The Beatles drummer Ringo Starr knows the ingredients necessary for a great rock ‘n’ roll show. The live show is an act of artistic expression that remains one of his favourite things in life. Despite having unfathomable riches, his love of live music is why Ringo continues to tour with his All-Star Band today.
For Starr, the master of the live arena is his old friend and collaborator, Eric Clapton. Due to his friendship with George Harrison, Clapton was invited into the exclusive Beatles camp and assisted the group on ‘When My Guitar Gently Weeps’. Furthermore, when Harrison briefly quit the band after a blazing row, John Lennon suggested recruiting Clapton as his replacement.
During an interview with the late broadcaster Larry King, Clapton opened up about the “inspiring” experience of working alongside The Beatles on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. He said: “It was an anonymous venture… I think George was struggling with the two big boys in the group, and he needed some backup on one of his songs.” Asked by King if it was “a kick?”, Clapton responded: “Are you kidding? Yeah. I mean, to watch those guys work in those days was pretty inspiring.”
Clapton is an artist that Starr has seen perform live on numerous occasions and also witnessed his graduation from clubs to the grandest stages. However, it was Clapton’s 2005 reunion with Cream at the Royal Albert Hall that Starr considers the most impressive concert he’s ever attended.
Starr told NME: “I’ve seen Eric several times, here [in LA] and elsewhere. I once saw him play with Carlos Santana, who was so ‘on’ that Eric just bowed to Carlos’s on-ness. [Clapton’s ’60s band] Cream got back together a few years ago (Royal Albert Hall, 2005), and that was indeed a great, great show.”
The legendary group, which also featured the late Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, reunited for the final time in 2005 for a four-night residency at the legendary London venue. Fittingly, it was the same building in which they played their final show in 1968.
From reports from those in attendance, the set of shows was a triumph, and it’s precisely where the Cream story should end. However, the trio were convinced to take the band stateside for a hat-trick of concerts at Madison Square Garden, which didn’t live up to expectations, according to Clapton. In-fighting between Bruce and Baker made the experience a nightmare for everyone involved. Conversely, the Royal Albert Hall was a beautiful dream for Ringo Starr that surpasses any concert he has been fortunate to witness.