by Bruce Spizer
After the commercial failure and critical drubbing of “Some Time In New York City,” John waited over 16 months before issuing a new record, “Mind Games” on October 31, 1973. The album entered the Billboard Top LP’s & Tape chart at number 16 on November 24. The record spent its first of three weeks at its peak position of number nine on December 8, while Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” was on top. John’s album remained on the charts for 31 weeks, with four in the top ten. Cash Box charted the disc at number six, while Record World showed a peak of seven. The album was certified gold by the RIAA on November 11, 1973, indicating sales of 500,000 units. In England, the record was released on November 16 and peaked at number 13.
According to May Pang, the negative reaction to “Some Time In New York City” shook John’s confidence and kept him out of the recording studio for over a year. This, combined with developing tensions in his relationship with Yoko, kept John from being significantly involved in Yoko’s 1973 album “Feeling The Space.” Yoko had drummer Jim Keltner line up some of New York’s finest session musicians to back her on the project. When John finally attended one of the sessions, he was impressed with the players and got the bug to record again. John asked May to book the studio with three weeks lead time so he could prepare new material. Although John reworked some old compositions, most of the songs for the upcoming album were written within a few weeks of his entering the studio.
“Mind Games” was recorded at the Record Plant in New York during the summer of 1973. John used the same core musicians from Yoko’s album: Ken Ascher on keyboards; David Spinozza, who played on Paul McCartney’s “Ram” album, on guitar; Gordon Edwards on bass; and Jim Keltner on drums. Other musicians included Michael Brecker on saxophone, Sneaky Pete (Pete Kleinow) on pedal steel guitar and Rick Marotta on drums for two of the tracks. John, identified on the inner sleeve as Dr. Winston O’Boogie & Los Paranoias, took credit for “Extra Sensory Percussion, Guitar, Clavichord.” John used his real name for the vocals credit. The background chorus singers were a trio of black women living in New York known as Something Different. The album was produced by John, this time without the assistance of Phil Spector and Yoko, who attended only a few of the sessions. Roy Cicala and Dan Barbiero served as engineers.
The album’s opening track, “Mind Games,” is a majestic piano-driven ballad that conjures up memories of and comparisons to “Imagine.” The song evolved from bits of two earlier compositions recorded by John as piano demos in November 1970 at his Tittenhurst mansion in Ascot. John’s “Anthology” collection contains both of the incomplete songs. “I Promise” is John’s promise to Yoko that he won’t hurt her again. John incorporated the melody and a slight revision of the lyrics (“Love is the answer and you know that it’s true”) of the song’s middle eight into “Mind Games.” John lifted the intro and verse melody from “Make Love, Not War” for his opening to “Mind Games.” At the time the demo was recorded, the song consisted of the line “I want you to make love, not war, I know you’ve heard it before” and the exact same middle eight as “I Promise.”
In discussing “Mind Games” in his Playboy interview, John stated, “It was originally called ‘Make Love, Not War,’ but that was such a cliche that you couldn’t say it anymore, so I wrote it obscurely, but it’s all the same story.” The story is “raising the spirit of peace and love.” John’s decision to write more obscurely was a wise one. After the heavy-handed lyrics on “Some Time In New York City,” John would have been ridiculed had he delivered yet another cliche-titled song. John did, however, close the song “Mind Games” with his original couplet from “Make Love, Not War.”
The album’s second track, “Tight A$,” is a spirited rocker full of puns, humor and sexual innuendos. It is void of any of the serious themes present in much of John’s earlier solo work. John viewed it as a “throwaway track” with a Tex-Mex sound.
“Aisumasen (I’m Sorry)” is a tender song in which John tells Yoko he’s sorry for causing her pain when he was down and didn’t know what he was doing. The song is a rewrite of “Call My Name,” which was written by John in 1971. Its original lyrics had John playing the healer. “When you’re down and you’re out…I’ll ease your pain girl. All you have to do is call my name.” The 2002 CD reissue of the album contains John’s vocal and guitar demo of “Call My Name.” John kept the melody and made minor adjustments to some of the lyrics in his reworking of the song. “I’ll ease your pain” was converted to “Aisumasen,” which is Japanese for “I’m sorry.” In “Aisumasen,” John promises Yoko he won’t hurt her again. The finished master is a dense mix of guitars (John on acoustic, David Spinozza on electric and Sneaky Pete on pedal steel), keyboards, bass and drums.
