New York, NY – Ringo Starr, best known as the Beatles drummer, is suing his former bandmates. The suit names as defendants, Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, and the estate of the late John Lennon. Starr alleges breach of contract and non-support by two of his ex-band mates.
“After watching Peter Jackson’s film, Get Back,” said Starr, whose real name is Richard Starkey, “I realized that John and Paul were just taking advantage of me and my good nature. It’s as though they said, I’m looking through you.”
Jackson, also known as the director of the highly successful Lord of the Rings trilogy, and several films based on Tolkien’s The Hobbit, put together the recently released film and audio from the Beatles 1969 Let It Be recording sessions. Starr, with McCartney, Ono, and the late George Harrison’s widow Olivia Harrison, are listed as producers of the Get Back film.
“I gave them all my loving, but I didn’t realize at the time [in 1969] what was happening,” said Starr. “I was a nowhere man, probably drunk and/or stoned a good deal of the time.”
Watching the three episodes of the new release, one notices that Starr rarely spoke, especially when John and Paul were working on songs.
“I don’t want to spoil the party, so I did what they told me to do – every little thing.”
It should be noted that Starr did not name guitarist Harrison in the lawsuit.
“The two of us were in pretty much the same position. We just showed up most days and played. Don’t ask me why.”
The film documents George’s walkout, when he quit the band, refusing to participate for nearly a week.
“I almost quit too – like hello, goodbye, you know?” said Starr. “George and I were put off by Yoko’s presence. I saw her standing there, and I was like, I know she loves you, John, but it threw us off. You can’t do that; it was a breach of our unspoken rules – a revolution in a way.”
Harrison also objected to the location – a huge, empty, cold Twickenham film studio.
“I understood what Michael was doing,” said Starr, referring to Michael Lindsey-Hogg, director and producer of the original 1969 filming. “I can dig it. He was trying to shoot what became the Let It Be film. George was upset, but I thought, we can work it out. But in the end, that room wasn’t conducive to creativity. I just kept my mouth shut, but George – well, he reached a boiling point, and he split. I mean, watch that part of Get Back and tell me what you see.”
Starr says it took him seeing Jackson’s epic film to bring back those memories.
“Misery in my life, man. I just kept feeling like I’m a loser, you know? And then I thought, not a second time. I tried to talk to Paul about it – like, what you’re doing, but no reply. So, I decided to sue.”
Starr still feels the pain of how he felt he was treated by Lennon and McCartney.
“The world always saw John and Paul as the real stars of the Beatles, and it wasn’t getting better. George and I always sort of took a backseat – we were treated as sidemen; as session players. I always thought ‘I’ll be on my way, just wait. I could have quit any time at all, but this boy stayed.”
Asked what he hopes to gain from the lawsuit, Starr said:
“Barbara [Bach, Starr’s wife] said, ‘you’re gonna lose that, girl.’ I’ve got a feeling I should have known better. I don’t really know. It’s not about money. I always thought perhaps we would at some point, resolve our differences and get back together. No pun intended,” he said with a typically Ringo-style smile.
Lennon was murdered in 1980, and Harrison died in 2001 of cancer, making a reunion impossible.
“I know,” said Starr, shaking his head. “It’s all very yesterday, I suppose. I was just happy just to dance with you guys. But now, John and George are gone, and I suppose I’ll cry instead.”
“I know I can’t buy me love, and I carried that weight all these years. But I just want the world to know how I feel.”
The lawsuit is expected to go to trial in September.
This interview was conducted at Maggie Mae’s in Austin, Texas.