Ringo Starr in Marylebone

The life and times of superstar and Marylebone resident Ringo Starr

Words: Mark Riddaway
Image: Eva Rinaldi

As 1965 got going, Ringo Starr’s life was in a state of flux. Less than five years previously he’d been playing a three month residency with a band called the Hurricanes at a Butlins holiday camp in Wales. In August 1962, he’d been persuaded to join the Beatles, then a promising little band with a rather dodgy drummer. Now he was one of the most famous men in the world and about to become a father.

Ringo had met Maureen Cox, then a 15-year-old trainee hairdresser, at the Cavern Club in Liverpool and the pair began dating. Three years later, In January 1965, Maureen discovered she was pregnant. To avert a  scandal, Brian Epstein set about arranging a rapid registry office wedding, while Ringo, who was then sharing a flat with George Harrison, started looking for a marital home.   

The drummer alighted upon Marylebone, taking a lease on Flat 1, 34 Montagu Square. Consisting of a ground floor and lower ground floor, it was conveniently located close to Abbey Road studios, and just up the road from Paul McCartney’s lodgings at the Wimpole Street home owned by the family of his girlfriend Jane Asher. 

Big news
The arrival of a Beatle was big news in this quiet residential square. Informed that Ringo and Maureen would soon be moving in, their new neighbour Lord Mancroft told the Associated Press: “We’re a very distinguished square, and I’m sure we’ll welcome such a distinguished gentleman and his lady.”

The welcome wasn’t universally warm. The Swiss Embassy complained that Beatles fans were defacing their back wall with messages meant for Starr. “Our back wall is now very unsightly and we shall have to redecorate,” a spokesman moaned to the The Morning Record in August 1965. “Our chauffeur, who is French and took part in the First World War, says the language some of these young people use is worse than anything he ever heard in the trenches.”

By then, the Starrs were on the verge of ending their short residency. Later that same year, Ringo and Mo joined a general exodus of Beatles from London flats to massive great piles in the Surrey commuter belt. But rather than get rid of the Marylebone property, Ringo started lending it out to his friends.

Drug raid
Paul McCartney set up a small demo studio in the basement where, among other things, he began work on Eleanor Rigby. He was joined by Ian Sommerville, an electronic music pioneer who produced a spoken word recording of William Burroughs in the studio and quietly moved into Ringo’s plush apartment so that he could “be on call”.

In December 1966, Jimi Hendrix moved in with his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham and his manager Chas Chandler. Complaints about the noise—hardly a surprising turn of events—forced them to move out. John Lennon and Yoko Ono arrived in 1968, and were victims of a heavy-handed drug raid that dominated the headlines for weeks. 

In 1969, with the neighbours up in arms about all this crazy rock star nonsense, Ringo gave up being a landlord and sold the lease. His time in Marylebone was short, but the stories it generated were pretty indelible.

Ringo Starr in 2013

 
 
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