Monday, May 19, 2014

When We Was Fab: The 10 Best Fifth Beatles

They were the Beatles. There was John, Paul, George, and Ringo, and then there was that rotating fifth member of the Fab Four. Never an official member of the band, but always there somewhere. Dozens of people have been called the Fifth Beatle throughout the years. From former band mates to managers, producers, fellow musicians, and even a wife or two, have been called the Fifth Beatle. Hell, there was even a deejay who was dubbed the Fifth Beatle, by George Harrison, but more on him a little later. Anyhoo, we should probably get on with this super-stuffed list. Wait, what? Yup, that's right folks, this list - this top ten list - actually has fifteen members. So, without further ado, let's get on with our countdown.

And awaaaaaaay we go...

Special Mention: Clarence Walker

In a 1983 episode of Saturday Night Live, Eddie Murphy played a character name Clarence Walker, a man who claimed to be the one true Fifth Beatle. This obvious fictionalized Fifth Beatle (and he sure ain't no Rutle, dammit!) may not get this guy onto the list proper, but it sure is enough to get him a special mention, so here he is. Now let's get on with the countdown...

10. Neil Aspinall, Mal Evans, Derek Taylor

I am guessing that only the die hard Beatles fans know who these three guys are. For those non die hards in the audience, they were the band's personal assistant, road manager, and press agent, respectively. Aspinall, who went from road manager to personal assistant, was actually a school chum of Paul and George. Mal Evans, who took over as road manager when Aspinall was promoted to P.A., would eventually go onto become a record producer. He produced, among others, Badfinger, a band put together by Paul McCartney. Meanwhile, Taylor would go on to become a big wig at Apple Records. So yeah, these guys were important.

9. Jimmie Nicol

Ringo has always been a rather sickly boy. Both as a child and as an adult. He even had to leave India early during the band's rather famous visit to the sub-continent before making The White Album, all due to getting sick on the food. Poor guy. Anyway, during the band's first world tour, Ringo got sick and had to be temporarily replaced (on the European leg of the tour) as drummer. That temporary replacement was a chap named Jimmie Nicol. He's the guy on the right. Apparently the other three guys were not all that happy. As the stories go, John and Paul were pleasant enough to the guy, but George was downright mean to the poor hapless schmuck. Ringo (obviously) eventually rejoined the tour, and Nicol was sent on his way with 500 quid and a nice gold watch. Good riddance, buddy.

8. Tony Sheridan

Tony Sheridan was a relatively big name in music back in the early sixties. Relatively. He would tour Europe with rotating back-up bands. One of these band's was (of course) The Beatles. In 1962, he put out an album (released just in Germany at the time) under the name Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers. Apparently the name Beatles was too close to the German slang word for penis, so it was changed to The Beat Brothers. The album consisted of standards and classics mostly. I used to own the cassette tape - remember those? I suppose I don't have to tell you that The Beat, The Beatles, eventually outshone Mr. Sheridan, but his contribution the band's success should not be forgotten.

7. Eric Clapton

When George was laying down tracks for While My Guitar Gently Weeps, he thought his single solo guitar sounded a bit weak. So, he called in pal Eric Clapton to beef it all up. Clapton and Harrison would stay BFF's until the day George left us - even through Clapton marrying George's ex, Pattie Boyd. Ya know the song Layla? Yeah, that's about Pattie Boyd. So is Wonderful Tonight. George did attend the wedding though. I mean, what could he say? The reason Pattie left him in the first place, was because he was sleeping with Ringo's first wife, Maureen. Yeah, what a tangled web indeed. Anyhoo, Clapton would go on to become one of the few people to record with all four former Beatles on their solo projects.

6. Murray the K

As the story goes, either George or Ringo (no one is really sure which) had jokingly dubbed this New York DJ, The Fifth Beatle, most likely due to their many interviews with the guy (he was the first DJ to interview the band after they arrived in the states in February of '64). Murray would take it further by being one of the few people who actually promoted himself as such. He would call himself The Fifth Beatle in a lot of his radio promotion gigs. Not bad work, if you can get it.

5. Billy Preston

 Apart from the aforementioned Tony Sheridan, Billy Preston is the only musician to officially get billing on a Beatles Album - and since Sheridan's billing was because he was the bigger name at the time, that means Billy Preston is the only musician to be willingly given credit on a Beatles album. In case you were curious, it was on the song Get Back where it is credited as The Beatles with Billy Preston. Hell, not even Clapton got past a mention in the liner notes of The White Album, right there with the studio musicians. So take that Slowhand! Of course, Billy Preston (as far as we know) never got to sleep with Pattie Boyd, so let's just call it even, and leave it at that.

