Act Naturally: The Films of the Solo Beatles (Part 3)

Imagine if a musician chose the discordant throwaway “Only A Northern Song” as the pinnacle of the Beatles’ output, and used it as a template for the entire sonic palette of their own work for years. You’d probably get a musician very similar to Frank Zappa. (In reality, Zappa’s approach was a combination of his affinity for ‘50s R&B combined with modernist composers like Edgard Varese, but the results were more or less the same.)  

Frank Zappa

I never much liked Frank Zappa. I suppose there’s a twisted appeal to listening to someone using immense talent for the purposes of coming off as a second-rate novelty act, but I don’t get it. His general approach, at least on his rock albums with his backing band, the Mothers of Invention, is to combine heavy-handed social satire with an incredibly sophomoric sense of humor. (His work in modern classical and jazz is beyond my scope to comment on.) The best parody/pastiche comes from having an affection for the original material, and Zappa always came off as contemptuous of ‘60s rock. In fact, “arrogant contempt” seems to be his default mode for most things, and that’s one of the reasons his humor falls flat.

Admittedly, Zappa’s arrangements were tight. The musicians he assembled could always hold down a solid groove, and his guitar playing was often incendiary, but the material was undercut by the jokey vocals, dumb spoken-word monologues, sub-Spike Jones sound effects, and inane lyrics that veered between juvenile sex jokes, scatology, and pretensions of cultural relevance. Many of the “tracks” on his albums are useless little fragments. If you want to sit through twenty-six seconds of whispering and backwards tapes titled “Hot Poop,” more power to you. I’ll pass.

The magic of the Beatles is their timelessness. Rob Sheffield explored this quality in his book Dreaming the Beatles (highly recommended), pointing out that for a long time, the Beatles themselves failed to grasp the immensity of their continuing appeal. Before their deaths, both Lennon and Harrison were frequently puzzled and annoyed that people refused to let the whole “Beatles” thing go. They waved it off as “nostalgia.” Well, you can’t be nostalgic for an era you never witnessed, and I’d wager millions of current hardcore Beatles fanatics were born after 1970. By now, Paul seems to get this. (Bless his heart, but peace-and-love-peace-and-love Ringo still seems to be pitching his endless stream of new albums and tours to a rapidly dying-off Boomer audience.) Frank Zappa is the opposite. He is so firmly of his time it’s as if he were preserved in amber. For years, Zappa remained locked in a greasy, confrontational “1968,” flying his increasingly pointless freak flag, and trying desperately to shock the “squares.” And when he finally updated his style, he decided to poke fun at disco and Valley girls, true Statements for the Ages. 

Zappa and his legion of fans would probably say I’m missing the point. And maybe I am. And if someone gave me the choice between listening to Zappa or the Grateful Dead for an afternoon, give me Zappa every time. At least I wouldn’t be falling asleep listening to an alleged “song” featuring Jerry Garcia elaborately playing scales for 25 minutes.

The kicker to all this? The Beatles loved Frank Zappa. 

Paul was overheard on the Sgt. Pepper session tapes proudly saying “This is our Freak Out!” (a reference to Zappa’s 1966 debut album). One of the handful of times John played live during his solo years is when he joined Zappa onstage at the Fillmore East in June of 1971. And Ringo took a role in Zappa’s 1971 film 200 Motels.


Released: October 29, 1971 (L.A.), November 10, 1971 (N.Y.)

Director: Frank Zappa, Tony Palmer

Producer: Herb Cohen, Jerry D. Good

Screenwriter: Frank Zappa, Tony Palmer

Studio: United Artists

Cast: Theodore Bikel, The Mothers (Mark Volman, Howard Kaylan, Aynsley Dunbar, George Duke, Ian Underwood, Martin Lickert, Jim Pons), Ringo Starr, Jimmy Carl Black, Don Preston, “Motorhead” Sherwood, Janet Neville-Ferguson, Lucy Offerall, Pamela Des Barres, Ruth Underwood, Keith Moon, Dick Barber, Judy Gridley

Zappa had always dabbled in filmmaking. His short film, Burnt Weeny Sandwich, was aired on KQED in San Francisco in 1969, and he was constantly tinkering with his multi-media Uncle Meat project (the film portion of which would never be officially completed). His idea for 200 Motels — how life on the road as a touring band could drive you crazy — stemmed from the Mothers of Inventions’ very first tour in 1966. The vaunted Zappa originality would lie not in the premise (which was pretty trite even back then), but in the execution. He pieced together a score in bits and pieces over three years, and arranged to have it performed at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion.

