Ringo Starr, Postcards From the Boys (Chronicle/Raincoast Books, 2004)

If you grew up when I did The Beatles were it. They were the bomb, or whatever else you want to call them. Their music and their image changed the face of the world. They made youth important. If you didn't live through it...you can never really get it. The Beatles are still featured regularly on music magazines, and every time there are letters from younger readers complaining about MORE coverage that could have gone to other deserving talents. They don't get it. Much of what they like about modern music found its beginnings in the recordings of the Fab Four. There is a HUGE market in Beatles' books. Biographies, discographies, day-by-day accounts, song by song records, memories, theories, you name it. John Lennon wrote his funny little poems and tales, Paul McCartney has published poems and artwork, George Harrison issued a volume of reminiscences and lyrics, and together they released The Anthology...but Ringo hasn't said much.

Postcards From the Boys is Ringo's offering. It's a collection of postcards received by Ringo (and his family) from...The Boys. John, Paul and George kept in touch by sending postcards from wherever in the world they happened to be. The charm of the collection is that the Four were inveterate postcard buyers and carried them in their luggage so...the picture on the front might not match the stamp on the back. They might buy a card in Scotland and send it from Hawaii, then send the Hawaiian cards from LA, and so on. The book began life as a limited edition, highly expensive boxed volume with individual duplicates of each card held in place by photo corners. Ringo supplied notes about each card. And he signed and numbered each book. It was packaged in a replica of a postbox. Very neat, but very expensive.

This is the popular edition. Affordable, not quite as nifty...but still an entertaining book for an afternoon's read. The cover features a lenticular phot of the three young Beatles, grinning their toothy grins, in pink shirts, button down collars and ties. Cute. Tip the book and there's Ringo, older, wiser, in his garden flashing the V-sign. It's fun to play with. Inside...the postcards are reproduced on slick paper, life-size, front on one side and back on the facing page. The greetings range from incomprehensible inside jokes to nothing. Simply a drawing or a squiggle. Ringo's notes attempt to describe the meaning. His memory is not perfect but his notes are charming.

"John had Julian and I had Zal so we'd try and do the fatherly things," he says as he describes a walk in Liverpool. He talks about buying fireworks for the kids, that the parents enjoyed even more because "[they'd] smoked a lot of herbalized stuff." Mal Evans, Victor Spinetti, Derek Taylor, all the familiar names are there, and all the places we've read about. A postcard to Ringo from the Maharishi's in India describes Paul's, George's and John's varied success with meditation. Ringo and wife Maureen had to leave early...as Ringo ran out of his supply of baked beans. Every picture has a story. Every story is trivial...but fascinating and the sum of all these trivialities is a closer look at a long partenership, and a longer friendship that existed between four British blokes.

Okay...I wish I could have afforded the deluxe edition. If my wife's reading...you can still order it for me for Christmas! But for right now, I am really enjoying browsing through this delightful collection of ephemera. It's a stroll through a private archive. A look into a rarified world. Intimate, and wonderful. And only $25!

[David Kidney]