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As seen in Peter Jackson’s popular fly-on-the-wall documentary of 2021, The Beatles: Get Back, relations between The Beatles became particularly frosty during the Abbey Road and Let It Be studio sessions.
Paul McCartney had assumed a managerial position while George Harrison struggled to squeeze compositions onto the tracklists. Meanwhile, John Lennon became increasingly withdrawn as he channelled attention towards his omnipresent wife, Yoko Ono. In one of the documentary’s most poignant and telling moments, Harrison stormed out of the studio. “See you ’round the clubs,” he said as he temporarily quit the band.
Amid the tumult, neutral stoic Ringo Starr waited patiently for the bickering to stop so he could lay down some beats. However, about a year before Peter Jackson’s archival documentary caught up on the group, Starr, too, had walked out on the band to leave McCartney on drumming duties for the final two songs put down for the record commonly referred to as The White Album.
Clearly, the pressures of fame, inflated egos, and leadership disagreements were getting the better of the Fab Four. In April 1970, The Beatles finally announced their official dissolution.
At this juncture, the mass media enjoyed stoking the flames, suggesting that the four were no longer on talking terms following an acrimonious split. However, the breakup was amicable and inevitable; The Beatles needed some breathing space.
While Harrison and McCartney observed something of a cooling-off period, Starr maintained genial relations with all three of his bandmates, inviting each separately to contribute to his 1973 solo album, Ringo. In 1971, Harrison also joined Lennon to contribute to his second solo album, Imagine.
Following the Beatles’ breakup, Starr began to devote more of his time to songwriting, but the skill didn’t come without a graft. “Finding my way as a songwriter has been a long process, really,” Starr told Goldmine in a 2015 interview. “But I’d say in the last 20 years, I’ve become really comfortable with writing.”
However, this isn’t to say the drummer didn’t conjure some decent tunes in the 1970s. “You know, I wrote ‘It Don’t Come Easy’, and then I wrote ‘Photograph’ and ‘Back Off Boogaloo’, but that was over a five-year period,” Starr recalled. “There wasn’t a lot in between. Even on the Ringo album, I was doing other people’s songs and then some I did with Vini [Poncia].”
Starr also conceded that his 1972 single ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ was the result of a fortunate mistake. “‘Back Off Boogaloo’ is an incredible example of how accidents are sometimes fabulous when coming up with a song,” he began.
The drummer explained how he and the single’s co-credited writer, Harrison, stumbled upon it. “You see, George wanted me to play that pattern on the bass drum, but the problem is I’m not that efficient as a drummer,” Starr explained. “I can’t go [imitates a beat] and play regular. So I started doing it on the snare, and it worked a treat. You know, it was just out of the blue.”
As for the lyrics, Starr stumbled upon the titular refrain while having dinner with his pal Marc Bolan. In a 2021 interview with USA Today, the drummer revealed that the T. Rex frontman shouted, “Hey, back off! Ah, boogaloo!” when playfully reproving someone.
Listen to Ringo Starr’s ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ below.