Ringo Starr's "Stop and Smell the Roses"

Editor's Note: During April 1998, we featured Ringo's Stop and Smell the Roses 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). Fans' Reviews follow the General Commentary. Send your comments to gshultz@airmail.net , and be sure to include your name. Click here to read reviews of other Ringo albums.


 General Commentary

There was a two-year interval between the release of Bad Boy and Ringo’s eighth album, Stop and Smell the Roses. The gap between albums was in partly due to the fact that in the spring of 1979 Ringo had suffered a life-threatening illness. Then in February of 1980 filming began on the movie Caveman in which Ringo had the starring role. By the summer of 1980, however, Ringo was ready to return to the recording studio. This time his idea was to make a record with the help of his “three brothers”, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison. Somewhere along life’s way other friends were brought into the act.
With recording sessions going on in France, Los Angeles, England, and the Bahamas, Stop and Smell the Roses turned out to be the global album that Ringo had envisioned way back in 1973 with Ringo. The list of producers, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stephen Stills, Ron Wood, Harry Nilsson, and Ringo himself was as varied as the list of locations.
In June, Paul sent Ringo some demos for consideration. The project began in earnest in July of 1980 when Paul arranged for studio time at Super Bear Studios at Bear Les Alpes, France. Paul also arranged for the musical talents of Laurence Juber on guitar, Howie Casey on sax, and Lloyd Green on pedal steel guitar. Ringo and Paul and company worked from July eleventh until the twenty-first and at the end of the eleven days had four songs ready to go. Two songs, “Private Property” and “Attention,” were written by Paul. The third was Carl Perkin’s countrified “Sure to Fall.” Paul played bass and piano on these songs and ,with Linda, supplied backing vocals. The fourth song , “You Can’t Fight Lightning” was credited to Ringo and had a slightly different musical line up. “You Can’t fight Lightning” features Ringo on guitar, Paul on drums, Barbara Bach on maracas, and Linda McCartney among others singing backing vocals. Ringo was so pleased with the song that he would later want it to be the lead-off single as well as the title of the album.
In 1982, Paul produced The Cooler, a movie short starring Ringo and featuring “Private Property,” “Attention” and “Sure to Fall.” Paul, Linda, and Barbara also had parts in the short film which premiered at the Canes Film Festival that year.
In August of 1980 Ringo teamed up with Stephen Stills in Los Angeles where he recorded the Stills/Stergis creation, “You’ve Got a Nice Way ” as well as “Red and Black Blues.” Stephen Stills produced both songs. The other musicians were Michael Stergis on rhythm guitar, Mike Finnigan on piano and organ, and Harley Thompson on bass. In early September the group got together again to record a song Ringo had written called “Wake Up.”
In September, Ringo met another friend, Ron Wood, at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles. The pair recorded the Starkey/Wood composition “Dead Giveaway.” Also during the Cherokee sessions the group recorded “Brandy.”
On November fourth, Ringo met his dear friend Harry Nilsson as well as a select group of studio musicians for an all-day session at Evergreen Studios in Burbank, California. On that day, work was done on the Nilsson/Starkey composition “Stop and Take the Time to Smell the Roses” as well as the Nilsson penned “Drumming Is My Madness” and a remake of Ringo’s “Back Off Boogaloo.” Ringo added vocal overdubs at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas in early December.
On November nineteenth Ringo joined George Harrison at Harrison’s Friar Park Studio. Between November nineteenth and twenty-fifth Ringo and George recorded a song George had written for Ringo called “Wrack My Brain” as well as the old fifties song, “You Belong to Me.” The backing track for George’s tribute to John, “All Those Years Ago,” was also recorded at this time. Other musicians taking part in the sessions were Herbie Flowers on bass and tuba, Al Dooper on piano and guitar, and Ray Cooper on piano and percussion.
Later in November, John Lennon and Yoko Ono visited with Ringo and Barbara at the Plaza Hotel in New York. John had three songs in mind for Ringo, “Life Begins at Forty” and “Nobody Told Me” and “I’m Stepping Out.” The two made plans to record these in the new year. Tragically, John’s murder put a permanent end to those plans.
Ringo was devastated by John’s death and for a time interest in his new album waned. However, by mid-February of 1981, ten songs had been selected for inclusion on the album. They were: “You Can’t Fight Lightning,” “Attention,” “Private Property,” “Nice Way,” “Wake Up,” “Wrack My Brain,” “Dead Biveaway,” “Brandy,” “You Belong to Me,” and “Stop and Take the Time to Smell the Roses.” Can’t Fight Lightning was Ringo’s choice for the title of the new album. The original cover art featured Ringo with bolts of lightning sparking from either side of his head. This photo was eventually rejected when the title of the album was changed, but it does grace the cover of the 1989 compilation CD, Starrstruck.
Can’t Fight Lightning failed to generate the excitement at Columbia that Ringo thought the album deserved. Ringo was also upset with the company for its failure to let him use the Portrait Records jet while promoting Caveman. In April, Columbia granted Ringo a release from his contract and in July of 1981 Can’t Fight Lightning was submitted to Neil Bogart at Boardwalk Records.
Ringo appreciated Neil Bogart’s enthusiasm for the record and signed on with Boardwork Records. At Neil’s suggestion, the album title was changed to Stop and Smell the Roses. A new cover was shot to reflect the change in title. It depicts Ringo dressed in a policeman’s uniform and clutching a bouquet of red roses. The title and cover art were not the only changes. Three songs, “You Can’t Fight Lightning,” “Brandy” and “Wake Up,” were dropped from the original line up. “Sure To Fall,” a new version of “Back Off Boogaloo” and “Drumming Is My Madness” were added.
In September, videos were made for “Wrack My Brain” and “Stop and Take the Time to Smell The Roses.”
Stop and Smell the Roses was released in October of 1981. The album rose to number ninety-three in the charts. The first single, “Wrack My Brain” reached number thirty-eight.
When the CD version of Stop and Smell The Roses was released in 1994, five bonus tracks were added. These were “You Can’t Fight Lightning,” “Red and Black Blues,” “Brandy,” “Wake Up” and the original vocals version of “Stop and Take the Time To Smell the Roses.” An anti-handgun message that Ringo had recorded in 1981 was also included.


