By STEVE SEYMOUR
On his 1978 "Bad Boy" long player, Ringo Starr sang a melancholy tune called "Heart on My Sleeve."
Now, taking a cue from the ex-Beatle, fashionable fans can actually wear his latest album on their wrists.
That's right. Starr's new "Liverpool 8" is available as a conventional compact disc, digital download and as a USB wristband.
If you're not technically savvy, USB stands for Universal Serial Bus and allows peripherals to be connected to your PC by way of a small slot on the side or back of your computer.
Plugging-in Starr's pre-loaded wristband, you get his new studio album in MP3 format, a behind the scenes interview video, and track-by-track commentary from the artist. The data storage device also includes a pair of ringtunes, biography and a series of photographs.
To play, the wristband is simply unfastened and inserted into the USB socket. With the "drag and drop" function, the data is transferred to the computer or vice versa.
While Capitol Records is aggressively promoting the new format, it may also be turning customers off with a warning on the package which reads: "This product is sold as is, without any warranties. You bear the entire risk as to the quality and performance of this product; if this product is defective or results in damage to your property, you assume the entire cost of repair. To the extent permitted by law, Capitol Records, Inc., its affiliates, distributors, and retailers will have no liability for monetary relief; your only recourse is to return the product within 30 days of purchase."
If customers aren't scared off my that, they'll open the package to find a reusable wristband consisting of a rubber molding shell with a friction fit locking band. The user gets a durable product offering an extremely portable way to transport music, videos, photos and other data.
That his record label is promoting 67-year-old Starr's latest project with this emerging technology demonstrates how eager the industry is to find a way to appeal to customers when downloading music has become the norm.
The record industry first put its big-toe into the USB pool just last June when a 30th anniversary edition of Bob Marley's reggae classic, "Exodus," was released as a USB stick. The release contained the album's original ten tracks, videos from Marley's live performances at London's Rainbow Theater and computer wallpaper featuring Marley's image. Some 4,000 copies were manufactured for folks who paid $45 to join the Bob Marley Passport Fan Club.
Rock band Matchbox Twenty pushed the envelope last October by issuing "Exile on Mainstream" as a USB wristband, available only at Best Buy stores. Fans who purchased the computer device received the 17-track greatest hits album, two videos, and a digital booklet containing album art. The rockers, headed by lead singer Rob Thomas, will sell wristbands with live concert recordings when the band is on tour this year.
But, Matchbox Twenty has nothing on country superstar Willie Nelson who has been using the concept extensively. Audience members who attend the singer's concerts can buy USB wristbands of the show they've just witnessed when they leave the event. Fans can experience or re-live the show on computer, copy it to compact disc, or upload it to an iPod or MP3 compatible device.
The country legend's wristbands were promoted for a July 4, 2007 Independence Day show and other dates at the price of $25 each. Concerts from 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2006 are also available.
All Access Today, a company based in Austin, Texas, is in talks with the major record labels to issue additional USB wristbands and develop the format beyond the realm of a mere novelty or promotional item. Company spokesman Jake Crownover predicted that 15 to 20 acts will be selling wristbands during this summer's concert season.
Ringo Starr Wristband
Since it was just released last week, it's too early to tell if the wristband version of Starr's "Liverpool 8" will be successful. Because so few titles have been issued in the USB format, sales comparisons may be difficult.
Folks I've shown the one-size-fits-all wristband were intrigued by the concept and surprised by the amount of extra content.
The album itself contains 12 new tracks written and produced by Starr and Dave Stewart, the male half of the Eurythmics, the synth/pop duo which included Annie Lennox and recorded a string of hits in the 1980s topped by "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)."
Stewart brings a fresh approach, evident on the title track, to Starr's 14th studio album. Since last August, the former Mop Top has also released a long overdue 20-track greatest hits package, "Photograph," and a pleasing live album with his studio band, the Roundheads, called "Soundstage." The appealing "Liverpool 8" completes the affable drummer's hat-trick.
With that in mind, I have to plug a certain USB wristband album into my computer.