As an orchestral piece, 200 Motels had its debut performance on May 15, 1970, conducted by Zubin Mehta. The 96-piece Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra joined forces with Zappa’s nine-piece rock band in an acoustical and technical trainwreck. But the audacity was admired. The initial idea was to expand 200 Motels into a TV special for Dutch television. When Zappa brought in British director Tony Palmer to consult, Palmer demonstrated his pioneering video-to-35mm film transfer system which he’d used on his film of Cream’s farewell concert in 1968. Zappa decided to turn the project to a feature film, knowing that by using video he could shoot and edit quickly, and keep costs down. 

Tony Palmer

In November 1970, Zappa was about to leave on a European tour with an all-new Mothers band (the “of Invention” was mostly dropped, and they now featured former Turtles Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan on vocals). Just before his departure, he met with United Artists chief David Picker to arrange a film deal for 200 Motels. Based on thirty minutes of music, a ten-page treatment, and a few photos, United Artists agreed to fund the film in exchange for rights to the soundtrack album. Shepperton Studios just outside London was booked for early 1971. The European tour ended on December 17, and Zappa headed to England to get started on the project. Shepperton turned out to be unavailable due to Roman Polanski’s Macbeth running over schedule, so the production hastily shifted to another British studio, Pinewood. 

Ringo Starr was at that time in the depths of Beatles Break-Up misery. On December 31, 1970 Paul officially sued the other three Beatles to dissolve the band’s business partnership, a regrettable but necessary move. No one wants to go through a lawsuit, but Paul — correctly — did not want his finances managed by the criminal sleazebag (Allen Klein) the other three had naively hitched their wagons to, and he wanted out. Sometime just before or just after the lawsuit was filed, the phone rang at Round Hill, Ringo’s Highgate mansion. “A call came from the Apple office that Frank Zappa had this idea, and he wanted to present it to me,” recalled Ringo. “So, I invited Frank to my house. He laid this huge score out and said ‘I’ve got an idea to make this movie, and here’s the score.’ I said, ‘Why are you showing me the score? I can’t read music. But because of that I will do the movie.’” [That’s the quote, but I’m still not sure because of what.]

Jimmy Carl Black, Theodore Bikel, and Pamela Des Barres

Tony Palmer agreed to co-direct, utilizing his video-to-film technique. Much of 200 Motels would be performance pieces by the Mothers and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The narrative segments would feature the Mothers (none of whom could really act, so they just improvised around Zappa’s written outlines), former Mothers, real-life groupies playing onscreen groupies, Ringo, and Who drummer Keith Moon (who, as we’ll see, pops up almost every time Ringo appears before a camera in anything). The lone professional hired for the project was veteran character actor Theodore Bikel.

Mothers bassist Jeff Simmons quit just before filming (or rather, taping) started, and an infuriated Zappa said he would give the part to the next person who walked in the room. The lucky winner was Ringo’s driver, Martin Lickert, who actually knew how to play bass guitar. Problem solved. (A weird story circulated that Zappa brought in Wilfrid Brambell — Paul’s “clean” grandfather from A Hard Day’s Night — put him in a long-haired wig and gave him a bass to hold. The near-elderly Brambell was completely bewildered and didn’t last long in the part.) Turtles bassist Jim Pons was also on hand, though his role was murky. (Both he and Lickert were officially credited as Mothers on the soundtrack album, and both did stints on tour with Zappa later in ’71.)

After six days’ rehearsal with the band and orchestra, shooting occurred from January 28 through February 5, 1971 on two Pinewood sound stages. Zappa directed the performers and played with the band, Elgar Howarth conducted the orchestra, and Palmer directed the four video cameras from a control center in an off-set truck. The music would be performed and recorded live on set, rather than the normal procedure of pre-taping and synching the soundtrack in post-production. Three of the orchestra members wanted nothing to do with the material, and quit after the first day’s rehearsal (maybe they shared a taxi home with Wilfred Brambell). The brief shots of the mostly middle-aged Royal Philharmonic members seen in the final film show them either as very uncomfortable, or as slightly bored-looking professionals getting through a gig they were booked for.

