The entire 10 December 1969 edition of the BBC television arts series Line-Up was devoted to Ringo Starr, whose film The Magic Christian was about to go on general release.
Although the interview was ostensibly to promote the film, it was not mentioned at all in the final cut; nor were any clips featured. Some Beatles music was used, however: Her Majesty, Yellow Submarine and Act Naturally were all part of the soundtrack.
The BBC’s interviewer was one of the programme’s hosts, Tony Bilbow. The footage began with Starr, wearing a fur coat and a badge saying “Sink the Magic Christian”, descending the steps of Apple Corps at 3 Savile Row, London, where he signed an autograph before getting into the back of his silver Mercedes-Benz limousine.
Starr was interviewed in the car and on a rowing boat, rowed by Bilbow and Starr down the Thames. The conversation was not broadcast in sequence, and jumped between the two locations several times.
The subjects of the interview included the new business regime at Apple, under the auspices of Allen Klein. “What we’re really doing now is paying for when we opened it and played about,” Starr said. “Because we used to keep everybody on forever, you know, just because they were like a mate or a pal. They never did the jobs, but we used to keep them on… It’s not a playground anymore.”
Perhaps keen to prove that his thoughts weren’t dominated by business matters, Starr then turned to matters astronomical. He first claimed that there were 50 billion planets in the solar system, before revising the number downwards to just five. He then stated that there must be intelligent life beyond Earth, and that someone in America was building a “time spaceship” to allow interplanetary travel.
On a similarly spacey theme, Starr then called for the decriminalisation of marijuana, saying it is no more dangerous than alcohol. He also wished for a lower voting age, and hoped to see a prime minister who was “black, beautiful and 26”.
Starr explained that he was tired of commuting to London, and planned to move into the city. He then said how his son Zak assumed Beatles fans who visited the Starkey household were there to see him, and that the child didn’t quite understand his father’s fame.
Finally, he said how the experience of acting in Candy had paved the way for bigger roles, and how The Magic Christian was a suitable follow-up (both were based on novels by Terry Southern). Starr said how he liked simple Hollywood storytelling, and how as a child he had yearned to be a cowboy or pirate after seeing them in films.
The edition of Line-Up was broadcast on BBC 2 from 11.07-11.30pm on Wednesday 10 December 1969, the day before the UK première of The Magic Christian.
Also on this day...
- 2011: Paul McCartney live at Lanxess Arena, Köln, Germany
- 1969: The final Beatles Book monthly magazine is published
- 1964: Ringo Starr goes into hospital
- 1963: Live: De Montfort Hall, Leicester
- 1962: Live: Tower Ballroom, New Brighton, Wallasey
- 1962: Live: Memorial Hall, Northwich
- 1961: Live: Tower Ballroom, New Brighton, Wallasey
- 1961: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (lunchtime)
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.