Interview with "Ringo Starr"
St David’s Hall
Thursday 5 December, 7.30pm
GET ready to Twist and Shout as Beatlemania takes over St David’s Hall for a special celebration of the world’s greatest ever band!
Iconic tribute act The Bootleg Beatles perform every era of The Fab Four’s legendary career from The Cavern to The Rooftop on Thursday 5 December. Plus, this time they are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road!
Neil Collins chats with Gordon Elsmore (aka. Ringo Starr) about A Day in the Life of the definitive Beatles tribute.
How do you explain The Bootleg Beatles’ longevity when you consider the sheer amount of other Fab Four tributes out there?
The Bootleg Beatles were the first Beatles tribute band, and perhaps the first ever tribute band so that has meant that they have always had a very important position within the tribute sphere.
They were the first to set the bar very high and the only group to consistently use an orchestra live. Every other band is always going to be several steps behind and will never quite manage to attain that standard. The following of the band goes back decades, and the brand is so established now. People know exactly what to expect, which is a very high standard of performance.
You won’t find many fans as obsessive and encyclopedic in their knowledge as Beatles fans. That must put you under such intense scrutiny each night?
There are lots of different levels of fans! There are the mega superfans who come and see us tens of times and have seen the show evolve over the years to those who are seeing us for the first time.
I don’t really think about the scrutiny of the fans though. It’s always good to hear what they think, but my job is to be as close as possible to Ringo in his look and playing style as possible. I stick to that and hopefully the fans appreciate it.
What have the actual Beatles made of The Bootlegs over the years, and have any of you met them?
I haven’t met any of them, so I can’t really say I’m afraid.
As a tribute to Ringo you have huge shoes to fill. What are the preparations you make before every gig to get into his mind-set? I’m guessing you will have studied hundreds of hours of tape, but the accents, ad-libs and mannerisms must still be so difficult to nail convincingly?
Yes, that’s absolutely right. It takes many years of study and practice and it’s very hard to get it perfectly. There is a lot of make-up involved as well!
The Beatles eventually stopped touring in 1966 due to the absolute hysteria amongst fans at their gigs. Does it ever get a bit crazy at your own concerts? It strikes me that you have the best of both worlds in that you’re immediately recognisable onstage, but you can still walk down the street unnoticed every day.
In some ways…The concerts from time to time get very wild, but usually it all simmers down after the show. It’s almost as if the fans are acting the part of 60s manic fans just as we are pretending to be The Beatles – but everyone goes home as themselves!
The band formed in March 1980 from the West End cast of the Broadway musical Beatlemania almost 10 years to the day after Paul McCartney announced the original band’s split. The first gig was a student’s bash in Tiverton, Devon. Talk us through the band’s early days…
I wasn’t in the band in those days so I really can’t comment. But those days must have been very hard work and to stick together and keep going and eventually be successful is a real tribute to the original members’ dedication to the music.
Nobody could really have predicted what happened next. Since that first low-key gig, The Bootleg Beatles have toured Europe, America, Asia and Australia. Plus, you’ve shared the stage with David Bowie, Elton John, Rod Stewart Bon Jovi, Manic Street Preachers and even supported Oasis at their peak for a pair of sell-out gigs at Earl’s Court in 1995. When did you become involved with the band and how did it come about?
I joined the band in the middle of a tour after the sudden departure of the previous drummer, so I had very little warning and had to learn the show on the job. I’d been playing Ringo in a lot of other bands so knew the music and knew all the other members from previous bands, but it was a baptism of fire!
Describe your earliest memories as a Beatles obsessive.
I remember playing Twist & Shout on my Mum and Dad’s record player when I was seven, and I eventually wore out the grooves! I play that record even today with all the hiss and crackles and it takes me back immediately.
Can you remember where you were the day John Lennon died in 1980?
Sorry, far too young!
What is your favourite Beatles album?
Abbey Road – it’s pretty much Beatle perfection.
Are there any songs that are particularly difficult to perform live?
Fixing a Hole, which is deceptively hard to drum. Typical of Ringo. Creative, lazy, loose, cool and seemingly easy. Very hard to duplicate.
How far are you willing to go to inhabit the role? Have you ever felt inclined to adopt any of the band’s lifestyle traits?
If only I could afford it! No we are actors. Serious actors of course, but actors all the same.
Life on the road performing Beatles song every night seems glamorous, but does it ever get to feel like any other job? Are there moments when you think “I really don’t want to sing Hey Jude again”, or does the audience’s reaction always keep it exciting?
Being on stage and performing is never a chore! I never get bored of it. It’s a great job. Travelling and being away from home is tough, but it’s a case of taking the tough with the smooth.
The band’s enthusiasm always really shines through and you can tell that you’re all Beatles fans first and foremost. Compared to other Beatles tributes, The Bootleg are always varying their setlists whether it be an anniversary celebration of Sgt Pepper or some solo hits included. Will there be a sprinkling of festive classics like Happy Xmas (War is Over) or Christmas Time (Is Here Again) included in the set in Cardiff next week?
This tour also sees the addition of The Pepperland Sinfonia. Tell us about them…
They are fantastic musicians, a bloody good laugh and they lift the band into a completely different level of show. They’re great! Amazing! We couldn’t do the show without them. They help us recreate the records like no other band.
The Beatles received rave reviews for their gigs at the Capitol Theatre – just a stone’s throw from St David’s Hall. What are your memories of performing here, and what makes this year’s show unmissable?
It’s a beautiful place to play with fantastic acoustics and great views from every seat pretty much. The stage is lovely and you are aware that many great performers have played there before.
Friends of St David's Hall | Over 60s | Students |Claimants | Disabled People +1 companion
£1 off each ticket
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For Hynt tickets, please call Box Office on 029 2087 8444.
To book your seats, please visit The Bootleg Beatles page
or call the Box Office on 029 2087 8444