Although I used the term “narrative segments” in an earlier paragraph, there is no narrative as such. The whole thing takes place on a crappy, cardboard-looking set on an obvious sound stage (deliberately built to look like a crappy, cardboard-looking set on an obvious sound stage) representing “Centerville, USA” — a hellish limbo where the Mothers are stuck while on tour. There are some vague themes — the band waiting to get paid by the dictatorial Zappa, getting hassled by rednecks at the local diner, and an overall fixation on genetalia and groupies (both Zappa obsessions). But, really, no sense is to be made from any of it. 

“Within the conceptual framework of this filmic event, nothing really matters,” says Rance Muhammitz. “It is entirely possible for several subjective realities to co-exist. It is possible that all things are a deception of the senses.”

“Right on, Rance,” agrees (former) band member Don Preston. “The functioning of our senses has been spiritually impaired and chemically corrupted by the fake artificial food coloring.”

That bit of dialogue comes in the first eight minutes, and serves as an attempt to excuse the ninety interminable minutes that follow.

Here’s what we’re treated to: A KKK meeting with all the members singing a song called “Penis Dimension.” Keith Moon in drag as “the Hot Nun” trying to be a groupie. An incredibly overlong animated sequence created solely to lambast departed bassist Jeff Simmons. The band members randomly wrestling someone in a vacuum cleaner costume. Fish/lizard people wandering around. Another “nun” in a suit made of cardboard boxes. Dance routines that challenge the definition of both “dance” and “routine.” Did I mention all the stuff about groupies? (Janet Neville-Ferguson performs a number called “Half A Dozen Provocative Squats” — topless, of course — and Pamela Des Barres has a small part as a “rock journalist” in a leather Nazi SS uniform. Zappa always treated symbolism as a sledgehammer.) The whole thing is very meta, with participants addressing the audience and the mostly off-camera Zappa, making inside jokes about other bands and musicians, and commenting on the film’s strangeness.

As stated, the Mothers played themselves. They were joined by several members of the original Mothers line-up, who had all been unceremoniously fired by Zappa back in 1969. No hard feelings, I guess. Original drummer Jimmy Carl Black gives the best “performance” in the film, both as his straightforward, laconic self and as the “Lonesome Cowboy Burt” character. Theodore Bikel as “Rance Muhammitz” serves as a kind of master of ceremonies through the whole thing, but 200 Motels resists all attempts at structure. 

Zappa is only briefly glimpsed on screen during some of the performance sequences. Standing in for him in the other portions of the film is Ringo, playing “Larry the Dwarf,” who is in turn playing “Frank Zappa.” Ringo as “Larry/Frank” (“a very tall dwarf”) sports a Zappa wig and a big Zappa mustache. He pops up from time to time to be interviewed by Rance Muhammitz, or deliver some rambling monologues. Although anyone who’s read candid interviews with any of the Beatles knows their language can be as blunt and colorful as anyone else’s, it is a bit off-putting hearing our beloved Ringo talk explicitly about “fucking” and “scoring pussy.” But remember, he’s playing Frank Zappa. As in The Magic Christian, there is not much to be said regarding Ringo’s performance from a technical standpoint. Once again, he’s basically playing himself — dressed as Zappa. His well-known Liverpool accent is firmly in place. Zappa biographer Barry Miles reported that Ringo was suffering a heavy cold through the brief shoot, and read all of his lines off of cue cards. When Ringo wasn’t playing the role, his place was taken by a stuffed dummy with Zappa’s distinctive features drawn on it. The difference was negligible.

The musical portions are a migraine-inducing dumpster fire of zooms, frenetic edits, flashing lights, and jarring close-ups. The whole production, even the non-musical scenes, are completely slathered in cheesy video effects — solarization, double- and triple-exposures, and false colors. In the words of the Den of Geek website, the video effects are “overbearing, unrelenting, and incomprehensible.” The use of video instead of film as a shooting medium did the production no favors, except for maybe saving a few bucks at the time. The combination of shooting on video, low-tech effects, and the junky sets makes the whole thing look like the world’s most catastrophic 1970s PBS kids’ show. In 21st-century parlance, Zappa and company would say all of these are “features not bugs,” and the film’s look was absolutely intended. But it doesn’t make it any more watchable knowing Zappa wanted it that way.

A couple of typical shots from 200 Motels

Or did he?

Some sources have posited that the original scenario did have a more linear framework, and that the finished product’s complete incoherence comes from Zappa’s inability to manage a film shoot. Approximately a third of the prepared material was never put on video due to schedule overruns. According to the SOTCAA website, the filming had “whole chunks being dropped on a daily basis.” During the editing process, Zappa and Palmer were “throwing such cinematic trifles as ‘narrative’ and ‘plot’ to the four winds, the film’s scenes were re-ordered, split into different sections (often spliced with or overlayed onto others) and generally twisted about a bit – rendering an already odd project decidedly bizarre.” This is why the accompanying soundtrack album has more material — and is in a different order — than what appears in the film. 

