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(Credit: Bent Rej/Danny Fields/Far Out)

Music

The classic Ringo Starr song inspired by Marc Bolan

Ringo Starr was far more successful a solo artist than wisecracks, and ill-informed jokes may lead you to believe. Certainly the most affable of the Fab Four, Starr’s jovial nature often belied the artist who hid behind the warming smile. However, a dip into his catalogue both as a singer-songwriter and actor showcases just how talented he is.

Within The Beatles, Starr was never given the opportunity to write his own songs, bar his Peter Sellers-inspired masterpiece ‘Octopus’ Garden’. However, when he finally came out from the shadow of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, he flourished and climbed the charts. One song, however, wasn’t inspired by The Beatles or sea creatures but by a wholly unique animal: Marc Bolan.

‘Back Off Boogaloo’ was written with a helping hand from one of Ringo Starr’s friends, and, in fairness, that’s what a lot of other bands and artists did too. It just so happens that the drummer’s friend was former Beatles guitarist George Harrison. The track has also been thought of as an attack on Paul Mccartney, which may have been why Harrison signed on so easily. The ‘Quiet Beatle’ produced the song and offered some unique guitar playing. “I was great at writing two verses and a chorus – I’m still pretty good at that. Finishing songs is not my forte,” Starr told Time Out in 2003. “I started writing ‘Back Off Boogaloo,’ then took it to George to help finish off.”

The track was released at the height of glam rock and is a no holds barred rocker. The song broke the top ten charts on both sides of the pond and was inspired by Ringo Starr’s other friend, Marc Bolan, and his 1972 concert film Born to Boogie. Starr had helmed the production and was clearly enamoured with not only the starry-eyed singer but the whole glam rock movement, allowing the glittered riffs to run through his own contribution.

Speaking to Dave Stewart as part of Off The Record in 2008, Starr explained the connection between the song and Bolan: “Marc Bolan, he was a really good friend of mine and actually I wrote ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ because of him.”

“He spoke like that: ‘Oh, back off Ringo’ or ‘Boogaloo’,” the drummer continued. “So anyway, I became friends with him and he came to dinner one night. He was talking ‘Back Off’, ‘Boogaloo’ so I went to bed and you know there’s that zone just before you go off and I could hear (In his mind almost sleeping) ‘Back Off Boogaloo… I said… Back Off Boogaloo’.”

“I said ‘Oh God, I’m getting a song here’,” Starr exclaimed. Considering his own ability to reel off song titles without a second thought, the drummer knew that a track’s inception could come at any time. “I’ve got out of bed and ran downstairs because I have no memory, I had none then and have not now. I was looking for the tape to put it on. The drag was that it was turned into ‘Mack the Knife’. Anyway, I had to (steal) one of the batteries of the kids’ toys to record the tape.” Thankfully, he nailed it. But their relationship didn’t end there, only being tragically cut short by Bolan’s untimely death.

They were such friends that Starr even helped to induct T. Rex into Rock Hall, with a special moment taken to remember the talented man at the centre of the group, Marc Bolan. “People knew him as a great musician, a songwriter, a guitarist, but he was also a poet, and he was very proud of that,” Starr said. “In fact, his poetry was as important to him as his music. He had great style and was really unlike anyone else I have ever met.”

Listen to Ringo Starr’s ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ below.