Ringo Starr’s Biggest UK Hit Featured a Heavy Dose of George Harrison Guitar
In the darkest days of The Beatles, Ringo Starr could still bring out the best in George Harrison. If you’ve ever watch the documentary Let It Be (1970), you can witness it firsthand when the two take a very early run through his track “Octopus’s Garden.”
At that point, Ringo barely has a sketch of a song. But the same George who looked like he wanted to disappear at another point in Let It Be brightens up at Ringo’s songwriting effort. And he does nothing but encourage Ringo before offering up ideas for a middle section.
George would also back up Ringo in the press. Speaking with the BBC in 1969, George balked when David Wigg suggested “the little kids” will love “Octopus’s Garden.” “Maybe some big kids like it,” George replied. “I’ve heard a few people already who are big kids saying that it’s their favorite track on the album.”
George’s fondness for Ringo didn’t wane as the two friends made their way in the post-Beatles world. And when Ringo landed his biggest solo U.K. hit in 1972, you heard George playing mean slide guitar on the track, which George also produced.
George Harrison produced and played guitar on ‘Back Off Boogaloo’
While Ringo had a taste for soft-rock ballads and country-western music, he takes a sharper approach on “Back Off Boogaloo,” his second single following the Beatles breakup. Following a solo intro by Ringo, the track gets rocking with a riff by George on slide guitar.
From there, Ringo and his backup singers belt out the chorus, after which we get a feel for the song’s message. As many have suggested, the track can easily be interpreted as a swipe at Paul McCartney. “Get yourself together now and give me something tasty,” Ringo sings. “Everything you’ve tried to do, you know it sure sounds wasted.”
Ringo criticized Paul’s early solo albums, and this seems like a continuation of that theme. Given George’s feelings for Paul during this period — and George’s involvement with John Lennon’s takedown address to Paul — it makes sense that George would have produced the track.
But none of that matters as George and Ringo (along with Gary Wright on piano) rock their way through the song. George’s slide solo certainly delivers on the “tasty.” And Ringo’s promotional video featuring him and Frankenstein is a blast. Overall, it’s a triumph in Ringo’s solo catalog.
‘Back Off Boogaloo’ went all the way to No. 2 on the UK charts
You can’t talk about “Back Off Boogaloo” without mentioning Marc Bolan (i.e., T. Rex), a good friend of Ringo’s who was the biggest star on the U.K. music scene the year this track came out (’72). Ringo spoke about using Bolan’s lingo as the inspiration for the title and lyrics.
Meanwhile, you can hear the influence of T. Rex in the hook-heavy music and repetitive structure. Ringo came a long way from his “Octopus’s Garden” on this track, and the record-buying public of the U.K. was quite ready for it. In March ’72, “Back Off Boogaloo” peaked at No. 2 (for two weeks) on the U.K. charts.
While Ringo managed two No. 1 hits in America, this showing for “Back Off Boogaloo” was his biggest success in the U.K. He and George weren’t done working together, either. When Ringo made his smash-hit solo album (Ringo) in ’73, the big U.S. hit (“Photograph”) was another collaboration with George.