“One Day (At A Time)” is both a mellow love song and John’s concept of how to live life. “One day at a time is good for you.” The finished master has prominent backing vocals and an instrumental break featuring John on clavichord and Michael Brecker on saxophone. Following Yoko’s suggestion, John sings the entire song falsetto. He later commented, “I get bored singing in the same voice all the time…I’m proud of that.” His “Anthology” contains an earlier take of the song without all the embellishments. The backing track features Ken Ascher on keyboards, David Spinozza on electric guitar, Gordon Edwards on bass and Jim Keltner on drums. John’s guide vocal is in his normal range and includes his vocalizing the solo for the instrumental break.
The album’s next track, “Bring On The Lucie (Freda Peeple),” is a rocker in which John gets across his political beliefs without resorting to the cliche-filled mess present throughout “Some Time In New York City.” The 2002 CD reissue of “Mind Games” contains a 1971 demo of the unfinished song with John on vocals and dobro. In its embryonic stage, the song contained lines such as “Free the people now/Jail the judges now/Set the people free.” Perhaps John delayed finishing the song because its theme and use of dobro made it too similar to “John Sinclair.”
The finished master opens with John’s military-style encouragement to the band, “All right boys, this is it. Over the hill.” The track features Lennon on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Ken Ascher on piano, Dave Spinozza on slide guitar, Gordon Edwards on bass and Jim Keltner and Rick Marotta on drums, along with Something Different on backing vocals. John screams “Bring on the lucie” during the song’s fade. According to May Pang, the phrase has no meaning. John’s “Anthology” contains an early take with John (sans instrument) leading the band through the song and providing an interesting guide vocal during which he sings one line in a Bob Dylan imitation. Yoko’s voice is heard, indicating that she was present for the recording of the song.
The record label to Side One identifies its last track as “Nutopian International Anthem (John Lennon) BMI 0:03.” The “song” consists of three seconds of freshly recorded silence. (It is not merely an edit of “Two Minutes Silence” from “Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With The Lions.”) The album’s inner sleeve does not contain the lyrics to the “Nutopian International Anthem,” but does contain John and Yoko’s Declaration of Nutopia: “We announce the birth of a conceptual country, NUTOPIA. Citizenship of the country can be obtained by declaration of your awareness of NUTOPIA. NUTOPIA has no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people. NUTOPIA has no laws other than cosmic. All people of NUTOPIA are ambassadors of the country. As two ambassadors of NUTOPIA, we ask for diplomatic immunity and recognition in the United Nations of our country and its people.”
Side Two opens with “Intuition,” an upbeat song featuring John on vocals and electric guitar, Ken Ascher on keyboards, David Spinozza on electric guitar, Gordon Edwards on bass, Jim Keltner on drums and Michael Brecker on saxophone.
“Out The Blue” is a pretty love song that opens with John’s vocal and acoustic guitar. After the first verse, John is joined by Ken Ascher on organ and electric piano, David Spinozza on electric guitar, Gordon Edwards on bass and Jim Keltner on drums, as well as backing vocals by Something Different.
“Only People” is an up-tempo message song with John on vocals and electric guitar, Ken Ascher on keyboards, David Spinozza on electric guitar, Gordon Edwards on bass, Jim Keltner on drums, Michael Brecker on saxophone and Something Different supplying backing vocals. John felt the song didn’t live up to its potential. “That was a failure as a song. It was a good lick, but I couldn’t ever get the words to make sense.”