Zappa and Palmer, both used to total control, clashed through the entire shoot. Palmer initially wanted his name taken off the project. At the time of its release, he called 200 Motels “one of the worst films in the entire history of the cinema.” Palmer has since mellowed in his opinion, and in recent years has defended the film. He now talks fondly of his time with Zappa, and even did the audio commentary for the 2009 DVD release.

I think Palmer was closer to the mark in his initial opinion.

200 Motels never had much of a general release. It played in some of the bigger cities in the late autumn of 1971, and on the festival circuit. Critical opinion was mostly negative, but it made its money back, and presumably United Artists was happy with their profits off the soundtrack album’s sales, which were steady if unspectacular. Zappa would always be a niche artist. The Guardian summed the film up in two words: “whimsically impenetrable.” 

“It was strange, the Ringo-playing-Frank,” said Ringo. “It was a nice premise and I got to hang out with musicians, which is always good. As far as I was concerned, his music was crazy — but that’s one man’s opinion. He was a lot of fun.”

“I never bother to ask people whether they enjoy working for me,” said Zappa. “But [Ringo] still talks to me, so I guess it wasn’t too bad.”

Full disclosure — I did like a few of the songs (“What Will This Evening Bring Me This Morning” and “Magic Fingers” in particular), and some of the lines made me laugh in spite of my distaste for the film overall.

After his few days’ shooting on 200 Motels, Ringo had a number of things to occupy his time in the spring of 1971. He put in a lot of hours at the Apple offices talking with lawyers regarding the Beatles’ dissolution lawsuit that was winding its way through the London High Court from mid-January through mid-March. He wasn’t present all that often in the actual courtroom, preferring to participate through solicitors’ statements and affidavits. On the lighter side, he threw himself into preparing a promotional push for his single, “It Don’t Come Easy” (recorded the year before, released on April 9), including traveling to the snowy slopes of Norway in late April to shoot a promo film for Top of the Pops. “It Don’t Come Easy” reached #4 on the charts in both the U.S. and U.K. that summer. He also began working on ideas for luxury furniture with designer Robin Cruikshank. Their design company, ROR Ltd. (“Ringo Or Robin”), was incorporated in September and ran successfully though the mid-1980s. ROR’s pieces are now considered valuable collector’s items. There was always the possibility of a solo album, but he decided to hold off in favor of searching for another acting role. 

He got it when his manager Allen Klein’s company, ABKCO, decided to finance a “spaghetti western.” Ringo’s casting in the ABKCO production of Ferdinando Baldi’s Blindman was announced to the press on May 27, 1971. “We’re talking about me being an actor now,” said Ringo. “Not being used for the name like I have been.” (If only that were true.)

Ringo as Candy

Spaghetti westernThe term conjures up images of huge wide shots of barren deserts and bleached-white adobe villages, juxtaposed with sweaty close-ups of cold eyes and twitching trigger fingers. The grimy, desperate characters with dubbed voices occupied a sun-blasted world of moral darkness, where greed and lust (mostly greed) ruled the day, and violence was always the solution to any problem. The surreal, over-the-top soundtracks had long silences, punctuated by hammer cocks as loud as gunshots, and gunshots as loud as cannon fire. In these films we see the rise of the western “anti-hero,” as the protagonists were often just as reprehensible as the purported villains. Spaghetti westerns turned the conventions of traditional American westerns upside-down. 

More properly called western all’italiana (Italian-style western), these films were produced mostly between the mid-1960s and early 1970s by Italian production companies on Italian and Spanish locations, usually on a very modest budget. The desert around Almeria, Spain was a particular favorite, bearing a good resemblance to the American Southwest or northern Mexico. (We’ve already seen this location stand in for the Sahara in John Lennon’s How I Won The War.) They gathered as many affordable American actors as possible to add authenticity. (For the men, anyway. For female roles, the preference was for German, Swedish, or Polish models. Acting ability optional, since their voices would be dubbed.) The non-traditional scores, the best of which were composed by Ennio Morricone, were atonal and atmospheric, featuring twanging guitars and vocalizations reminiscent of coyote yelps or Native American war cries. The western all’italiana genre was a huge influence on modern filmmakers, notably Alex Cox, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tartantino. 

