- Timeline See what happened in November 1981
- UK release date:
- Nov 20, 1981
- US release date:
- Oct 27, 1981
- Sessions This album has been recorded during the following sessions
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Wrack My Brain
2:21 • Studio version
Drumming Is My Madness
3:29 • Studio version
Stop and Take the Time to Smell the Roses
3:08 • Studio version
4:28 • Studio version
You Belong to Me
2:09 • Studio version
You've Got a Nice Way
3:33 • Studio version
Back Off Boogaloo
3:16 • Studio version
3:45 • Studio version
Red and Black Blues
3:20 • Studio version
4:08 • Studio version
Stop and Take the Time to Smell the Roses
3:09 • Studio version
Hand Gun Promos
2:03 • Studio version
Stop and Smell the Roses is the eighth studio album by Ringo Starr, released in 1981 following the twin commercial disasters of Ringo the 4th (1977) and Bad Boy (1978). It includes the hit single “Wrack My Brain“, written and produced by George Harrison, in addition to contributions from Paul McCartney, Harry Nilsson, Ronnie Wood and Stephen Stills.
Background and recording
While visiting John Lennon at his Dakota apartment, Starr was given a demo of “Life Begins at 40” by Lennon. Lennon wrote the song specifically for Starr, and wanted him to record it for his next album. Soon after meeting soon-to-be second wife Barbara Bach on the film set of Caveman in early 1980, Ringo Starr met fellow former-Beatle Paul McCartney, and his wife, Linda, at a hotel while they had earlier visited the 33rd annual Cannes Film Festival, on 16 May. Starr asked McCartney whether he would like to play on and possibly produce Starr’s next album, to which McCartney agreed. Starr started sessions in France for a new album, at this point titled Can’t Fight Lightning, on 11 July, at Super Bear Studios, lasting until 21 July. With Wings then in limbo and McCartney II just released, McCartney booked time with Starr to record three songs: “Private Property” and “Attention” (both McCartney originals) plus a cover of “Sure to Fall“. They also recorded the song “You Can’t Fight Lightning“, which Starr wrote after he and Bach were nearly stuck by lightning. Following on from a brief holiday, Starr and Bach flew to Los Angeles on 27 July. Recording moved to Devonshire Sound Studio in Hollywood on 11 August.
Next Stephen Stills got involved, writing “You’ve Got a Nice Way” for Starr and producing its recording that August. On 4 September the recording session moved again, this time to Cherokee Studios. Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones was keen to help out and brought with him the song “Dead Giveaway” on 23 September, which they co-produced. Two days later on the 25th, the pair taped the track “Brandy“. Starr recorded alone on 27 September. On 6 November Starr and Wood demoed the song “I Don’t Believe You“. Long-time friend Harry Nilsson was next on Starr’s checklist, presenting him with “Drumming Is My Madness” as well as the album’s title track, both of which were recorded in early November, with early December sessions completing the work of the cork. Before returning home to England, Starr planned for another session to be held at the studio on 14 January. After working with McCartney, Starr also felt it appropriate to extend the invitation to his two other band mates in The Beatles; Upon his return to his Tittenhurst Park residence on 10 November, Starr phoned George Harrison, inviting him to appear on the album. When Starr arrived at Harrison’s Friar Park estate on 19 November, Harrison presented him with “Wrack My Brain“, which he had composed for Starr.
“You Belong to Me“, another cover from the past, was recorded, with Harrison producing. Starr also recorded a version of “All Those Years Ago“, but Starr told Harrison the vocal was too high for his range and he didn’t like the words. Lennon was the last of the former-Beatles that Starr had yet to visit and – fresh from his musical re-awakening, having just released Double Fantasy – Lennon was eager to meet with Starr. On 26 November, in New York City, Lennon handed Starr the demos for “Nobody Told Me“. With Lennon producing, they set a date, the one Starr had originally booked, for 14 January 1981 to record the song. Starr and Bach flew from New York to Los Angeles, on 28 November. Back in Hollywood two days later, Starr, Nilsson and engineer Paul Travis listened to playbacks of the July sessions at Compass Point Studios. On 1 December, Starr laid down vocals for “You Can’t Fight Lightning“. For the next two days, Starr and Jarvis mixed the album. On 4 December, Starr added vocals to a re-make of “Back Off Boogaloo“. The next day Starr flew to the Bahamas to be with Bach. On 8 December, Lennon was gunned down outside The Dakota by Mark David Chapman. After a period of mourning, Starr returned to the studio on 14 January 1981. Harrison took the “All Those Years Ago” track, changed some of the lyrics and, with overdubs by Paul and Linda McCartney, it was released as a tribute to Lennon.
