arif had previously worked with such artists as Aretha Franklin, Petula Clark, King Curtis, The Average White Band, and The Bee Gees . In the spring of 1976 he went to work producing Ringo's latest endeavor. Ringo recalled, "The way Arif works is different. He goes in the booth to get a sound and then he's in the studio with you. I tend to close my eyes when I'm lying because I've got the cans on, so I can hear everything. And if I opened my eyes and I see Arif dancing, then I know we're getting a take."
For Ringo's Rotogravure, Ringo once again returned to the formula that had served him so well on the last two albums, inviting a flock of friends to help him along the way. "I have a lot of guests on this one. I always do. I still get amazed at all the people who will walk in and play for me." As with Ringo, this album was to see contributions form each of the former Beatles, "Because they're my friends and I need help. I'm a slow writer."
Ringo seemed most pleased to have the cooperation of John Lennon. who provided "Cookin'(in the Kitchen of Love.)" "He's written it for me and he knows me better than anybody else in the world..... so he really becomes involved, playing, singing, doing everythng he can. He really helps out." Help out he did. John not only wrote the song especially for Ringo, he also played piano on it and co-produced it. As a matter of fact, "Cookin'" would be the last studio song that John would involve himself with for the next four years.
Paul came through with "Pure Gold, a song which he had given to Ringo a year earlier. Paul and Linda's backing vocals seem to have come about through something as an accident. "I mean it really is by accident. He wrote that song for me last year and I should have recorded it in July, but I didn't bother. His tour was put off for a month because Jimmy broke his hand so it just worked out that we were in L A at the same time, so he just came down. Of course, he sang on the song."
Although George was not available to play on the album, he did provide the song, "I Still Love You." Ringo recalled that it "was an old song of George's. I remember the song form 1970 he wrote it and I always loved it and no one ever did it." .
The Eric Clapton's song on Rotogravure was selected by Ringo from a number of songs that Eric had considered for his own album. "I went to see him and I said `You're really not going to use this one on your album are you?' .....But he had twenty tracks and all he needed was ten so he said, `Promise I won't be using that one.'" Eric also played on the song, " I try to get anyone who wrote the song, whose a friend of
mine, to work on the track."
Ringo has partial writing credit on three songs on the album. "Cryin'" is another Vini Poncia-Richard Starkey composition, "Lady Gaye" is credited to Poncia, Starkey, and Cliffort T. Ward, and "Las Brisas" is a number written by Ringo and his then girlfriend Nancy Andrews. "We used a mariachi band on [Las Brisas] (one song) because we were in Mexico when we wrote the song. We recruited one from a Mexican restaurant here in LA."
A song each from John, Paul, and George, plus the Eric Clapton contribution, in addition to Ringo's three songs brought the track count to seven. The additional songs used to finish out the album were "A Dose of Rock and Roll" by Carl Grossman, "Hey Baby" by Cobb/Channnell, "You Don't Know Me" by Dave Jordan, and a bit of noise at the end called "Spooky Weirdness" for which we can thank Ringo and Harry Nilsson.
Besides the mariachi band, the former fabs, Eric Clapton, and Arif Mardin, other people who participated in the making of Ringo's Rotogravure included Peter Frampton, Danny Kortchmar, Jesse Ed Daavid, Klaus Voorman, Jim Keltner, Mellissa Manchester, Dutch Helmer, Lon Ban Eaton, Cooker Lo Pest , and Mac Rebenack.
The front cover of Ringo's Rotogravure features a black and white photo of the Starr holding a magnifying glass up to one blue eye. The back cover photo is a shot of the heavily grafitted door of the former Apple headquarters. Keeping with the rotogravure theme, inside the gatefold cover are snapshots of the various friends who helped out on the album. "All these people are eating, and I'll just be drinking."
The album was released on September seventeenth in the UK and on September twenty-seventh in the USA where it remained on the Billboard chart for nine weeks and reached a high of number 28. Two of the singles released in the USA charted. The first, "A Dose of Rock and Roll" made it to number twenty-six, but the second offering, "Hey Baby" only climbed to the number seventy-four position. A third single, "You Don't Know Me At All" charted in Europe. The CD version of Ringo's Rotogravure remains true to the original paging and song list. There were no added bonus tracks.
Most reviews described Ringo's Rotogravure as a rather bland album noting that it did not capture the essence of Ringo the way Ringo and even Goodnight Vienna had. This may be due in part to the party atmosphere in which the album was recorded. According to Alan Calyson, "Ringo liked, `a party atmosphere if we're working well. We all sit around and drink and really have a good time.'" In The Beatles Aprat, Bob Woffinden puts forth yet another theory. "What had probably gone wrong with Ringo's Rotogravure was that Ringo was simply flattered that someone like Mardin should be acting as producer for someone like him. Mardin did Ringo the further honor of treating him just like any other of his charges- which was, of course, a cardinal error. Ringo's records worked only when they sounded distinctly like Ringo. but Ringo, having chosen an inappropriate producer, compounded his difficulties by selecting inappropriate material."
Ringo's Rotogravure, however, is not without merit. There are enough good songs on the album to interest any Ringo fan. When the songs work, they really work well, and, as Nicholas Shaffner pointed out, "Ringo's own writing, at least, seems to have improved." Perhaps the best of Ringo's contributions is the Latin flavored "Las Brisas." John's "Cookin' (in the Kitchen of Love)" is a strong track. Paul's "Pure Gold," the old Cobb/Channel song "Hey Baby," and "A Dose of Rock and Roll," each suit Ringo well. In 1988, "A Dose of Rock and Roll,." "Cookin,'" and "Hey Baby" were selected for inclusion in the compilation album, Starrstruck. Ringo's Rotogravure may not top very many fan's list of favorite Ringo albums, but as Ringo once said, "It's still a lot of good tunes written by good people."

