Who Was the 5th Beatle?

who was the 5th beatle

Who Was the 5th Beatle?

fab fourYou may have heard something by now about this little rock group from Liverpool, England called The Beatles. Apparently they caused quite a stir.

The band members are often referred to as the Fab Four: John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Seems like the whole world has been on a first-name basis with these 4 moptops since the sixties, and they were all essential members of the band in terms of both musicality and personality.

But over the years, there’s been an ongoing discussion among many Beatles fans, as to who should be known as the 5th Beatle.

It’s a fun game to play, because there are so many interesting candidates.

So we thought it’d be fun to take another look and see if we can solve this mystery once and for all.

Who was the Fifth Beatle?

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Three Cool Cats

Before looking at the candidates, we’ll set the stage by examining the early days of the Beatles. It’s a fascinating story, and all 6 of our top contenders met the band during this time period, when they were struggling musicians, before they were famous. It was a crucial time in the band’s history, and the world was on the verge of a musical revolution.

Our tale begins on the fateful day of July 6, 1957, when 16-year-old John Lennon and his skiffle group the Quarrymen were scheduled to perform at St. the fifth beatlesPeter’s Church in Liverpool, and where John was first introduced to a 15-year-old schoolboy named Paul McCartney.

John and Paul soon discovered they had much in common. They had great respect for each other’s musical talent, loved a lot of the same songs, and quickly became fast friends.

Later Paul introduced John to his 14-year-old schoolmate, an aspiring guitarist named George Harrison. The three began hanging out together, and occasionally playing music as well.

They were a group, but just barely: still too young to take it seriously, the gigs were infrequent and informal. After all, this was a band essentially made up of three guitarists. But they knew they had some kind of spark.

Several people moved in and out of the group at various times, but they could never find a permanent drummer. And so the core three remained through several band name changes until January, 1960, when they added Stuart Sutcliffe on bass.

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The Reeperbahn

beatles reeperbahn

The rollercoaster ride known as Beatlemania began to accelerate in Hamburg, Germany, in the autumn of 1960.

A man named Allan Williams operated a Liverpool coffee bar called the Jacaranda, which was often frequented by members of the Beatles. They began playing there occasionally, and eventually Williams started securing them gigs at other locations, acting informally as a manager.

Williams had met a German businessman named Bruno Koschmider, who was looking for bands that would work for cheap, and play for long hours, at his music clubs in the notorious Reeperbahn district in Hamburg. Williams had already sent one local group over to work for him (Derry Wilkie and the Seniors), but Bruno needed another band to play at a small club called the Indra (and later, at the Kaiserkeller).

Williams immediately thought of a band that would be perfect. However, they weren’t available. So then he thought, what about those crazy young Beatles?

“We had to play for hours and hours on end. Every song lasted twenty minutes and had twenty solos in it. That’s what improved the playing … We played what we liked best and the Germans liked it as long as it was loud.” – John Lennon

Bruno had demanded a 5-piece band, just like the first group he’d hired. John, Paul, George and Stu were four. But they still needed a drummer. And they needed one RIGHT NOW, because they had to leave within a few days if they wanted the gig.

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beatles mural

Stuart Sutcliffe, Pete Best, and four other guys

Pete Best

It was August 12, 1960, and the Beatles needed a drummer, pronto.

They were familiar with a guy named Pete Best, who had a few things going for him. He owned a drum kit, his band was on the verge of breaking up, and he was available to go to Hamburg. So after a very brief audition they said, we call your name, Pete. You’re the Beatles drummer!

And so it was that Pete Best was hired, and a few days later, they all set off for Hamburg, accompanied by Williams and his wife.

beatles pete bestPete was an official member of the Beatles for two years, and for a while, things seemed to be going okay.

The Beatles already knew his mother, Mona Best, from her time running the Casbah Coffee Club in her cellar, where they had played some of their earliest gigs. She’d even handled their bookings for a while, and was willing to help the group when she could.

Plus, a lot of girls thought Pete was rather handsome. After the group returned from Hamburg, some fans in Liverpool considered him to be the most popular Beatle, when they started gaining traction in a long-running gig at the Cavern Club.

However, there were also some issues – Pete was a bit of a loner, for one. Whereas the Beatles were fun-loving, sarcastic, boisterous lads, Pete was, at least to a certain extent, sullen and moody. He spent much of his time in Hamburg away from the guys (and this was where they really bonded both as friends, and as a musical entity). He soon found a German girlfriend and rarely socialized with the others off-stage.

It is also suspected that the other Beatles thought he wasn’t a particularly good drummer.

And soon Pete was no longer the only drummer the Beatles knew. In Germany, they met and befriended an oddball drummer named Richard Starkey, aka Ringo Starr because he wore a lot of rings on his fingers. He was in a group from Liverpool called Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, who also had arranged a gig in Hamburg.

“I met The Beatles while we were playing in Germany. We’d seen them in Liverpool, but they were a nothing little band then, just putting it together. In fact, they weren’t really a band at all.” – Ringo Starr

The Beatles began to hang out frequently with Ringo, and would later spend a lot of time at Rory’s family home. Ringo even sat in on the drums a couple of times when Pete was sick or otherwise unavailable.

But when the Beatles traveled to London for their infamous Decca audition on January 1, 1962, Pete was still their drummer.

The Beatles – Three Cool Cats – Decca Audition (George on vocals, Pete on drums)

Several months later, when they first auditioned for George Martin, Pete once again played the drums. However, the producer mentioned that while Pete Best might be fine for live performances, he would prefer to bring in a session drummer if they were going to record.

