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When Ringo Starr Rejoined the Beatles

Beatles Paul McCartney Ringo Starr John Lennon George Harrison
John Pratt, Keystone/Getty Images

On Aug. 22, 1968, Ringo Starr had enough of his bandmates’ constant bickering. So, he packed up his drumsticks and walked out of the Beatles‘ chaotic recording sessions for their upcoming double album, The Beatles (better known as “The White Album”). And he planned to stay away for good.

As work on the White Album dragged on, Starr found himself playing drums less and less as the individual Beatles labored by themselves in the studio, overdubbing everything from guitar parts to vocals to drums. Which left Starr feeling like the odd man out. So he quit the most famous band in the world, borrowed actor Peter Sellers’ boat and sailed to Sardinia.

“I had definitely left, I couldn’t take it any more,” Ringo Starr said in Anthology. “There was no magic, and the relationships were terrible. I’d come to a bad spot in life. It could have been paranoia, but I just didn’t feel good. I felt like an outsider.”

The Beatles made due without Starr – mostly by having Paul McCartney sit in behind the kit. But after 10 days of this, they wanted their drummer back. So they sent a message basically begging him to return.

“I got a telegram saying, ‘You’re the best rock ‘n’ roll drummer in the world. Come on home, we love you,'” Starr recalled in Anthology. “So, I came back. We all needed that little shake-up.” George Harrison, Starr’s closest pal in the group, arranged to have his drum kit covered in flowers to mark the occasion. “I felt good about myself again,” Starr said. “We’d got through that little crisis and it was great.”

Then the band got back to work on the White Album … and Starr found himself sitting around for the next day, as Harrison worked by himself on a backward solo for “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” “I realized that we were all feeling like outsiders,” Starr said of the turbulent 10 days that could have ended the Beatles in 1968. “It just needed me to go around knocking to bring it to a head.”

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