Ringo Starr Described How The Beatles Handled Their Fame Saved Them From Ending Up Like Elvis

It might not be a coincidence that The Beatles found fame once Ringo Starr joined the band. He once said he knew he was no good as a drummer, but very few people shared that opinion. The Fab Four shot to the top of the charts soon after adding Ringo, and they stayed there until breaking up in 1970. Ringo once described how The Beatles handled their fame, which differed from the way Elvis Presley handled his and saved them from ending up like him.

Paul McCartney (from left), Ringo Starr, John Lennon, and George Harrison of The Beatles handled fame differently than Elvis Presley (right).
(l-r) Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, and George Harrison; Elvis Presley | Ron Howard/Redferns; Bettmann/Getty Images

Ringo Starr and The Beatles conquered Europe before taking over the United States

The Beatles maintained a hectic touring schedule in their early days. They crisscrossed England between playing long-term residencies in Hamburg, Germany. The Fab Four cultivated a dedicated fan base in Europe, but Ringo said it took a lucky break to get booked for their career-changing appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.

Theaters and small concert halls gave way to stadiums as The Beatles maintained their rigorous touring schedule. They traveled the world to play live shows and became the biggest band on the planet at the same time as their hit singles and game-changing albums flew up the charts.

The Beatles achieved incredible fame, and Ringo once said the way they handled it was different from Elvis, and it saved them.

Ringo said The Beatles handled fame differently from Elvis, and it saved them

Ringo once revealed he got angry when he met Elvis in person. The King had all but stopped making music to focus on his movie career, and no one close to him seemed to mind all that much. 

Elvis surrounded himself with yes men when he was at the peak of his fame. Ringo said The Beatles, being a quartet, handled their fame differently, as Michael Seth Starr (no relation) writes in With a Little Help:

“We’d get in the car. I’d look over at John and say, ‘Christ. Look at you. You’re a bloody phenomenon!’ And just laugh because it was only him. Elvis went downhill because he seemed to have no friends, just a load of sycophants. Whereas with us, individually, we all went mad, but the other three always brought us back. That’s what saved us. I remember being totally bananas thinking, I am the one, and the other three would look at me and say, ‘Scuse me, what are you doing?’ I remember each of us getting into that state.”

Ringo Starr describes how The Beatles handled their fame by bringing each other back to earth

John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote most of the songs, but Ringo said The Beatles handled fame by reminding each other they were only human. Ringo possessed hall-of-fame talent the other Beatles didn’t, but John, Paul, and George Harrison never let him think he was God’s gift. The Beatles saved themselves from runaway egotism by bringing each other back down to earth.

According to Ringo, Elvis surrounded himself with sycophants who never said anything bad about him. Meanwhile, the members of The Beatles were always there to take each other down a peg with some good-natured ribbing.

The Fab Four achieved a level of fame few other musicians have

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As if the throngs of screaming fans, millions of albums sold, and dozens of hit singles weren’t enough indication, The Beatles’ fame didn’t dim after they broke up.

The quartet entered the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. By 2015, when Ringo got the call, each of them got into the RNR HOF as solo artists. Ringo’s Beatles’ fame after the Sullivan appearance in 1964 was worth $7 million to a lucky group of people, and an auction of his memorabilia brought in close to $10 million in 2015.

Through it all, though, The Beatles handled their fame with a dose of deprecation and ensured they didn’t end up like Elvis.

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