Originally intended for the European market, with its more relaxed approach to content standards, spaghetti westerns upped the violence quotient to a degree that was thought to be unacceptable in the puritanical U.S. — at least initially. When A Fistful of Dollars (1964) was released in the U.S. in 1966, it was a massive hit. It turned Clint Eastwood into a movie star, and opened the floodgates for the spaghetti western in America. (It turns out America can handle screen violence just fine, thanks.) In addition to Eastwood, American actors like Burt Reynolds, Charles Bronson, Anthony Quinn, Rod Steiger, and James Coburn all did stints in spaghetti westerns. Some Hollywood tough guys like the great Lee Van Cleef built the latter part of their careers around them. 

Now it was Ringo’s turn.


Released: January 12, 1972 (U.S.)

Director: Ferdinando Baldi

Producer: Allen Klein, Saul Swimmer, Tony Anthony

Screenwriter: Tony Anthony, Pier Giovanni Anchisi, and Vincenzo Cerami, based on a story by Tony Anthony

Studio: ABKCO Films (distributed by 20th Century-Fox)

Cast: Tony Anthony, Lloyd Battista, Agneta Eckemyr, Ringo Starr, Magna Konopka, Raf Baldassarre, Franz von Treuberg, David Dreyer, Marisa Solinas, Gaetano Scala, Renata Romano, Tito Garcia

Blindman started life as an idea of actor Tony Anthony, who after struggling in small, low-budget independent projects in the U.S., moved to Italy to try his hand at western all’italiana. He became the star of a trilogy of spaghetti westerns that were an imitation of Eastwood’s hugely popular Dollars trilogy. (Where Eastwood played “the Man with No Name,” Anthony played “the Stranger.”) Anthony was also a part-time screenwriter, and friends with filmmaker Saul Swimmer, who in turn was friends with Allen Klein. Klein became Anthony’s business manager (I hope he hid some money in his mattress.) Together, the trio decided to produce a film based on the Japanese Zatoichi film series (1962-73) about a blind samurai. Anthony wrote the story, and collaborated on the script with a couple of Italian screenwriters. Spaghetti westerns liked known names at low prices, so Allen Klein figured this would be a perfect chance for Ringo to continue his acting sideline. (Klein even gave himself an uncredited cameo, as “Fat Gunman.”)  

Production began on Blindman at Cinecitta Studios, Rome, on June 7, 1971. The shooting was scheduled for ten weeks. Ringo began filming his part on June 17, but being an international celebrity, tended to dash off to do other things in the middle of shooting. He flew to Stockholm, Sweden on June 24 to appear on singer Cilla Black’s variety special Cilla in Scandinavia. Location shooting in Spain began in early July, where Ringo gave a lengthy poolside interview to Melody Maker (praising John’s solo album Plastic Ono Band and George’s All Things Must Pass, and trashing Paul’s Ram — the lawsuit-inspired bad blood was still in evidence). He grabbed a flight to New York City to perform in George’s star-studded Concert for Bangladesh, the first epic celebrity charity concert, on August 1 at Madison Square Garden. Production on Blindman wrapped the following week. Upon his return to London, Ringo, aided by Badfinger’s Pete Ham, recorded an original title song for the film at Apple Studios, but it went unused. “Blindman” ended up as the B-side of Ringo’s March 1972 single “Back Off Boogaloo.”

Tony Anthony

Blindman’s title character is indeed quite blind. He is a shady drifter making his way around the border country between Texas and Mexico using his heightened non-visual senses and a well-trained horse. He and a partner, Skunk, have agreed to deliver fifty European mail-order brides to miners in Lost Creek, Texas. Blindman (Tony Anthony) is betrayed by the aptly-named Skunk, who turns the women over to a Mexican gang led by a group of siblings — Domingo, Candy, and the icily sadistic Sweet Mama. Domingo, the brains of the operation, uses the group of alluring young women as bait for a massive ambush of a detachment of the Mexican army. The soldiers are wiped out, Wild Bunch-style, with a Gatling gun, leaving only the general alive. In attempting to recover the women and make good on his contract, Blindman gets caught up in Domingo’s scheme, and finds himself imprisoned along with the general (Raf Baldassarre), who is being held for a very large ransom — the whole point of Domingo’s original plan. They manage to escape, and go their separate ways.

