Early in his solo career, Ringo Starr told us that “it don’t come easy,’ but in 1973 and early 1974, he made a nonsense of that title with two American No. 1 singles in precisely nine weeks. Both featured contributions by former Beatles colleagues, and the first, the thoroughly genial ‘Photograph’ — co-written by Ringo with George Harrison — entered the Hot 100 on 6 October 1973.
The two friends had been enjoying a close working relationship in their own names; closer, perhaps, than had even been possible in the final chapters of The Beatles’ time together. Starr had played on Harrison’s 1970 epic All Things Must Pass and 1973’s Living In The Material World, and George more than returned the favour by producing Ringo’s first two big solo hits, ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ and ‘Back Off Boogaloo.’
As the vocalist-drummer made his new album Ringo between March and July of 1973, with producer Richard Perry, Harrison was a frequent visitor to the studio. He played on five tracks on the LP and sang backing vocals on two. He did both on ‘Photograph,’ providing harmony vocals and 12-string guitar on their co-write. The single was released on 24 September, and was just about the hottest thing on American pop radio by the time the album followed on 2 November.
The Ringo album, indeed, was a full Beatles reunion of sorts, in that it also had Paul McCartney playing on two tracks and giving Starr his composition with wife Linda, ‘Six O’Clock.’ The John Lennon song ‘I’m The Greatest’ was also part of the LP, featuring John himself on piano and backing vocals. The truly remarkable guest list on Ringo also included Marc Bolan, Steve Cropper, Harry Nilsson, Martha Reeves, Billy Preston and all of The Band except for Richard Manuel.
The line-up on ‘Photograph’ was particularly stellar, also featuring the ever in-demand Bobby Keys on tenor saxophone, Nicky Hopkins on piano, Klaus Voormann on bass and Jim Keltner on drums. Jack Nitzsche supplied the orchestral and choral arrangements. The single entered the Hot 100 at No. 74, and was in the top 20 three weeks later; by 24 November, it was succeeding Eddie Kendricks’ ‘Keep On Truckin” at No. 1.
In no time, Ringo was offering up a second chart-topper in the form of his cover of Johnny Burnette’s 1960 hit ‘You’re Sixteen,’ featuring Paul on kazoo, no less. The album went gold in the UK and platinum in the US, as Starr’s memorable 1973-74 season continued.
‘Photograph’ is on the Ringo album, which can be bought here.