In the age of instant communication, where we can speak face to face with loved ones across the world at whatever time of the day we choose, staying in touch has never been simpler. However, remaining in contact with friends wasn’t always this easy as Ringo Starr’s treasure trove of postcards he received from John Lennon during the 1970s can attest to.
Ringo Starr and John Lennon held a strong bond that was never in doubt and, following the split of The Fab Four, the success that Starr had in his solo career made Lennon immensely happy. The bespectacled Beatle was initially anxious about how the Beatles drummer would fair outside of the band bubble because, on paper, he was not a natural songwriter. The two would stay in close contact even when they were living on different corners of the globe. In the early 2000s, Ringo unearthed a plethora of postcards that he discovered from his old bandmate which sent him on a journey down memory lane and made him miss his late friend immensely.
After discovering their past correspondence, Ringo did his civil duty and released them as a book in 2004 titled Postcards from the Boys. It features reproductions of postcards sent to Starr by the other three members of the Beatles, along with his commentary which ranges from the mid-1960s to the 1990s. The book provides a fascinating insight into the world of The Beatles and the different relationships that Ringo had with his bandmates and his friendship with John Lennon is one that is truly worthy of revisiting.
In one postcard, dated 1979, John Lennon offers advice to Ringo about his solo career, a not in which he tells his longtime friend that ”Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’ is the type of stuff y’all should do. Great and simple.” This shows that Lennon always kept an eye out for his friend even when they weren’t seeing each other all the time, Ringo was still on his mind and he wanted to make sure that his solo career kept going swimmingly.
This lines up with what Lennon said in his final ever TV interview in 1975, a time when he spoke about this pride he had in seeing Ringo succeed. “I’m most happy for Ringo’s success because it always went round that Ringo was dumb but he ain’t dumb,” Lennon said. “He just didn’t have that much writing ability and he wasn’t known for writing his own material.”
Adding: “There was a bit of a worry, although he can make movies and he does make movies and he’s good at it, but how was his recording career gonna be? And in general, it’s probably better than mine actually.”
Another postcard sent from Lennon, dated January 1971, is written on the back off an illustration of Sunset Strip in Hollywood. ”Who’d have thought it would come to this? Love John.” The timing of this is poignant as one month prior, Paul McCartney had filed a lawsuit against the other three Beatles as he sought to officially end The Beatles from a legal standpoint.
A separate John and Yoko postcard in his collection is written on a picture of whales jumping in a tank, which provokes the following comment from Ringo in the book: “I can say this now (if he was here John could tell you) but suddenly we’d be in the middle of a track and John would just start crying or screaming—which freaked us out at the beginning,” he wrote.
“The relationship with the other three, it was always very complicated,” he continued. ”It was always up and down. At the beginning, we were like these four guys in a van, and it was very, very close. And in the end, we ended up like this family and we had, to quote the old show, family feuds.”
While this form of communication can seem alien to the younger generation, and the snail’s pace that it would take to speak with a loved one seems particularly infuriating, but these postcards offered a chance for Ringo to maintain this brotherly, tight-knit bond that he and Lennon had formed while in The Beatles together. The sincerity of the postcards and Starr’s comments that go side-by-side with it demonstrates just how much they truly cared for one other as John tried to guide his career, even a decade after the split of the band.