“I Know (I Know)” is an optimistic moderate tempo love song with John on vocals and acoustic guitar, David Spinozza on electric guitar, Ken Ascher on keyboards, Gordon Edwards on bass, and Jim Keltner on drums. The finished master also includes backing vocals by Something Different and tambourine (probably played by John). John’s “Anthology” contains a 1973 home recording of the song with John on vocals and acoustic guitar. John later dismissed the song as “Just a piece of nothing.”
“You Are Here” is another love song written for Yoko. In his Playboy interview, John described it as his attempt at a “Latinesque song in a ballad tradition.” It opens with John saying “nine” under a heavy dose of echo. The track features John on vocals and acoustic guitar, Ken Ascher on keyboards, David Spinozza on electric guitar, Gordon Edwards on bass and Jim Keltner on drums. The finished master includes backing vocals by Something Different. John’s “Anthology” contains an earlier take of the song, complete with a verse missing from the finished master. John realized that the song’s near five-minute running time was a bit too much, so he edited out what was the second verse, which includes the lines “From mystical to magical/What a way to fly.” There is also a slight variation on the bridge as John originally sang “Love has opened up my mind” before changing the last word to “eyes.”
The album closes with “Meat City,” an up-tempo throwaway song that John clearly had fun recording. The lyrics are a throwback to Lennon’s more obscure writings, something he had abandoned for his direct approach solo recordings. Lennon explained the song as follows: “I’m really saying, ‘I’ve been all over the place so it’s all the same.’ People are never satisfied…‘Meat City’ is just a vague impression of one part or one side of America. It could also apply to Glasgow, London or Paris.” The dense-sounding track features John on vocals and electric guitar, David Spinozza on guitar, Ken Ascher on keyboards, Gordon Edwards on bass and Jim Keltner and Rick Marotta on drums. John added a backwards tape loop after the first verse. When played backwards, it reveals engineer Roy Sicala saying “f*ck a pig.” As the songs fades out, John can be heard asking “Who is that, who is that?” This was John’s reaction after hearing a strange sound later attributed to Jim Keltner. The 2002 CD reissue of “Mind Games” contains a 1973 home recording of the unfinished song with John on vocals and electric guitar.
The single “Mind Games” was released simultaneously with the album on October 31. Although it stalled at number 18 in Billboard, both Cash Box and Record World reported the song at ten. John had a bit of fun with the single’s B-side, “Meat City.” The off-color backwards message that appears after the first verse of the album track is replaced with the backwards message “Check the album.”
The album’s cover was put together by John. The front features a cut-out full-size picture of John taken by Yoko with a Polaroid instant camera. John’s photo is placed on the lower part of the cover’s green vegetation field background. The upper part of the cover depicts the horizon above the field. A partial profile of Yoko’s face looking upward protrudes from the ground as if it were a mountain range. The picture of Yoko was taken by Bob Gruen and credited as “Mountain from Bob Gruen” on the inner sleeve. The dark blue-green evening sky has clouds (continuing the cloud theme present on earlier covers) and two white circles, most likely representing two full moons (and symbolizing John and Yoko). The album’s title and John’s name appear in the upper left corner. John’s Japanese signature stamp (known as a “chop”) appears in red in the lower right corner.
The back cover is similar to the front, except that the two moons are replaced by a rainbow and John is larger and located more towards the bottom, giving the impression he is further from the horizon than on the front cover. John later told May Pang that he had subconsciously showed himself on the back cover walking away from Yoko. Replacing the two moons with a rainbow may have symbolized John’s optimism about entering a new phase in his life. The records were packaged in a custom white inner sleeve that contains the Declaration of Nutopia, credits and lyrics for the Side One songs on the front, and lyrics to the Side Two songs on the back. The front also has a quote from John (identified as Dr. Winston O’Boogie): “Madness is the first sign of dandruff.” Yoko also supplies a quote: “Only people can change the world.” The records were printed with standard green Apple labels, making this the first of John’s albums since “The Plastic Ono Band – Live Peace In Toronto 1969” to feature the familiar Granny Smith apple.
For those tired of John’s heavy-handed political songs, the album was a breath of fresh air and hope that John had resurrected his career by relying on his humorous and creative instincts.