Fans Reviews

I bought Beaucoups of Blues in 1972 simply because I liked the Beatles. I didn't care what kind of music was on it, even though as a music fan, country was not my idea of a good time. Still isn't. But boy, even though I haven't heard the album in years, I can still hum just about any song on the record.
I wish more of the album sounded like "$15 Draw," with Jerry Reed going totally apeshit on the guitar, and "Without Her," with Ringo having to hold a note longer than two seconds, is rather embarrassing. But on the whole I would tell people to pick this up just to prove that Ringo could work around any
group of great musicians, not just the other three Beatles.
I always thought "Early 1970," easily the most heartfelt song Ringo ever wrote, showed off his country-western leanings, as well.
6 out of 10 stars.
~ Tom Tuerff
Phoenix, AZ.

Like his other albums of the mid to late 70's, Ringo's Rotogravure is a decent album, but it doesn't really present Ringo Starr at his best. 

"Hey Baby" and "A Dose of Rock and Roll" are decent cover versions, but to me it doesn't seem like either song was worthy of being released as a single or being placed on Ringo's second compilation album.  Several other songs on the album are much more interesting and original.  I really like George Harrison's contribution, "I'll Still Love You."  It is a romantic song that has a certain atmosphere to it, and Ringo's singing is great.  "Cryin'" is a song that Ringo co-wrote, and it sounds like a Ringo song.  Its country and western sound is reminiscent of not only his album Beaucoups of Blues, but also several of his Beatles numbers.  "Las Brisas" is an interesting, catchy song with a very unique sound.  Having a mariachi band from a Mexican restaurant play on his album was an unusual, but creative idea.  Paul McCartney's song "Pure Gold" is also a decent song.  The only song I don't like, and it seems sacrilegious to say this, is "Cookin'," which I would not rank as one of John Lennon's better songs.  I would rate Ringo's Rotogravure as a six. 
For fans of Ringo Starr, it does certainly contain some good moments.  The best moments, in my opinion, are on the songs written either by Ringo or for Ringo, not his cover versions.  

~ Travis Truitt

I really like his drumming and his voice in that album! I like specially "Hey babe", "a dose of rock'n roll" songs. His drumming has influenced me a lot! I give it an 8.
~ Raul
(Teahouse band's drummer from Brazil)

Now, this really does well compared to the horror stories I heard about it! I LOVE Dose If Rock 'n' Roll, also, Hey Baby is great too! I can
remember all the songs off this except I'll Still Love You, and Spooky Weirdness used to scare me when I was younger! I think I can find it in my heart to give this a 7 too!
~ Stephen Bray
Liverpool, England

It's clear that after "Ringo" (the 1973 eponymous album) was a qualified smash, the ex Beatle drummer considered it was logical to keep the collaboration with the other three "Fabs", at least for awhile. It would be too simple a conclusion to say that "Goodnight Vienna" was less successful than its predecessor for having only one other ex Beatle (Lennon) instead of three, but surely not having all of them could have something to do with it.

So, in 1976 (Ringo being a hot artist for any record label), it was decided to secure the collaboration of John, George and Paul (actually, Harrison contributed an old unedited song of his but not played on the
record). The result was mainly attractive to fans but moderate to occasional buyers, due maybe to Arif Mardin's disco-oriented production. The first two tracks are good, but not strong numbers for singles. Paul's and George's songs are also nice and well-sung by Starr, but the kind of ballad hard to reach the charts. Clapton's number is another good enough effort, not more than that. It seems that Ringo's friends
gave him competent, decent tunes and lyrics (some kind of throwaway "just good" numbers) but not hits. "Cookin'" is fun and interesting for being Lennon's last studio appearance prior to his 1980's comeback. "You Don't Know Me at All" is among the best of the bunch. But is Ringo himself who steps forward with his (co)compositions, including the Mariachi novelty number "Las Brisas" in which he did all the job but shared credits with his then-fiancee Nancy Andrews as a gesture of love. "Cryin'" and "Lady Gaye" are also favorites. And "Spooky Weirdness" (not credited on the back cover, at least in my vinyl record) was
interestingly scary in its day. It's a pity that Ringo continued more and more in the disco trend for another couple of albums.