Starr, with Wood recorded for 3 days from the 14th, at Cherokee Studios, with further final batch of sessions taking place from 20 January until 12 February. During this time, the tracks “Dead Giveaway“, “Wake Up“, “Brandy“, “You Belong to Me” and “Wrack My Brain” were finished. On 13 February, final mixes of the tracks were made at Compass Point Studios and ten tracks were chosen for release on the album.
Release and aftermath
In April 1981, Starr left record label Portrait due to a disagreement with its distributor, CBS, who was due to release the Can’t Fight Lightning version of the album. Starr would eventually sign to RCA Records (and a subsidiary called Boardwalk in the US), for a multi-album deal. At the Egham Aerodrome in Surrey, on 16 and 17 September, Starr filmed promo videos for the tracks “Wrack My Brain” and “Stop and Take the Time to Smell the Roses“, both of which were directed by Keef & Co. On 18 September interior filming in London took place for “Wrack My Brain“. The next day the promo for was edited for airing on TV. Over a month later, from 26 October until 12 December, Starr gave several interviews to help promote the album. Two days later, he appeared in a radio interview for WBEN, again, to promote the album. Harrison’s “Wrack My Brain“, backed with “Drumming Is My Madness“, was the first single, released on 27 October, the same day as the album in the US by Boardwalk. In the UK, the single was released on 13 November by RCA. While it missed the UK charts, it managed to give Starr his final US Top 40 hit, reaching number 38.
With a re-sequenced running order and design change, the album was rechristened Stop and Smell the Roses, after Nilsson’s donated song. The album was released in the UK on 20 November. Another radio interview to promote the album was held on 2 December, by Capitol Radio in Los Angeles. Stop and Smell the Roses reached no further than number 98 in the US. On 31 December, the HMV store in London announced that despite the busy Christmas period, only 30 copies of the album had been sold with the store. On 13 January 1982, McCartney’s “Private Property” was released as the second single, backed with “Stop and Take the Time to Smell the Roses“, in the US, but failed to chart anywhere. Nonplussed, RCA dropped Starr in 1982. For the first time in his career, Starr was out of a recording contract—–and this time, no major UK or US company would be willing to sign him. On 12 December 1982, the “Wrack My Brain” promo aired on Parkinson. Stop and Smell the Roses was reissued on CD, on the same day as Old Wave, in the US by The Right Stuff on 22 August 1994 with bonus tracks. “Wrack My Brain” was re-released, this time on red vinyl, with “Private Property” as the B-side, on The Right Stuff on 1 November. A promotional CD was released in 1994 by Capitol, featuring three songs from both Old Wave (1983) and Stop and Smell the Roses.
Laurence Juber, in interview with DAYTRIPPIN’ BEATLES MAGAZINE, August 9, 2010:
Daytrippin’: In July 1980 you recorded “Private Property” and “Attention” with Paul and Linda McCartney for Ringo Starr’s Stop and Smell the Roses. What was it like watching Paul and Ringo interact and work together?
Juber: Simply amazing. The fact that I’m sitting there in the studio watching Paul and Ringo work and I say to myself, “Wow, there’s half of the Beatles. How cool is this?” They had a sixth sense about each other and where to go musically. It was magical to watch the two interact. We also did “Sure to Fall” and Linda’s tune “Love’s Full Glory” that ended up on Wide Prairie.
Last updated on November 25, 2018