Ringo started his solo career with an album of standards followed by a country LP. After returning to rock ’n’ roll with a pair of singles (“It Don’t Come Easy” and “Back Off Boogaloo”), he decided it was time to make a full return to rock ’n’ roll. His third album, simply titled “Ringo,” was released simultaneously with John’s “Mind Games.” Helped by the success of its previously-released lead single, “Photograph,” and word that it contained songs featuring former Beatles, “Ringo” entered the Billboard Top LP’s & Tape chart on November 17 at number 15. The following week it jumped to the number three spot before moving up to number two on December 1, unable to get past Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” Ringo’s album spent 37 weeks on the charts, including 8 in the top ten. Cash Box and Record World both reported the album at number one. The disc was quickly certified gold by the RIAA on November 8, 1973, indicating sales of 500,000 units. Its status as a million seller was confirmed by the RIAA on November 26, 1991. In England, “Ringo” was released on November 23 and charted at number seven.
The fact that Ringo’s first rock album outperformed John’s “Mind Games” did not go unnoticed by John. According to Lennon, he really liked the album and sent Ringo a telegram stating, “Congratulations. How dare you. Write me a hit song.”
“Ringo” was produced by Richard Perry, who had arranged and recorded the backing track to “Sentimental Journey” for Ringo’s debut LP. The two met for the first time in March 1972 when Ringo played drums on a track for Harry Nilsson’s “Son Of Schmilsson” LP, which Perry produced. He and Perry discussed the possibility of working together. A year later, Ringo was scheduled to be in Nashville with Harry Nilsson for the Grammy awards. He called Perry and suggested that they record a few tracks while they were in Nashville. Perry initially agreed to the plan, but then called back and recommended that the recording take place in Los Angeles.
The album sessions began in March 1973 at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles. In a little over a week, eight backing tracks were completed. John Lennon, who was in L.A., came to the studio with a song for Ringo. George Harrison, who was in town working on a Ravi Shankar project, dropped by and played guitar on two tracks. In April, Ringo went back to London to do promotional appearances for the film “That’ll Be The Day.” While there, Ringo set up a session at Apple Studios, which included the recording of a song written by Paul and Linda McCartney. Work on the album continued through July, with vocal and horn overdubs taking place at various studios in the L.A. area and Abbey Road in London. The album was mixed at Sound Labs in Los Angeles and Nova Sound in London. Bill Schnee, who engineered the album, was given credit on the album label for his services. Judy Szekeley served as tape operator.
“Ringo” opens with “I’m The Greatest,” which was written by John, who started work on the song three years prior to its release on the album. A solo piano demo from November 1970 shows that he had the basic chords, melody and theme in place. John also recorded a take of the song during the “Imagine” sessions, this time accompanied by himself on piano, a drummer and Klaus Voormann on bass. John decided against recording the song. He later explained, “It’s the Muhammad Ali line. I couldn’t sing it, but it was perfect for Ringo. He could say, ‘I’m the greatest,’ and people wouldn’t get upset. Whereas, if I said, ‘I’m the greatest,’ they’d all take it so seriously.” After all, John had caused quite a stir in 1966 when he was quoted as saying the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.
John and Yoko were in Los Angeles in March 1973. After being asked to contribute a song to Ringo’s album, John got the idea to rework “I’m The Greatest” for his fellow ex-Beatle. Yoko assisted with the rewriting of the fourth verse, providing the lines “I looked in the mirror/I saw my wife and kids.”
The backing track features John on guide vocal and piano, George Harrison on guitar, Klaus Voormann on bass and Ringo on drums. It is believed that this historic session featuring the three ex-Beatles took place on March 13. The John Lennon “Anthology” contains an edit of the backing tracks. Ringo later overdubbed his lead vocal. (Parts of John’s guide vocal remain in the final mix, leading to harmony vocals between the two.) Additional overdubs include George on lead guitar and Billy Preston on organ.