I give "Rotogravure" a solid 7 out of 10.

~ Leonardo Ledesma
Lima, Peru.

I just want to said that Ringo´s Rotogravure is an excellent album for me.

I like all the songs but my favorites are "A dose of Rock and Roll" and "I'll still love you." "I'll still love you" is wonderfully sung; poetry with music on of the most beautiful songs made by Harrison.

Well of course I have to mention that "Las Brisas" is strange to hear it from a British, but anyway, the mariachi give to the song an interesting sound for most of the people who didn't know about the Mexican music.

Of course "Cooking(in the Kitchen of Love)" is a very special song because,
if I am right, that was the last song Lennon gave to Ringo.

~ Angie Contreras

Some interesting moments.  Mind you my vinyl copy cost me only $1.99.   The Beatles write songs while they wait for the dentist and give them to Ringo.  "Cookin" is no "I'm the Greatest"  and funny how "Pure Gold" wasn't saved for "Wings at the Speed of Sound" ...hmmm. Hardly.

Sorry friends. No song on this album is "great".  With the exception of Spooky Weirdness. 

Cool Picture of the APPLE door though.

4 on the Ringo scale.

~ Jeff Scott

1976 was a fairly whirlwind year for we American Beatlemaniacs.  There was Wings Over America and everything that went with that.  George blitzed your friendly local radio stations and appeared on "Saturday Night Live".  The Beatle had a top 10 platinum two record set and a top 10 single, but we had the sinking feeling that Capitol would continue to sell us old wine in new
bottles.  Really cheap, ugly looking bottles.  John stayed home, mostly (and who could blame him).  Seemingly lost in all this is "Ringo's Rotogravure".  It may not have been as big a hit as "Goodnight Vienna", but all around it's a much better album.  (It wasn't a tremendous failure in the charts, either.  It's possible that he might have lost some career momentum by taking a year
off, are been steamrollered by the Beatles blitzkrieg, and just didn't ride it out as successfully as Paul.)  Ringo wisely signed two contracts; Polydor worldwide for superior marketing, and Atlantic stateside because Polydor's (still) weak here, and Atantic had legendary in-house producers.  Although "Rotogravure" still essentially follows the "Ringo" blueprint (as many
Beatles and Ringo's famous friends as possible, a token oldie for a single, a
loud choir of background vocalists, and heavy on the echo and reverb), Arif Mardin's production is just more focused than Richard Perry's job on "Goodnight Vienna".  The only drawback was the mix, which tends to be a bit muddy, and smothers whatever charm "Hey Baby" and "You Don't Know Me" might have.  (It's sometimes difficult to hear Ringo, or even make out any specific instruments.)  "A Dose Of Rock 'N' Roll" bolts out of the gate, and sounded great on the radio.  "Pure Gold" suits Ringo quite well, with a nice
singalong quality.  It's another of Paul's long list of explanations for Linda, but the big irony is the somewhat Spectoresque production.  One of Ringo's best compositions, and possibly the best all around on the album (song, vocal, performance, production) is "Cryin'".  A bit autobiographical, perhaps.  Who else could make John break his vow of retirement but Ringo?  (In a rare househusband-era where John gave one word answers to a number of subjects, the only ex-Beatle to be described as "friend" was Ringo.)  "Cookin'" kicks off side two (pre-CD) whereas John usually opened the album.  Still, the only message is fun, but don't come empty-handed.  "I'll Still Love You" is a thing of beauty.  A lot of depth of emotion is dredged up here.  Eric Clapton may be known as a guitar god, a ladies man, a snappy dresser, but has he ever before (or since) been considered charming?  So, "This Be Called A Song" is probably better off in Ringo's hands and voice.  (If Eric sang it, you'd think someone else had to write it.)  But nothing on this album is more charming than "Las Brisas".  Conceptually, it's the flip
side of "Cryin'", both the fourth song on their respective sides, both are Ringo originals, and are probably both about the same woman.  Ringo goes to Mexico ten years before Linda Ronstadt, and comes back with his own song, and doesn't come off the least bit silly, sappy, smug or stupid.  Good job.  For those wondering who Clifford T. Ward is, he had earlier recorded a song called "Gaye" that Ringo and Vini might have rewritten as "Lady Gaye".  (Haven't actually heard it myself.)  It brings us to a lovely fade with Harry's backing vocals.  Except for "Spooky Weirdness".  That's the way the album ends.  A great album and another sentimental favorite because of the "Rotogravure" promotional Ringo head I still have stashed away. 
~ Steven B. Topping


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This page was last updated March 7, 1998.