09.09.09: It's Beatlemania all over again. At least, it is at my house. And to some degree, here on the _floss "“ we've covered Nine Things You Probably Didn't Know About the Beatles and Nine Women Who Inspired Beatles Songs. And now we bring you 10 people who have some sort of claim to the "Fifth Beatle" nickname. Lots of musicians and friends of the band have been unofficially bestowed the honor over the years "“ here are just a few of them.
1. Stuart Sutcliffe. Poor, tragic Stu. He was the Beatles' original bassist (John Lennon's best friend) back in the very early days when they were going by The Silver Beetles. He wasn't a great bass player "“ his real talent was painting "“ and left the group of his own volition in 1961, and tragically died of an intracranial brain hemorrhage on April 10, 1962, at the very young age of 21. The Beatles paid homage to him by including their first bass player on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. And if you're interested in Sutcliffe and his early role with the Beatles, check out Backbeat, a movie starring Stephen Dorff as Sutcliffe. Paul didn't care for the movie, for the record.
2. Pete Best is probably the man who is most often referred to as the Fifth Beatle. He was the pre-Ringo drummer and was chosen in part because of his drumming skills, sure, but also because he had quite the female following, which Paul McCartney felt would help the group. There have been different stories over the years as to why Best was replaced. George Martin has said that he preferred a stronger drummer to give the rest of the band a good base, and various other members of the extended Beatle family have said that Best just didn't mesh well with the rest of the band on a personal level and refused to conform to the band style. Either way, manager Brian Epstein gave Best the boot, much to the chagrin of female fans who adored the brooding Best. They showed up at concerts chanting "Pete Forever, Ringo Never" and heckled the band throughout their sets.
3. Speaking of Brian Epstein, Paul McCartney once said that if anyone held claim to the Fifth Beatle title, it was Brian, and George Martin concurred. Epstein was the Beatles' manager form 1961 until he died in 1967 and was pretty key in the band's stratospheric rise. He was the glue that held the Beatles together and when he passed away after an accidental drug overdose, John Lennon knew the Fab Four were finished. In a 1970 interview with Rolling Stone, Lennon commented, "I knew that we were in trouble then... I thought, "˜We've [expletive] had it now.'"
4. And 5. Derek Taylor and Neil Aspinall. These nominations for Fifth Beatle came from George Harrison. Derek Taylor was a journalist who gave the Beatles one of their first rave reviews. As a result, he became entrenched in the scene and eventually started writing press releases for the Liverpudlians. When Apple Corps was formed, he was named press officer. Similarly, Aspinall (pictured) started out as a mere road manager with the band, then rose to personal assistant and finally Apple Corps CEO. You can also hear him on a few recordings "“ he played harmonica on "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" and sang in the chorus of "Yellow Submarine."
6. George Martin, who produced a vast majority of the Beatles' recordings, is another member of the Beatles posse who often gets tagged with the Fifth Beatle moniker. But not only did he produce most of their music, he also arranged strings and horns for most of their songs that called for them and wrote the entire instrumental part of the Yellow Submarine album. He also played keys on a couple of songs, including the Baroque-inspired piece in "In My Life."
7. It's the night before the Beatles' Australasian leg of their 1964 tour is supposed to kick off, and Ringo abruptly comes down with acute tonsillitis. What do you do? You call in Jimmy Nicol. Jimmy had drummed on a cover album of Beatles hits and knew all of the songs, so he was a natural fit for the group. He actually wore Ringo's clothes on stage.
8. Eric Clapton contributed his considerable talents on the guitar to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," but the reason he is occasionally referred to as the Fifth Beatle is because of his close friendships with all of the band members, especially George Harrison. In fact, Clapton and Harrison even shared a wife (not at the same time, of course "“ Clapton married Pattie Boyd after she and Harrison divorced).
9. Billy Preston is only one of two artists to ever receive joint-billing with The Beatles "“ the "Get Back" single credits "The Beatles with Billy Preston." John even once suggested that Billy become the Fifth Beatle. Preston played on the Get Back sessions on quite a few occasions, and played during the famous rooftop performance. Post break-up, he appeared on projects by both Ringo and George.
10. Eric Griffiths dates back to even before Stuart Sutcliffe. In the late "˜50s, the group that would be known as the Silver Beetles and then the Beatles were then known as the Blackjacks before evolving into the Quarrymen. When Paul McCartney was invited to join the Quarrymen, and then George Harrison, Griffiths was booted out. Except no one actually told him "“ they just failed to invite him to practices after that. When he eventually called to see when the next practice was, he was informed that he was no longer needed at said practices.
Who do you think is the most-qualified to be the Fifth Beatle?
If you're like me and need to satiate your Beatles fix until you can play the game, here are a few more _floss posts on the Fab Four:
Happy Anniversary, Abbey Road!
Also, More on Abbey Road
Name that Beatles Album
It Was 42 Years Ago Today
With a Little Help from my Floss