The album contains 12 pre-rock ‘n’ roll songs that Starr knew from his Liverpool childhood. Starr had originally considered making a country album, an ambition he realised with Beaucoups Of Blues later in 1970.
Sentimental Journey was after the break-up, really, and I was lost for a while. That’s well-documented. Suddenly the gig’s finished that I’d been really involved in for eight years. ‘H-oh, what’ll I do now?’ And I just thought of all those songs that I was brought up with, all the parties we’d had in Liverpool at our house and all the neighbours’ houses. Songs my uncles and aunties sang, songs my stepfather sang. So I called George Martin and said, ‘Why don’t we take a sentimental journey?’ You see, it got me on my feet again, that was the good thing about that album. It started me to move. We had Quincy Jones and all these great arrangers, but if it did nothing else it got me off my bum, back into recording. Then I started to write again, and I did ‘It Don’t Come Easy’, ‘Back Off Boogaloo’, tracks that George Harrison co-wrote with me. Because I’m great at two verses and a chorus, but ending songs is difficult for me.
Mojo, July 2001
Starr sang on each of the songs, with backing by The George Martin Orchestra. Billy Preston played piano on ‘I’m A Fool To Care’ and organ on ‘Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing’, and John Dankworth added saxophone to ‘You Always Hurt The One You Love’.
Each of the songs was arranged by a friend or associate of Starr:
The recording sessions took place between 27 October 1969 and 6 March 1970. Additional songs recorded for the album included ‘Autumn Leaves’, ‘I’ll Be Looking At The Moon’, and ‘Stormy Weather’.
The long gestation period was due to Starr’s other projects, which included acting in The Magic Christian, the final Beatles activities, and performing at sessions for George Harrison, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, and Doris Troy.
The front cover of Sentimental Journey showed the Empress pub, which stood on High Park Street, Liverpool, a stone’s throw from Starr’s birthplace at 9 Madryn Street.
The photography was by Richard Polak. The cover image features superimposed images of Starr’s relatives at the windows, and Starr himself in the doorway.
The album was first announced in December 1969, when it was given the title Ringo Stardust.
The release date was a subject of internal wrangling within Apple Corps. Paul McCartney refused to push back the release of his debut album McCartney to make way for Sentimental Journey and The Beatles’ Let It Be.
Apple was planning to release Let It Be on 24 April, and push back McCartney from 10 April to 4 June. Let It Be had been brought forward by Allen Klein to coincide with the premiere of the film, and they knew that having two Beatles-related albums in quick succession would hurt sales.
Since Let It Be was a group project with various multimedia elements, and McCartney was a relatively straightforward album release, the Beatles album took precedent. John Lennon wrote to EMI, saying: “We have arrived at the conclusion that it would not be in the best interests of this company for the record to be released on that date.”
Lennon and George Harrison then wrote to McCartney informing him of their decision.
Dear Paul, We thought a lot about yours and the Beatles LPs – and decided it’s stupid for Apple to put out two big albums within 7 days of each other (also there’s Ringo’s and Hey Jude) – so we sent a letter to EMI telling them to hold your release date til June 4th (there’s a big Apple-Capitol convention in Hawaii then). We thought you’d come round when you realized that the Beatles album was coming out on April 24th. We’re sorry it turned out like this – it’s nothing personal. Love John & George. Hare Krishna. A Mantra a Day Keeps MAYA! Away.
The letter was sealed in an envelope marked “From Us, To You”, and left at Apple’s reception for a messenger to deliver to McCartney’s home at 7 Cavendish Avenue. However, on 31 March 1970 Starr agreed to take it round in person. “I didn’t think it fair some office lad should take something like that round,” he reasoned.
The contents of the letter left McCartney furious, and Starr received the full brunt of his anger.
Ringo came to see me. He was sent, I believe – being mild mannered, the nice guy – by the others, because of the dispute. So Ringo arrived at the house, and I must say I gave him a bit of verbal. I said: ‘You guys are just messing me around.’ He said: ‘No, well, on behalf of the board and on behalf of The Beatles and so and so, we think you should do this,’ etc. And I was just fed up with that. It was the only time I ever told anyone to GET OUT! It was fairly hostile. But things had got like that by this time. It hadn’t actually come to blows, but it was near enough.
Unfortunately it was Ringo. I mean, he was probably the least to blame of any of them, but he was the fall guy who got sent round to ask me to change the date – and he probably thought: ‘Well, Paul will do it,’ but he met a different character, because now I was definitely boycotting Apple.
A promotional film was made for the title track, which was directed by Neil Aspinall. Filmed at the Talk Of The Town nightclub on 15 March 1970, it featured Starr singing live over the studio recording, with George Martin conducting the Talk Of The Town Orchestra. Doris Troy, Madeline Bell, and Marsha Hunt appeared as backing vocals.
The album reached number seven on the UK albums chart, and number 22 on the US Billboard Top LPs chart. In America it also reached numbers 20 and 21 on the Record World and Cash Box charts respectively, and sold 500,000 copies in its first two weeks.
A remastered version of Sentimental Journey was released on compact disc on 1 May 1995 in the UK, and 15 August in the US.