Fans Reviews

I think that album is great! His drumming sounds marvellous and strong at "Private Properties", "dead giveaway", "Drumming is my madness" . His vocal sounds great in every songs, and i give a 10 to this album. Best regards from Brazil, waiting for Ringo's tour ! Bye.   

~ Raul  / Brazil

I read once in MOJO Magazine that this 1981 album was considered by many as the worst record ever made. I just don´t understand that! Not only there are MANY records one can´t even listen to, just as bad they are, but this Ringo effort is decent, to say the least. I think this album is much underrated and recevied exaggerated criticism.
It´s maybe true that the ten songs contained in the original LP are not "hits" nor powerful enough tracks, but are easy listenable music, fun and truly pop. The present of George and Paul was serviceable to the album, not just decorative to atract Beatle buyers. "Wrack My Brain", penned by Harrison, was a 1974 left-off track that Ringo used well for this album. It´s poppy fun. Macca's compositions are simpler than ever, but "Private Property" is catchy at least. "Stop and Take the Time..." grows slowly into you after several hearings, an inspired piece that wasn´t certainly designed for radio. "Dead Giveaway" rocks and the country flavor of "Sure to Fall", "You Belong to Me" and "Nice Way" (this last one is my fave) make a good trio. Maybe the lesser numbers are "Drumming Is My Madness" (dunno, it could have been funnier and rockier) and the unexplainable remake of "Back Off, Boogaloo" with evident Nilsson influence in the Beatles lines chorus.
All in all, this is always a good record to singalong and hear peacefully. Let´s not be unfair with could have been (with bigger support from the record company and the buyers) Ringo´s comeback to form. It seems also that John's demise damaged the critics and public reaction to this effort rather than help it leave the ground.
It was a good gesture from Ringo to not include any Lennon-penned number. By the way, "Life Begins at Forty" is not a great piece and "Nobody Told Me" and "Steppin' Out" (had Ringo include them) maybe would have spoiled the later release of "Milk and Honey". I know there was a fourth Lennon song considered for its inclusion. Paul was lucky that Ringo didn´t include "Take It Away". Even the original song that later became George´s tribute to John ("All Those Years Ago") was intended for this album, along with some Ringo's half-penned number as well.

