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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Ringo Starr: Bad Boy


1) Who Needs A Heart; 2) Bad Boy; 3) Lipstick Traces; 4) Heart On My Sleeve; 5) Where Did Our Love Go; 6) Hard Times; 7) Tonight; 8) Monkey See – Monkey Do; 9) Old Time Relovinʼ; 10) A Man Like Me.

General verdict: How does a real man answer to punk and New Wave? With a glass in his hand, Dr. John in the studio, and doo-wop covers from the dawn of time.

Okay, before we rip this one a new asshole, let us get this out of the way: Ringo Starr has never, not once in his life, released a genuinely offensive album. Boring, yes; ridiculous, for sure; but never ever has he truly attempted to become something completely different from what he really is — perhaps because he is simply incapable of such a masquerade — and never ever has he betrayed his own tastes and likes for something for which he did not have the slightest passion or of which he did not have the slightest understanding. In real life, his behavior was frequently far from saintlike; in his music, the sweet innocence and naïve unpretentiousness that ooze from every note he sings pretty much makes him impenetrable to the sharpest, most vicious stings of criticism. Beating up on Ringoʼs music is like beating up on peace and love itself.

With all this out of the way, letʼs get to business and beat up on Ringoʼs music. Bad Boy is very frequently mentioned as the absolute nadir of the manʼs solo career — sometimes it is a toss-up between Bad Boy and Ringo The 4th, but the two constitute a stylistic pair anyways — and I tend to agree with this assessment. This time, there is not even a single half-hearted attempt to honor contemporary trends: probably the closest thing to a disco track is the limp, sentimental pop rocker ʽTonightʼ, whose bassline seems to want to switch into pure disco mode all the time, but always stops short of this (perhaps because the bass player is Elton Johnʼs former partner Dee Murray — who was fired by Elton right before Elton himself switched to, umm, letʼs say, more danceable formats of music). Nevertheless, this does not help matters much...

...because refusing to submit to the disco craze does not necessarily mean one has something worthwhile to offer instead. What Ringo offers us here is the same unstable mix of the old with the new, begging the question of «why?» when it comes to the old and the reaction of «oh, gross» when it comes to the new. Some of the old (and some of the new) has a laid-back, New Orleanian vibe to it, no doubt due to the presence of Dr. John on keyboards; Allen Toussaintʼs ʽLipstick Tracesʼ, which was released as a single, is the most prominent example, and it is quite passable. But the title track, which is not a re-recording of the Larry Williams song as once famously covered by The Beatles — but rather a cover of an old doo-wop standard by The Jive Bombers — once again gives us a somewhat confused performer on a track where powerful vocals could be the only redeeming factor, so, of course, it just had to be sung by Ringo. That "Iʼm just a bad boy-oy-oy-oy-oy" bit sounded cheesy even in the hands of professional doo-woppers. Another odd choice is ʽWhere Did Our Love Goʼ — Ringo Starr as Diana Ross? For comedy? For tragedy (given the still fresh memories of the divorce from Maureen)?.. Whatever.

Of the new material, the slow funky burn of ʽMonkey See – Monkey Doʼ works better than most of the rest, largely because of the strength of the backing band, but still, the song should perhaps be best enjoyed in its original context, that is, on Michael Franksʼ The Art Of Tea, a first-rate jazz / soft-rock album that most people (including myself) will probably only learn of because of this Ringo cover. Ringo himself is credited for only two songs, co-written with Poncia: ʽWho Needs A Heartʼ, another unremarkable sentimental pop rocker, and ʽOld Time Relovinʼ, another unremarkable sentimental pop shuffle — both songs almost senile in their atmosphere, so you can imagine the warm welcome they must have enjoyed in the generally rejuvenating musical climate of 1978. The only thing worse than that could have been the album closer — the waltz ʽA Man Like Meʼ, by "multi-instrumentalist and photographer" Ruan OʼLochlainn, arranged as some sort of anthemic gospel number but with a very cringy, maudlin attitude.

Overall, the best that can be said about Bad Boy is that it is one of those «disaster albums» where the artist does not seem to give a damn. There are few, if any, signs of depression or desperation; few, if any, signs of a loss of control; and not a single sign of the artist actually understanding what goes on around him and having remorseful fits over this. Taken out of its historical context, Bad Boy is just a mediocre pop album like so many others, no more, no less. It is only because we know that 1978, mildly speaking, was much better than this, and also because we know that at his best, Ringo is actually capable of producing first-rate, energizing entertainment value, that the album remains at the absolute bottom of the pile. But remain there it does, and while it does happen every now and then that I pull out a few long-forgotten Ringo tunes to brighten my mood, no such tunes happen to dwell on Bad Boy. 


  1. "Boring, yes; ridiculous, for sure; but never ever has he ..... not have the slightest understanding."
    I like this argument. It applies to Uriah Heep as well, perhaps even more so. I mean - who in his right mind combines simple metallic riffs with a goofy version of Beach Boys harmonies?! Not even Ringo was that ridiculous. And then realize that the Heepsters now and then managed to make it work!

  2. It was a commercial disaster. And according to the contenporary reviewers a very bad record. I have never listened to it. I can only mention two facts: 1. No collaborations from Harrison, Mccartney, Lennon. 2. Following GS review, no clever inclusion of a disco coated single a la Miss You or Do You Think I'm Sexy.

  3. I admire you're writing, I'm a music writer myself, been reading you for ages, but please... this? Come on. Stop the Beatles worshiping. I love the Beatles too but no one needs anything else to be written about them.

  4. Glad to hear some love for The Art of Tea,George. I'm no lover of smooth jazz, but the songs and playing on that album are so good, I would excuse it of the usual sins of the genre.

  5. I find it funny that you are willing to slog through the worst parts of Ringo's discography, and have even covered every Cher album, yet you refuse to review any Rolling Stones albums beyond Dirty Work.

  6. I suppose I am getting what I asked for here.

  7. Thanks for saving me any possible effort to pay money for this ... LOL!