Ringo Starr, that is, Richard Starkey—still “Ritchie” to his wife and friends—bounded into a room at Los Angeles’s Sunset Marquis Hotel like an aging hippie sprite. Before he parked his lean, slight frame on a couch, he sized me up from behind rock-star shades. In stylish black jacket, fitted jeans, and sneakers, he looked nothing like the 79-year-old grandfather he is. There was a barely perceptible nod. And then: a raised arm, his elbow inches from my face. Ringo’s preferred manner of greeting, apparently, is a wordless elbow bump. And off we went.

He was days away from releasing a new album—What’s My Name, the 20th of his solo career, on October 25—as well as a new book of photographs, since he’s also something of an amateur shutterbug, but we’ll come to all that in time.