It was almost like being with Ringo Starr, when my cousins and I visited the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles early this year. Here’s my article on that visit, published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Lifestyle Section’s Travel page last Saturday (March 29).
Visiting Ringo at the Grammy Museum in LA
“Upon my insistence, my cousins Gina Furman and Carmencita Purugganan brought me to the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles during my recent U.S. visit. I had read of the exhibit of Ringo Starr’s memorabilia at the Grammy and being a Beatles fan, I knew this was something I shouldn’t miss. Our plan was to view the exhibit for maybe a couple of hours. We ended up staying the whole afternoon.
Mural honoring Ringo Starr, at the Grammy Museum
“How could we not? Titled “Peace and Love”, the exhibit showcases the life and times of Ringo Starr, the charming, inimitable drummer of The Beatles and my avowed favorite among the Fab Four.
“Here are all the details of his life, from his childhood in Liverpool, to his early days as a musician, to the raucous days of the rock band that changed music history, and later to his solo career as a singer, actor, artist, songwriter, winner of seven Grammy awards, and leader of his own All-Starr Band.
“Indeed, viewing the artifacts, letters, photographs and videos is like discovering Ringo all over again—and learning things about him not generally known during The Beatles’s heyday. Born July 7, 1940, Richard Starkey was a sickly child, with ailments like appendicitis, peritonitis and pleurisy causing him to miss so many school days he eventually dropped out of school. Though his parents separated when he was just a few years old, his mother later remarried and it was Harry Graves, his stepfather, who later bought Ringo his first set of drums. He hasn’t stopped playing the drums since.
“How Richard Starkey became Ringo Starr, the drummer of the band universally acclaimed as the greatest in rock music history, is a confluence of fate, talent, and being at the right place at the right time. Fascinated by drums at an early age, Ringo started out as the drummer for a group called Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. As luck would have it, he would also sometimes play the drums for The Beatles, when they were still a fledgling band, as a substitute for their then drummer Pete Best. When Best was let go, Ringo became the natural choice to replace him. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The author (far left) with cousins Gina (center) and Carmencita with replicas of the guitars and drums used by The Beatles, at the ground floor of the Grammy Museum
“Prominently displayed on the ground floor of the Grammy Museum are replicas of the guitars and drums used by The Beatles. Though taking photos of the exhibit is prohibited, visitors are encouraged to take pictures of these replicas. Without thinking twice, my cousins and I gamely posed with the guitars and drums, pretending to be rock stars ourselves.
The author with replica of the drums used by Ringo Starr, at the Grammy Museum, Los Angeles, California
“At the exhibit I got goose bumps upon seeing the original drum kits which Ringo used during their August 1965 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and for the recording of Let It Be, Abbey Road and the White Album. Encased in protective glass, the black pearl drum set has “Ludwig” and “The Beatles” logo prominently printed on it. I walked around the glass case viewing the drums in absolute awe, as if they were a relic from a saint. To think that Ringo once touched these drums!
“Also on display are the outfits he wore during some of The Beatles’ most memorable moments: the pink suit for the cover of Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band (hailed by some as the greatest rock album ever recorded); the cape he wore for their movie Help!, as well as the high-collared coats worn during some of their live performances.
“Farther down nostalgia lane, there’s a poster, almost yellowed with age, announcing the performance in Liverpool of Rory and the Hurricanes and The Beatles, when they were just starting to get famous.
“Most touching are the personal items – photos of Ringo as a child, letters and postcards he sent to his mother, to whom he was still Richy, even though the world already adored him by then as Ringo.
“After gawking at the drums, clothes and letters, I spent a lot of time in the listening stations, watching video clips of Ringo’s performances, from his days with The Beatles to his current tours with his band. I couldn’t get enough of watching him sing With a Little Help from My Friends, Act Naturally, What Goes On in Your Mind, and Photograph. In fact Photograph is also the title of his book, a collection of rare pictures, never before seen snapshots of The Beatles, and personal mementos showing his evolution from Liverpool kid to teen idol to the living legend that he has become. Some photos also show the Fab Four in unguarded moments: George Harrison, for instance, washing his face at a hotel in Paris, or the four of them looking out in the distance.
“But especially thrilling are the interactive stations. In one booth, you can sing Yellow Submarine, and have your voice recorded and played back. While I did try singing along, I didn’t have the nerve to listen to my own playback.
“In still another station, you can sit in front of a drum set and take drum lessons from Ringo himself, who appears in a video screen and patiently teaches the rudiments of drum playing (as if anyone can approximate his genius.) Of course I did try following his instructions, only to feel grateful that Ringo was only on video. I shuddered to think what he would have thought of my clumsy attempts at drum playing.
“In case anyone hasn’t realized it yet, testimonials of Ringo’s greatness as a drummer are plastered on the walls. Praises from band mates John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and other rock star greats hail Ringo’s unique talents on the drums. Never overplaying his role, he knew exactly how to hit just the right beat and rhythm so as to highlight the compositions of Lennon/McCartney and George Harrison which the world had come to love. “Playing without Ringo is like driving a car on three wheels,” George Harrison is quoted as saying.
“Indeed, the man whom John Lennon described as “the heart of The Beatles” is revered by many as the ultimate drummer and the most influential the world has ever known. We are so fortunate to be enjoying his performances in our lifetime, and to have him, a living legend, still be with us, more than 50 years after his rise to fame. That he’s willing to share his memorabilia with the world shows his generosity of spirit and is likewise a reminder of the legacy that The Beatles—and Ringo Starr—have bequeathed to the world.
Flyer announcing the exhibit of Ringo Starr's memorabilia at the Grammy Museum
“The exhibit is timely too. This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, when screaming fans welcomed them from the moment they first stepped on US soil, making The Beatles from then on the official icon of rock music. Besides, there’s no other time like the present to remind ourselves of the message that Ringo espouses in his exhibit: Peace and Love.“
Peace and Love is on exhibit until April 27, 2014 at The Grammy Museum, 800 Olympic Blvd. and Figueroa St., between Flemings and The Farm, Los Angeles, California. General admission tickets: US$12.95.