4. Stu Sutcliffe, Pete Best, Klaus Voorman

It has always been John, Paul, and George, but as any self-respecting Beatles fan knows, Ringo came along later. The original drummer for the band was Pete Best. Supposedly, John and Paul didn't like that Pete got all the girls, so dumped him for another Liverpudlian drummer by the name of Richie Starkey. That guy wore a lot of rings. Best would later go on to record albums and go on tour as Best of the Beatles. Ha! Stuart Sutcliffe was a good friend of John's, and would travel with the band, supposedly playing stand up bass. He really wasn't all that good at it, and mostly faked playing. John just liked having his bestie around. Stu would eventually quit the group to go back to art school, but later he would tragically die of a brain aneurism, stemming from getting beat up by some Teddy Boys in Hamburg in his Beatles days. Then you have Klaus Voorman.Klaus played bass guitar for the band during their Hamburg days, and stayed friends with the band throughout their career. Hell, he was even briefly thought of as a replacement for Paul, when McCartney announced he was quitting. Obviously this never happened, as the other three band mates decided to call it quits as well. Voorman would later go on to play on pretty much every solo album released by Lennon, Harrison, and Starr. Apparently, Paul still had some hard feelings.

3. Yoko Ono

Here's the spot that is going to piss some people off. Well, too fucking bad. I like Yoko. Hell, I love Yoko! So there!! That's right all you Yoko Ono haters out there. She did not break up The Beatles. They did that themselves. What Yoko Ono did do, was love John Lennon, and influence his music and his songwriting. In fact, she became the biggest influence on Lennon's work, and the band's final few albums show that influence. Granted, the other members of the band may have been bothered by this new interloper, but they all came to actually respect the woman. She and Paul are good friends now. So there!

2. George Martin

Sure, The Beatles were great songwriters, and top notch musicians, but the man who put all that together and made it sound the way it sounded on their records, was George Martin, record producer extraordinaire - and this is why he is one of the most important of all those people who have been given the moniker of The Fifth Beatle. Martin was the one who turned all those great songs into the hit records we all know and love so much to this very day. Not to mention his orchestrations and brilliance at putting such disparate types of music together. Oh, and he was an impeccable dresser as well. But now, let us move on to the number one Fifth Beatle...

1. Brian Epstein

No matter how talented The Beatles were, that talent could have very easily gone unnoticed if it were not for a certain music entrepreneur from Liverpool, England. Epstein was the man who transformed this rag tag band into the superstars we know and love. Multiple record companies passed on the band, but Epstein never gave up, and finally got them a record deal. Giving them their trademark mop tops, and the suits they wore at the beginning of their fame, Epstein is, pure and simple, the number one reason that we even know who The Beatles are today. So important was Epstein's contribution in making The Beatles, The Beatles, his death in 1967, was truly the beginning of the end for the band. There was even a 2013 graphic novel about Epstein, called appropriately enough, The Fifth Beatle. The movie version begins filming later this year. Paul, when asked to summarize the importance of Epstein, said, "If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was Brian." Ya can't argue with that.

That's it gang. Se ya 'round the web.


  1. Hm. If "Beatles" was too close to German slang for penis, how did they handle that when the group achieved its eventual fame?

  2. I met Pete Best! he was touring in our sad little city and I saw him play and met him-nice enough guy although I think there are still some unresolved feelings. I thought Stu's girlfriend "created" the mop top and not Brian-I thought he told them to keep it and it would be one of their trademarks?? Oh boy you can feel the hatred coming off that photo with Mr. Nicol and especially George Harrison-body language says a lot. As for the German word for is People-hahahahaaa-my mom, who is German told me. She always shuddered when she heard the words "For the People, By the People....

  3. Fox - I am guessing that by then, they were too big to care.

    B - Yeah, I would probably still have hard feelings too, if I were Pete Best. I mean, getting kicked out of a band is one thing, to have that band go on to become the biggest act in rock and roll history is quite another. I have heard stories of Astrid Kirchner giving the band their mop tops, but they may be apocryphal. Who knows after all this time. Yeah, I wonder what a German would think of Chuck Heston screaming that we are eating people?

    Anyhoo, thanx for stopping by. See ya 'round the web.