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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, January 11, 2008
    Adding static to proceedings
     
    Watching the archive newsreel tonight, of Ringo Starr being mobbed leaving his house in Admiral Grove in 1963, it becomes a little clearer why he and the other Beatles felt they had to leave Liverpool back then... for fear that if they'd stayed home they would have been physically torn apart by their exuberent co-citizens.

    Of the four, Ringo has perhaps most explicitly expressed his feeling for his roots, and this weekend's shows (tonight on top of St George's Hall, tomorrow at the new Arena) see him launch the album Liverpool 8. It says something of the hold Liverpool has on him (40-plus years after he left here) that the album's first single and autobiographical title track is framed as an apologia for leaving, a plea for understanding from his fellow-Liverpudlians: "Liverpool I left you / but I never let you down." That made for a pretty poignant start to the 2008 celebrations this evening.

    It's good that the show got on the road with the modestly-shining Starr rather than a more interstellar expat Scouser like his mate Sir Paul (he's inexplicably playing a miserable shed on Anfield Road in June). Tonight's launch had to be glitzy but the way Ringo went about it has added some grit. His career was defined for many by Lennon's silly quip "Best drummer in the world? He's not even the best drummer in The Beatles." Though many, including a penitent Lennon, are on record expressing their admiration for Ringo's skills, the way he's been unfairly maligned aligns him with the experience of this city's citizens over the years. It's not lost on us that his debut album Sentimental Journey pictures a pub - The Empress - which faces the street of his birth, a street now under threat of demolition due to a government-sponsored strategy of managed decline: thus Ringo's presence today keeps live the issue of the Welsh Streets. Culture, after all, is often contested and highly charged. Good that Ringo's appearance adds some static to proceedings.