The lineup on “I’m The Greatest” led to all sorts of speculation. After Paul announced in 1970 that he was quitting the Beatles, a rumor spread that the group had recruited Klaus Voormann to fill his spot on bass, and that the band would be called the Ladders. This session rekindled the rumors. Some people noted that during the “Get Back” sessions, John had wanted to make Billy Preston a permanent member of the group. While there was talk (and even hope) that John, George, Ringo, Klaus and Billy would form a group, it was not to be. “I’m The Greatest” remains the only song recorded by the Ladders.
The album’s second selection, “Have You Seen My Baby?,” was written by Randy Newman and first
appeared on his “12 Songs” LP from 1970. Ringo’s version of the rocker features Ringo on vocals and drums, Marc Bolan on guitar, James Booker on piano, Klaus Voormann on bass, Jim Keltner on drums and Milt Holland on percussion. Tom Scott arranged and played the horns.
The song’s title comes from its opening line, which only appears once in the song. The “Hold on” refrain is sung 16 times. Perhaps that is why studio and Capitol personnel misnamed the track “Hold On.” The album’s label, the initial back covers and the initial copies of the album’s booklet identify the song as “Hold On.” Although the custom record labels were never corrected, later covers list the song as “Have You Seen My Baby (Hold On)” and later booklets list the song as “Have You Seen My Baby.”
The lead single from the album, “Photograph,” is a well-crafted pop song full of hooks. Ringo began writing the song while in Spain during the shooting of the film “Blindman.” George helped him complete the song when the two got together in Cannes. During the recording of his “Living In The Material World” album, Harrison produced an early version of the song.
The released version of the song features Ringo on lead vocals and drums, George on 12-string guitar and harmony vocal, Nicky Hopkins on piano, Klaus Voormann on bass, Vini Poncia and Jimmy Calvert on acoustic guitars, Jim Keltner on drums and Lon and Derrek Van Eaton on percussion. Bobby Keys added a terrific tenor sax solo. Richard Perry’s use of two drummers, three acoustic guitars, piano, bass, saxophone, percussion (including castanets) and an orchestra and chorus arranged by Jack Nitzsche give the song a wall of sound reminiscent of Spector at his best. Bill Schnee’s excellent engineering work brings clarity to what could have been a muddy mess. “Photograph” which went topped the charts and sold over a million copies in the U.S., remains one of Ringo’s most popular songs.
“Sunshine Life For Me (Sail Away Raymond)” was written by George Harrison on an open-tuned guitar during a visit with Donovan in Ireland. According to George, he wrote it like “an old Irish folk song a bit like country music.” Raymond was the name of a lawyer involved in the litigation brought by Paul against John, George and Ringo to dissolve the Beatles partnership. The backing track features Ringo on vocals, drums and percussion backed by most of the members of the Band, namely Robbie Robertson on guitar, Levon Helm on mandolin, Rick Danko on fiddle and Garth Hudson on accordion, plus George Harrison on guitar and backing vocals, Klaus Voormann on bass, David Bromberg on banjo and fiddle and Vini Ponica on backing vocals.
Side One closes with a spirited cover version of “You’re Sixteen.” The song, written by Richard Sherman and Robert Sherman, was a number eight hit for Johnny Burnette in late 1960. Ringo’s version of the song features Ringo on lead vocals and drums, Nicky Hopkins on piano, Jimmy Calvert and Vini Poncia on guitar, Klaus Voormann on bass, Jim Keltner on drums and Harry Nilsson on “backing voices.” Paul McCartney later overdubbed a “mouth sax solo” over the instrumental break. As the song fades, Ringo sings “I don’t know why I love you, but I do” from Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s “I Don’t Know Why,” a number four hit from 1961, and “What can we do with a drunken sailor, what can we do with a drunken sailor.” Just as the Beatles took songs like “Twist And Shout,” “Please Mister Postman” and “Boys” and made them their own, Ringo’s rollicking and charming version of “You’re Sixteen” became an instant Ringo classic (and a number one hit) that improved upon the original. It is the perfect ending to one of the strongest album sides produced by any ex-Beatle during the Apple years.