Lloyd Battista

Domingo (Lloyd Battista) is pragmatic, and in his own twisted way, reasonable. The same can’t be said for his brother Candy (Ringo). Candy is a lovesick psychopath obsessed with a blonde “gringo” girl, Pilar (Agneta Eckemyr), living in the village near the gang’s compound. Blindman has enlisted the aid of Pilar’s father in recovering the women, but it isn’t going well. When Pilar’s father becomes the victim of Candy’s blade, she agrees to help lure Candy into a trap set by Blindman, who guns him down. After a truly bizarre set of funeral rites for Candy, there is a long series of retaliatory acts by Domingo (including the killing of several of the captive women), matched by Blindman’s dogged determination to fulfill his contract. Blindman dispatches Sweet Mama (Magna Konopka) in a wrestling match to the death by choking her out with his legs (but not before she sinks her teeth into his crotch). In the end, his efforts aren’t enough. It seems that Domingo has triumphed, and Blindman and Pilar will meet a gruesome fate. The day is saved by the return of the general and a fresh batch of troops, who eliminate the remaining gang members. Domingo is blinded by the general mashing his lit cigar into both eye sockets before being pumped full of lead by Blindman. Blindman bids a fond farewell to the general — who takes advantage of Blindman’s handicap and absconds with the remaining brides even as he’s loudly proclaiming eternal friendship. When informed of the double-cross by Pilar, Blindman resignedly climbs onto his seeing-eye horse and sets off in pursuit. (The door was left open for a possible sequel, but Anthony nixed the idea because he didn’t want to wear the painful “blind”contact lenses ever again.) 

Ringo and Agneta Eckemyr

Blindman is a solid, second-tier entry in the spaghetti western canon. It is beautifully photographed by Riccardo Pallottini, though Ferdinando Baldi’s direction is more workmanlike than inspired. The pacing goes limp in the final third, when it should be building towards a climax. I did really enjoy Tony Anthony’s lead performance (he reminded me a little of Gary Oldman). Anthony was a perfect western all’italiana protagonist — cool, ruthless, always ready with a wry quip, but far from an invincible superhero. He makes mistakes and gets captured a lot. The score is a Morricone knock-off, but effective, and there’s lots of cathartic explosions. Blindman has a pretty free hand with the use of TNT to achieve his goals. The film is definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre. But be warned — like a lot of spaghetti westerns in the early ‘70s, the level of brutal sadism and unrelenting misogyny is off the charts. 

Ringo’s difficulty with dialects rears its ugly head here again. His accent veers between “bad cartoon Mexican” and “indeterminate continental European” and “Liverpool Scouse” with every line. But thanks to some excellent costuming (another element Blindman gets right), a bushy beard and stringy hair, and a good brooding glare, Ringo finally truly inhabits a character — for better and worse. The sight of Ringo smacking around a nude Pilar is definitely more shocking than his potty mouth in 200 Motels, but it firmly establishes him as a genuine villain. His screen time is relatively brief, but he does make an impression.       

The Italian-language version of Blindman premiered in Rome on November 15, 1971, and the heavily-edited (from 105 minutes down to 84 minutes) English version hit U.S. screens on January 12, 1972. (Its British release was delayed by several more months.) Like John Lennon in How I Won The War, the film’s marketing campaign elevated Ringo from the supporting cast to co-star status, putting his name right next to Tony Anthony’s on the poster and in the opening credits, hoping that the presence of a Beatle would boost the box office performance. (If anyone deserved co-star billing, it was Lloyd Battista.) 

Despite the fact that he finally pulled off a somewhat credible non-Beatle acting performance, after Blindman Ringo was not flooded with film offers. He was still skittish about a full-fledged, genuine solo album, although “Back Off Boogaloo” hit #2 on the British singles charts (and a respectable #9 in the U.S.) His first two album releases, Sentimental Journey and Beaucoups of Blues (both 1970) were considered non-serious toss-offs — one a collection of big band standards (“for me Mum,” he said), the other a recorded-in-three-days set of hokey country songs written by a few Nashville hacks dumping their leftovers. At loose ends in early 1972, he began hanging out with (i.e., boozing and hoovering up cocaine with) Harry Nilsson and T. Rex’s Marc Bolan — an association that would pay off cinematically before the year was out, but with Ringo behind the camera.


Filed under Film & TV

2 responses to “Act Naturally: The Films of the Solo Beatles (Part 3)

  1. Mark Joy

    I saw Ringo playing the Pope in Listomania. Do you have any info on that. Movie? It opened for The Song Remains The Same.

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