Ringo Starr: vocals, drums, percussion
George Harrison: guitar, vocals
Ronnie Wood: guitar, bass guitar, saxophone, keyboards, vocals
Ray Cooper: piano, percussion, vocoder, vocals
Dennis Budimir, Michael Sturgis, Stephen Stills, Laurence Juber, Richie Zito: guitar
Fred Tackett: guitar, banjo
Al Kooper: electric piano, guitar
Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, Harry Nilsson, Lezlee Livrano Pariser: vocals
‘Wrack My Brain’
‘Drumming Is My Madness’
‘Stop And Take The Time To Smell The Roses’
‘You Belong To Me’
‘Sure To Fall’
‘You’ve Got A Nice Way’
‘Back Off Boogaloo’
The album was originally to have been titled Can’t Fight Lightning, and due for release in 1981. However, disagreements with CBS, the US distributors of Starr’s label Portrait, meant that Starr left the label and signed with RCA. The change led to the song ‘Can’t Fight Lightning’ being dropped, and the album renamed.
The cover artwork was designed by John Kosh, with photography by Aaron Rapoport.
The song ‘You Can’t Fight Lightning’, which was recorded during the album sessions, was re-recorded by Starr for 2017’s Give More Love.
In the studio
Stop And Smell The Roses was recorded over several sets of sessions in 1980 and 1981.
The first set took place from 11-21 July 1980 at Super Bear Studios in Bear-Les-Alpes, France. Starr was joined for several days by Paul and Linda McCartney, with whom he recorded four songs: the McCartney-written ‘Private Property’ and ‘Attention’, a cover of Carl Perkins’ ‘Sure To Fall’, and Starr’s own ‘Can’t Fight Lightning’.
Starr and his future wife Barbara Bach flew to Los Angeles on 27 July 1980, and recording continued in Devonshire Sound Studio in Hollywood from 11 August. Among the songs recorded was ‘You’ve Got A Nice Way’, which was written and produced by Stephen Stills.
The sessions relocated to LA’s Cherokee Studios in September 1980. On 23 September Starr was joined by The Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood, who co-wrote and co-produced the song ‘Dead Giveaway’ on 23 September. Starr and Wood also recorded ‘Brandy’ on 25 September, and on 6 November demoed ‘I Don’t Believe You’.
Another collaborator at the Cherokee sessions was Harry Nilsson, who wrote and produced the song ‘Drumming Is My Madness’, which he also produced. Starr and Nilsson also co-wrote ‘Stop And Take The Time To Smell The Roses’.
Having worked with McCartney, Starr wished to collaborate with the other former Beatles. From 19-25 November 1980 he recorded at FPSHOT, George Harrison’s studio at Friar Park, Henley-on-Thames.
Harrison gave Starr the songs ‘Wrack My Brain’ and ‘All Those Years Ago’, and produced a cover version of 1950s ballad ‘You Belong To Me’. Starr was unhappy with the words of ‘All Those Years Ago’, and felt it was recorded in the wrong key; the song was re-recorded by Harrison as a tribute to John Lennon.
Lennon and Starr met in New York City on 26 November 1980. Lennon handed him demos of ‘Nobody Told Me’ and ‘Life Begins At 40’. A studio session was arranged for 14 January 1981, with Lennon due to produce. After the events of 8 December, Starr felt unable to record the songs.
In early December Starr recorded vocals for ‘You Can’t Fight Lightning’ and ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas. The final sessions took place from 14-16 January, and 20 January to 12 February, at Cherokee in LA, during which the songs ‘Dead Giveaway’, ‘Wake Up’, ‘Brandy’, ‘You Belong To Me’, and ‘Wrack My Brain’ were completed.
Mixing concluded at Compass Point on 13 February, with 10 songs chosen for the album, to be called Can’t Fight Lightning. They were ‘Attention’, ‘Private Property’, ‘You’ve Got A Nice Way’, ‘Wake Up’, ‘You Can’t Fight Lightning’, ‘Wrack My Brain’, ‘Dead Giveaway’, ‘Brandy’, ‘You Belong To Me’, and ‘Stop And Take The Time To Smell The Roses’.
Can’t Fight Lightning was due to be released in April 1981, but Starr left the Portrait label following a dispute with their US distributor CBS. Starr instead signed with RCA, and the subsidiary label Boardwalk in the US.
The original album was shelved, and several changes were made. The songs ‘Wake Up’, ‘You Can’t Fight Lightning’, and ‘Brandy’ were replaced with ‘Drumming Is My Madness’, ‘Sure To Fall’, and ‘Back Off Boogaloo’, and the album was retitled Stop And Smell The Roses.
The album was released in the USA on 27 October 1981. The lead single, ‘Wrack My Brain’, was released at the same time, with ‘Drumming Is My Madness’ on the b-side. It peaked at number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Starr’s final US top 40 hit. The album reached number 98.
The single was issued in the UK on 13 November, with the album following a week later. The single and album did not chart in the UK. HMV’s flagship store on London’s Oxford Street sold just 30 copies of Stop And Smell The Roses during the busy Christmas period.
A second single, Paul McCartney’s ‘Private Property’, was released on 13 January 1982, but failed to chart anywhere. Starr was dropped by RCA shortly afterwards.
Stop And Smell The Roses was released on compact disc by US label The Right Stuff on 22 August 1994, along with Old Wave. The former contained six bonus tracks: ‘Wake Up’, ‘Red And Black Blues’, ‘Brandy’, ‘Stop And Take The Time To Smell The Roses’ (Original vocal version), ‘You Can’t Fight Lightning’, and ‘Hand Gun Promos’.