Side Two opens with another strong rocker, “Oh My My,” which was co-written by Ringo with Vini Poncia. The track features Ringo on vocals and drums backed by Billy Preston on piano and organ, Jimmy Calvert on guitar, Klaus Voormann on bass, Jim Keltner on drums and horns arranged by Tom Scott and Jim Horn. Co-writer Vini Poncia sings a harmony vocal with Ringo. Backing vocals are supplied by Martha Reeves (former lead singer of Martha and the Vandellas), Merry Clayton (who sang backing vocals on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimmie Shelter”) and other “friends.” Klaus Voormann’s zoom bass runs and Billy Preston’s keyboards are particularly memorable. When later released as the third single from the album, “Oh My My” peaked at number five in Billboard and Record World, and number six in Cash Box.
The pace of the album is slowed down a bit for “Step Lightly,” a song written by Ringo that, with its Glenn Miller-style arrangement, would have fit comfortably on “Sentimental Journey.” The track features Ringo on vocals and drums, Steve Cropper (of Stax Records and Booker T. & the M.G.s fame) on electric guitar, Jimmy Calvert on acoustic guitar, Nicky Hopkins on piano, Klaus Voormann on bass and clarinets arranged by Tom Scott. While in London, Ringo overdubbed tap dancing, described on the album’s back cover as “the Dancing Feet of: Richard Starkey, M.B.E.”
“Six O’Clock” was written by Paul and Linda McCartney. According to Ringo, former band-mates John and George “wrote me some songs and then I didn’t want to leave Paul out, so I phoned him and we flew back to England to do Paul.” The song was recorded at Apple Studios in April. It is a pleasant-sounding pop song typical of McCartney’s mid-seventies output. The track features Ringo on vocals and drums, Paul on piano and synthesizer, Klaus Voormann on bass and Vini Poncia on acoustic guitar and percussion. Paul arranged the strings and flutes and added backing vocals with Linda.
The musicians also recorded a coda consisting of Ringo, Paul and Linda repeatedly singing the “No I don’t treat you like I” refrain over a backing track highlighted by Paul’s energetic piano playing. This 80-second coda was edited onto the finished master of the song and was originally intended to be on the album. This extended version of the song runs nearly five and a half minutes.
The album label lists the running time of Six O’Clock as 5:26, which is correct for the extended version of the song. The original masters cut for the album have the extended version. A limited number of discs were pressed from an original master and were distributed for promotional purposes. Prior to the release of the album, the coda-less 4:05 version of song was substituted into the master tape, and masters were re-cut with the shorter version. Thus, commercial copies of the disc have the shorter version. Because a copy of the original master tape was sent to Discos Capital de Mexico, the Mexican issue of album has the extended version. The long version also shows up on Apple 8-track and cassette copies of the album. It appears as a bonus track on the 1993 CD issue of “Goodnight Vienna.”
The relative calmness of “Six O’Clock” is quickly shattered by “Devil Woman,” an all-out rocker written by Ringo and Vini Poncia. The song features Ringo on vocals and drums, Tom Hensley on piano, Jimmy Calvert on guitar, Klaus Voormann on bass, Jim Keltner on drums and Milt Holland on percussion. Tom Scott arranged the horns, which were played by him and Chuck Findley. Richard Perry and Klaus Voormann provide backing vocals.
“You And Me (Babe)” was written by George Harrison and former Beatles road manager Mal Evans. At the time of the sessions, the two were sharing a house in L.A. According to Evans, he had a meditation song he had begun in New York and asked George if he would help him out with the chords. George reworked the song on piano, and the pair offered it to Ringo.
