I had the privilege of seeing Ringo Starr and his All Star Band this past Tuesday at the Hard Rock Theatre in Coquitlam BC. Some of you may have already seen one version or another of this tour over the past 20 years or so since Ringo has been doing this.
The idea behind the All Star Band is that Ringo invites other artists/musicians/songwriters to join him and it literally becomes a kind of songwriter/performer-in-the-round event, with each taking turns to do a song they’re famous for and the rest of the group being “the band”. Ringo himself didn’t have a lot of solo hits compared to his band mates John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, so what he has done instead is brilliant.
The All Star incarnation that I saw the other night consisted of Steve Lukather from Toto on vocals, lead and rhythm guitar, Gregg Rolie from Santana and Journey on vocals, organ, keyboards, Todd Rundgren who was a successful solo artist along with being in other bands, on vocals, lead and rhythm guitar, and Richard Page from the 80’s band Mr. Mister on vocals and bass guitar. Warren Ham provided vocals, saxophone, percussion and keyboards, and Gregg Bissonette was on drums, percussion, and added some backing vocals.
Aside from Ringo’s hits like Yellow Submarine, Photograph and It Don’t Come Easy, there were great songs like Africa, I Saw The Light, Bang The Drum All Day, Rosanna, Evil Ways, Black Magic Woman, Broken Wings and Kyrie, among others.
It was such a great throwback to the 70’s! What it reminded me of was just how much I was influenced by songs, not only artists. I’ve mentioned many times the artists that have impacted my own songwriting like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. But the fact is that individual songs can do that too. What I appreciated most about my teenage years was the fact that you could hear all kinds of music on the same radio station, not just one genre. You were just as likely to hear, for instance, a gospel song from “Hair” as you were rock or country or pop ballads. So it seems to me the emphasis in those days was on the songs first, artists second.
In the late 70’s (and according to one article I read, because of Peter Frampton’s enormously successful album ‘Frampton Comes Alive’) the focus of record labels started to shift from singles to albums. At the same time radio began narrowing its playlists to one or two genres and because of this paradigm shift, a lot of songs that would have deserved the radio exposure, didn’t get any. No longer could you buy singles, you had to buy whole albums. Today because of YouTube and mp3 players, we’ve come back to that notion of single songs which is really how it should be. As I’ve always believed, the song is the thing.
And listening to all of those songs played the other night because of Ringo’s clever notion of an All Starr Band, I realized the impact of single songs on my own songwriting. For instance, Todd Rundgren’s song I Saw The Light had that mixture of major 7th and minor 7th chords that I loved to use, and so I did, ad nauseum! He also wrote simple but powerful melodies, exemplified in his song Love Is The Answer, which I recall the England Dan and John Ford Coley version of more than Rundgren’s.
So from now on I’m going to focus on remembering the SONGS that influenced me, not just the artists. Which songs influenced your songwriting? Post yours below!