Widely regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, Paul McCartney has written his fair share of hits, both for his own projects and for others. From Cilla Black to Rod Stewart to Charlotte Gainsbourg, the Beatles legend has generously contributed his talents to other musicians throughout the years. But McCartney also gifted songs closer to home, including one to his bandmate, Ringo Starr.
In 1973, three years after the Beatles broke up, Starr released his third full-length solo effort, the self-titled LP Ringo. The record featured some of his biggest hits as a solo artist, including lead single ‘Photograph’. But the album also included a song penned by McCartney and his wife, Linda, titled ‘Six O’Clock’.
The song pairs bold piano with soft guitar strums and quirky synths as Starr sings about a relationship that is crumbling due to his own failings. He laments: “Every planet in the sky is in your eyes, but I don’t treat you like I should”. The lyric forms a refrain throughout the track, emphasising the themes of regret and yearning. Instrumentally discordant, the track is an optimistic pop ballad which features flutes and strings from McCartney and Linda on backing vocals.
Their collaboration on the track led fans to wonder if a Beatles reunion might be in the works, as Ringo also featured George Harrison and John Lennon. Harrison contributed to the album’s biggest hit ‘Photograph’, which he co-wrote with Starr, while Lennon wrote the opening track ‘I’m the Greatest’.
‘I’m the Greatest’ almost constituted a Beatles reunion, given that the recording of the song included Starr, Harrison, and Lennon. Reflecting on the work, Lennon later told Melody Maker that they were “closer now than we have been for a long time” and even suggested that McCartney might have featured on the track if he had been in Los Angeles.
But the hopes of fans were misplaced, and though they would collaborate in various different formations, all four Beatles would never feature on one track again. Still, Starr and McCartney remain friends and collaborators to this date, and Starr recently shared his thoughts on his ex-bandmate on Smooth Radio, calling McCartney “an incredible musician”.
He recalled: “It’s always fun when we’re playing together. I’ve played on several of his records, mainly in the 90s. People keep saying, ‘Oh, it’s been so long.’ It’s not been that long. We did the Grammys, we did that Beatles show three years ago. So we are still pals, but we don’t live in each other’s pocket.”
Over four decades since he gifted ‘Six O’Clock’ to Starr, McCartney featured on Starr’s 2017 album Give More Love, this time contributing his bass skills to two tracks, ‘Show Me The Way’ and ‘We’re on the Road Again’. Starr explained the collaboration to Rolling Stone: “I just called him up and said ‘I got this song called ‘Show Me the Way and I want you to play on it.’ Because he is a really good friend of mine, he said he’d come to LA for it.”
Though we never got to see a full-fledged Beatles reunion, Ringo brings us as close as we can get, and the collaborations across the album marked a turning point after years of disagreement and legal disputes between the members.
Listen to the song Paul McCartney wrote for Ringo Star, ‘Six O’Clock’, below.