“You And Me (Babe)” is the perfect closer for the album. Just as Ringo sang “Good Night” at the end of “The White Album,” here he sings goodbye to his audience. Although the performance is reaching its end, Ringo lets everyone know that he “still can be found, right here on this record, spinning round, with the sounds.” As the last verse ends, he shouts “Goodnight everybody,” and after encouraging the band, he says, “Well it’s the end of the night, and I’d just like to say ‘thank you’ to everyone involved in this piece of plastic we’re making.” Ringo then names the key contributors to “this wonderful record” and concludes with “and so it’s a big ‘good night’ from your friend and mine, Ringo Starr.” The backing track features Ringo on drums, George on electric guitar (providing fills and solos), Nicky Hopkins on electric piano, Vini Poncia on acoustic guitar, Milt Holland on marimba, horns arranged by Tom Scott and strings arranged by Jack Nitzsche.
The album’s gatefold cover was designed by Barry Feinstein for Camouflage Productions. The front cover is a painting by Tim Bruckner. The lower part features Ringo standing on a blue stage filling in for the “I” in “RINGO,” which appears in large silver letters with lights running along their borders. A large silver star, also with lights, appears above Ringo’s head and serves as the dot to the “I.” Ringo is joined on stage by a winged Cupid. The image is also shown upside down as a reflection on the stage.
The upper half of the cover is filled with an interesting cast of characters in the theater’s balcony. The first few rows depict the musicians who played on the album. Some of those prominently featured include (from left to right) members of the Band (Garth Hudson shown with accordion), Klaus Voormann (shown to the right of the star with a sketch pad), Yoko (in a black bag rather than the usual white bag), John, Linda and Paul, George (holding a balloon with an Om symbol), producer Richard Perry (holding two phone receivers), engineer Bill Schnee (holding a tape reel and wearing an “Ever Smiling” T-shirt) and Nicky Hopkins and Billy Preston (on the keyboards). The effect is similar to that of the crowd appearing on the cover to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
The cover is bordered on each side by pulled-back red curtains. The top shows a wooden placard with comedy and tragedy masks, a green apple and the phrase “Duit on Mon Dei.” This is a satire on the Royal Coat of Arms, which bears the moto “Dieu et mon droit,” which is French for “God and my right.” The phrase was used as a military password by King Richard I in 1198. The Apple Coat of Arms has a more laid back motto: “Duit on Mon Dei,” which means “Do it on Monday.” In other words, “Why do it today when you can put if off and do it on Monday?” Harry Nilsson would later name his 1975 album “Duit On Mon Dei.”
The back cover was also painted by Tim Bruckner. It is bordered on the left and right with the same pulled-back red curtains. The upper part shows a closed red curtain fronted by the same silver-lettered “RINGO” as on the front cover, but this time the “I” appears rather than the drummer. The lower part depicts the blue stage, which serves as a solid background over which white text appears listing the songs and musicians credits, along with producer Richard Perry and engineer Bill Schnee. The inside gatefold slick is a blue, grey and white painting of stars and crossing light beams. A similar painting serves as the outside cover to the booklet packaged with the album.
The album was packaged with a 24-page 11¾” x 11¾” booklet featuring album credits, song lyrics and Klaus Voormann lithographs depicting each of the songs. The booklet carries on a joke from Harrison’s “Living In The Material World” LP by providing information on the Jim Keltner Fan Club. Fans are advised to send a “stamped undressed envelope” to the address for Capitol Records in Hollywood.
The records were pressed with the custom black-background labels featuring Ringo’s head peeking through a large silver star. These “Ringo starfish” labels were also for some of the pressings of the three singles released from the album.
The imaginative and elaborate packaging adds to making Ringo’s first rock album a classic example of the Beatles tradition of giving fans good value for their money.
Capitol and Apple made sure that record buyers knew the album “Ringo” had three hit singles. Some of the later covers were embellished with a two-inch round white sticker proclaiming: “Includes the Hits! Oh My My / You’re Sixteen / Photograph” in red print. Apple also prepared a poster that reversed the common marketing slogan “The Hit Single from the Album” to “The Album from the Hit Singles.” Ringo pulled quite a trick for his Halloween-issued album that proved to be a surprising treat for Beatles fans and others.
The above article is extracted from Bruce Spizer’s book The Beatles Solo on Apple Records, available at beatle.net.