I prefer the original cover. It was more suitable for Ringo. The CD bonus tracks are all good to excellent. "Brandy", for instance, should have been in the original album. Don´t forget "Red and Black Blues" also. So, after all, I give this album a 6.
~ Leonardo / Peru

I was very disappointed when I bought Stop and Smell the Roses.  I have the cd version with the bonus tracks, which makes it a little better, but I would have to rank this as my least favorite Ringo album.  In my opinion Ringo is way too cool and too much of a rocker to have released songs like "Drumming Is My Madness" and "Stop And Take The Time To Smell The Roses."  Those songs sound like music he should have released when he's 64.  Wait, that's in the not too distant future, maybe he should have released them when he's 84.  They sound like rock and roll for the Retirement Home.  "Drumming Is My Madness" could have possibly been saved if there was some extended "mad" drumming, but a couple of seconds of going crazy on drums cannot compensate for lyrics like those.  I think whoever convinced Ringo to include those songs but leave off the bonus tracks "Wake up," "Red and Black Blues," "Brandy," and "You Can't Fight Lightning" was trying to sabotage what could have been a pretty decent album.  Those four bonus tracks are far superior to most of the album, in my mind at least.  And why does it seem that Ringo could only release ten short songs per album?  It doesn't seem like people who bought the original version of this album got very much for their money, especially when you consider that "Back Off Boogaloo" was a cover version of Ringo's own song.  There are a few pretty good songs on here, but nothing that stands up to Ringo's best work.  I would rate this album as a 3, one for the best song, George's "Wrack My Brain," one for the two contributions by Paul, and one for the Carl Perkins song "Sure to Fall."
~ Travis Truitt 

While it's not my favorite Ringo record, it certinally is not the worst album ever!! I remember buying it the day it came out, I still have the receipt in my scrapbook. (Ok, ok, I'm a fan, what can I say?) I also remember the inner sleeve smelled like roses for  a short time. There are some good tunes here, and besides, Ringo is always the one who is able to get the ex-Beatles to work on his solo recordings, even if they are all not in the studio at the same time. So what!!

We love it. I give it a 5.

~ DanaJ

"Wave to a guy in a Porche....cause he knows how to live!!!"
This line alone warrents the album a 7 on the Ringo scale,  I smile everytime a see a Porche...and I wave.
~ Jeff Scott
Toronto Ontario Canada

I remember playing this album incessantly when it came out...and I hadn't listened to much music after John had been murdered up until this album.  This has many good reasons to do so (even more so with the CDs bonus tracks, especially "Can't Fight Lightning", "Brandy" - makes me feel like crying - and the original "Stop And Take The Time To Smell The Roses".  It's great that
Ringo's playing with all these different bands (Stephen Stills' touring band, what was left of Wings, Hari's studio band, and even the Crusaders), and Ringo sounds like he's having a lot of fun.  The only drawback is that this approach with different producers makes this sound like a bunch of singles (A and B sides) than an album.  Perhaps that's the point.  Is it possible to get
"Attention" out of your head?  I've never been able.  Myself, I'd rather listen to "Wrack My Brain" than watch tv.  (George covered much the same territory again with "Blood From A Clone".)  And "You Belong To Me" is far more Ringoish than "Only You".  "Sure To Fall" surpasses any Decca/BBC version.  You might wonder why Stephen Stills needed help to rewrite "Love The One You're With", but I'm not going to complain because "Nice Way" is a much better (sexism free) song.  I have no quibble with the bonus anti-handgun spots, but has anyone else noticed that in some of the publicity shots for this album (and even some others from 1981), that Ringo has a handgun?  That always made me a bit queasy.  But the cover does capture one of the few beard free moments of Ringo's adult life.  Anyhow, for anyone who doesn't want to stop and smell the roses, smell this!
~ Steven B. Topping


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This page was last updated Nov. 12, 1998.