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Ringo's story

"Get in there,Ringo," the lads are saying, "Write something."

I've imagained myself in some pretty unusual roles, but never before did I think I'd end up as a writer. That would amuse the English Master at school, I can tell you.

"Starkey," he used to bellow at me, "You'll never learn to master this great language of ours,if you don't try harder."

Well, I'm trying now, so here goes.

My real name, the one given to me at birth, seventh July, 1940, was Richard Starkey, but for a long time now I've thought of myself as Ringo, because I wear at least two rings on each hand. Some of my friends call me Ritchie, but in the main I am Ringo Starr.

I was brought up in the Dingle, supposedly one of the toughest areas in Liverpool. The streets are cobbled and the buildings ancient, and we live right in the middle of it in a small terraced house. I love it round there, it's home. Our neighbours have been great to me always, and since I found fame and fortune, they have kept an eye on Mum and Dad when I've been away. My favourite neighbour is a lad approaching the grand old age of five years. He's got a Beatle haircut, and a black leather jacket with our names written on it. He calls himself Russell Beatle and is an honorary member of the official Beatles Fan Club.

When I was his age I went to St. Silas School, Dingle. I left school at six-and-a-half. Of course, I didn't leave officially, but I got appendicitis. Though I didn't understand much about it at the time, I did know I was pretty ill. It's odd how you can tell when you're really bad, even at such a young age.

I've got dim recollections of an awful pain, and sweat pouring down my face and Mum crying. I'd had appendicitis and had developed peritonitis. I remember lying on the stretcher witht the sky with the sky twirling above me, and red blankets being wrapped around me, and the ambulance doors banging shut. Then I remember the smell of ether and quiet oblivion.

It was pretty nearly oblivion forever, so they tell me. The doctors from Liverpool Children's Hospital informed my parents that I was going to die. But I didn't die. Somewhere in my subconscious I must have known I was destined to be a Beatle. Well, how could I go and leave the other three idiots to roam the world looking for the perfect drummer?

I was in hospital for a year, in which time I was too ill to do many lessons, so got a bit behind with my school work. It wasn't too bad being in hospital though. Only thing was that every time I made a friend, he had the inconsiderable habit of getting better and going home and leaving me alone again.

Unfortunately, the day before I was due to come home disasater struck again. One of the nurses told me I could get up, and I thought she was giving me an order, and meant get out of bed at once. Of course she didn't mean that at all; she was just telling me I was getting up later and intended coming back and helping me. As I put my feet on to the floor I fell, and hurt myself badly. For that I was in hospital for three years.

When I returned to school it was Dingle Vale Secondary Modern, and one of my mates was a boy soon to be known as Billy Fury. It's funny looking back on schooldays, I remember Mum used to give me dinner money, and I used to buy four-penny-worth of chips and a hunk of bread, and save the rest of the money to visits to the fairgrounds or the flicks.

Just before my fourteenth birthday I went for a holiday to London. It was raining when I left home and I refused to wear a mac. Looking back on it I don't know why I was so obstinate about it, but I suppose it was because Mum said I should wear one, that I decided I wouldn't. Anyhow I wish I'd taken her advice, because when I reached the great capital I resembled a half-drowned rat with a touch of hay fever. Unfortunately the hay fever developed into a cold and the cold developed into pleurisy. By the time a doctor was called I had to be rushed back to Liverpool. For that I was in the hospital another year.

When I left hospital, my school days were over and I started in an engineering works. But my heart wasn't in engineering. Mum and Dad had bought me my first set of drums, and drumming was all I thought about. In the end I gave up engineering, and joined a group called The Darktown Skiffle, and then did three years with Rory Storm and The Hurricanes.

Three seasons at Butlin's Holiday Camps was the best practice I could have had, and the audiences there broke me in for a stage career. They used to heckle us, and when we asked for requests they often want songs we'd never played before. That's why they never helped us so much, because we learned to ad lib, ignore remarks, and play anything to order - sometimes without a musical arrangement.

Right now, drumming has become the most important thing in my life. I've never been happier then since I met the other Beatles. When I first met them they thought, as so many other people still think, that I looked moody and sad. I wasn't then, and I'm not now. I have moments when I don't want to laugh, and times when I can't do anything else, but that's not being moody. If I am talking seriously about something and somebody wants to interrupt with 'sweet talk,' I can't be bothered to keep up my end of the conversation. But that isn't being moody either.

People waste a good deal of their lives talking to people they don't even like, and for me that's stupid. As far as being sad is concerned it's a stupid suggestion. Among other things our success has meant that my Mum doesn't have to work any more, and when I see her sitting around with nothing to do, I feel as though there isn't such a thing as sadness left in my world.

Of course success means sacrifices. It has to. Being away from home such a lot is one of these. Never being able to go out without dozens of people recognising us, is another. I'm not grumbling, it'll be a sorry day for us if this ever stops, but these things - plus the fantastic pace at which we work - is the price we pay for fame.

In return we get money. I've got a car, and I spend a lot on clothes. Fab, wonderful clothes. Black corduroy trousers, so tapered I can hardly get into them. Blue silk shirts with specially made collars. Big brassy cuff links, that aren't brass at all, but gold. Leather coats, suede boots, calf boots, crocodile and suede ties. After years of knowing what looked good, and not having the money to buy the things, I go a bit berserk when let loose in a man's shop.

Now so many good things have happened to us maybe it seems a bit greedy to still have a personal ambition, but I would like to play everything on drums with either the left or the right hand. It's hard, needs plenty of practice, but it's coming along.

When I'm at rehearsals I find myself tapping out the rhythm of the tunes, even if I'm not actually called on to drum. Have you seen our act lately? I've got a singing spot now. It's terrific. (The chance to sing, not the singing!) The spotlight shines sort of blue on me, and I roll the drums and sing. That's the great thing about the boys and me, we are a genuine quartet of the whole. If one of us isn't getting our full whack of the act, then the other three will say so and something will be done.

Last August Bank Holiday we played at The Cavern in Liverpool. The fans had been queueing half the night before, and were let into the club at six o'clock in the morning. By ten-thirty the following evening the air, which is scarce down there at the best of times, was thick with everything but oxygen. We had to go down and wait in the tiny boxroom for nearly two hours before performing, so as to accustom our lungs to the atmosphere. By the time we appeared, the other three were feeling a bit groggy. Just before "Twist and Shout," John felt faint.

"Hold up the announcing and give me a minute," he hissed to the compere. A lot of breath is needed to sing that song, and John needed time to recover. Funnily enough after all my unfortunate illnesses as a kid, I never feel ill nowadays.

After a Liverpool show I usually go to the Blue Angel Club in Seale Street. It's nice in there, you can have a drink and a chat. They've got long sofas with a brass coffee tables in front of them, and I meet my friends in there. Sometimes we play poker, but mostly we just sit and talk. I never feel tired after a show, and I'm still leaping when the others are dozing off. (A habit that annoys them, I can tell you!) The other night George was having a sly kip between shows, when I dashed into the room and fell over him.

"Ringo," he yelled, "Do you have to leap on my head?"

"Well," I retorted, "Do you have to sleep on the floor? Are you a dog?"

"Yes," he growled, and bit me.

That reminds me, I saw George piling cushions and rugs into a corner of the wings just now. I bet he's snoozing. Excuse me, I must go and jump on his head. See you!

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