John Waite is rarely at a loss for words.
However, when he played with Ringo Starr & His All-Star Band in Phoenix several years ago, he was awestruck.
“I don’t often get speechless, but I was playing away on stage and I looked to the right and there was Ringo,” he said. “To play something on guitar or bass and have him follow you in or vice versa? You have to pinch yourself.”
The show was hard on Waite, but for different reasons.
“I had pneumonia and I was almost dying on stage,” he said. “Ringo was behind the drums laughing at me; I could hardly sing. He liked it when it got interesting.”
The vignette offers insight into Waite’s passion for music, which remains after runs with The Babys and Bad English, as well as a successful solo career.
He returns to the Valley to play Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale on Friday, Aug. 11.
“What’s not to be passionate about?” Waite said. “It’s music. My tastes in music diversified as I got older. I like jazz and just discovered opera – Puccini. It kills me. I still love blues and country, but my tastes as a musician have broadened as I grew up. You hear real wonderful stuff in the most unexpected places.”
Those who say they “live for rock ‘n’ roll” are limiting their abilities, he adds.
“I know how to write a song,” Waite said. “It’s about closing your eyes. There’s not a lot to it. There are only three or four or five chords in rock. With classical, there’s an endless stream of chords and it rarely repeats itself.
“I can listen to it without pulling it apart and knowing how somebody’s done something. It surprises me all the time.
Having said that, you can take three chords and reinvent anything. That’s the wonder of those three chords.”
Derived from the blues, the chords can be turned in any direction.
“How you voice the chords on guitar or piano can have a tremendous effect on them,” Waite explains. “There’s always the possibility of doing something original, which is staggering, if you think about it.”
Speaking of something original, the 64-year-old Waite recently wrapped up recording “Acoustic Anthology,” an unplugged album that revisits his collections from 1995’s “Temple Bar” and onward.
“I also re-recorded ‘Missing You’ and several other songs,” Waite said. “There are six or seven songs that were recut. It’s really an insane acoustic record.”
While his similarly formatted acoustic tour has been a hit, the Talking Stick Resort show will be with a band, or the “full Monty,” as he said. The hit-laden concert will feature deep tracks and a few subtle changes that make the songs different.
“The songs are written to last,” he said. “I didn’t write the songs to reflect what was in vogue at the time. They’re rooted in very simple chord changes where the melody was on top of everything else.
“They were meant to be playable in 20, 30 years. The songs are always engaging and slightly different. It never gets old.”