For over 50 years, details have remained hazy about exactly what happened next, who did what, and why. Many believe that the guys simply felt they had better chemistry with Ringo. Some people think George Harrison led the charge. And that George Martin’s comment was the excuse.

“Many things have been said about what happened, but I don’t know either. Maybe someday.” – Pete Best

The unpleasant task was assigned to Beatles manager Brian Epstein, who informed Pete that he was out of the group on August 16, 1962. It was a cruel blow, not only because of what was about to happen next to the Beatles, but also because he didn’t see it coming.

Many fans weren’t happy either, with one Pete Best fan angrily confronting George, and leaving him with a black eye for his trouble.

The end result is that the Beatles said hello goodbye to Pete, replaced him with Ringo Starr, and the act quickly began to come together.

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Stuart Sutcliffe

Stuart Sutcliffe was also once an official member of the Beatles. And he might have remained in the group longer if John had his way.

By January 1960, John, Paul and George were good friends, but there was a bit of an age gap between them. John Lennon was a year ahead in school attending Liverpool Art College, where he met a talented young painter named Stuart Sutcliffe, who was a little more sophisticated than Paul and George at that time. stuart sutcliffe beatles

John eventually became Stu’s roommate, and the two were very close. Stuart sold one of his paintings, and John convinced him to use the funds to buy a Hofner bass and join the Beatles. Stu had no idea how to play the bass guitar, but John Lennon could be very persuasive.

John adored Stuart, which made the other Beatles (particularly Paul) a little jealous.

For a short period of time, Stu also acted as the Beatles’ booking agent, although there still weren’t a lot of gigs. When Allan Williams entered the scene, he took over the job.

One afternoon, Stuart, John and his future wife Cynthia were sitting in the Jacaranda discussing their love of Buddy Holly and the Crickets, when Stu came up with the name Beetles for the band. John later changed the spelling to “Beatles” as a play on words about “beat” music.

In Hamburg, the Beatles soon met the Exi’s, a group of “existential” art students with a flair for the dramatic. They were Astrid Kirchherr, Klaus Voormann, and Jürgen Vollmer. Astrid gave them their Beatle haircuts, and took some of the first photographs of the band. Some of these photos used a distinctive lighting style that the Beatles would later re-create on the album cover for With the Beatles.

And it wasn’t long before Stuart and Astrid fell in love.

beatles in hamburg

Beatles in Hamburg – Photo by Astrid Kirchherr (Image Source: BeatlesBible.com)

The initial Hamburg run ended abruptly, though, when the Beatles decided to move to a better club.

Bruno Koschmider was not amused, and informed the authorities that George was only 17 years old. There was a curfew for people under 18 at the time, and the Beatles had been hired to play until the wee hours of the morning.

George was sent home, and around this time Paul and Pete were caught lighting a condom on fire in Koschmider’s bar. It was harmless, but Bruno called the police, and they were soon deported. John returned to Liverpool shortly afterwards.

“I grew up in Hamburg, not Liverpool.” – John Lennon

Stu stayed in Hamburg with Astrid for a couple of months before returning to Liverpool, where he rejoined the Beatles. When the band returned to Hamburg a second time, Stuart accompanied them and never went back.

Stuart wasn’t very musical, and Paul was often critical of his rudimentary bass playing skills. Stu knew it was only a matter of time before he would have to leave the group, and in July 1961, he’d finally had enough. He informed the Beatles that he was leaving to concentrate on his painting, and enrolled in the Hamburg College of Art.

It was at this point that Paul McCartney officially became the bass player for the Beatles.

“In Hamburg we got very good as a band because we had to play eight hours a night and we started building a big repertoire of some of our own songs.” – George Harrison

After the Beatles returned to Liverpool the second time, Stuart beganbeatles stuart sutcliffe experiencing terrible headaches back in Hamburg, collapsing once in art class. Doctors performed several tests, but the results were inconclusive. Many suspect that he’d suffered brain trauma earlier, when badly beaten by some thugs after a Beatles concert back in England.

In April 1962, Stuart collapsed again. This time, the cause was a brain aneurysm, and he died before they could get him to the hospital, at age 21.

A couple of days later, the Beatles returned to Hamburg by boat for their 3rd residency, only to be informed by Astrid at the dock that Stuart was dead. John was devastated by the news.

A picture of Stu can be seen in the top left corner of the album cover for Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

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Mal Evans

Mal Evans was a telephone engineer who began working part-time as a bouncer at the Cavern Club in 1962, where he first met the Beatles.

They became friends, and Mal was soon asked to be their assistant road manager. He ended up performing many different tasks over the years, while remaining a member of the Beatles’ exclusive inner circle throughout the sixties. The Beatles were fond of Mal, and socialized with him frequently.

beatles mal evans

Mal Evans (Image Source: BeatlesBible.com)

He was sometimes referred to as the “Gentle Giant”, being a large 6’5 tall man with an intimidating look, though in reality he was quiet and friendly.

Throughout the Beatles’ touring years, Mal was a key member of the team, and some of his duties included driving the tour van, unloading and setting up equipment, acting as the band’s bodyguard and head of security, and picking up items whenever they needed something in various cities on the road.

He also appeared on several Beatles tracks, most famously performing the “countdown” in ‘A Day in the Life’. Evans played on several other Beatles songs, including ‘You Won’t See Me’, ‘Dear Prudence’ and ‘Helter Skelter’.

He also appeared in 4 of the Beatles 5 films.

“I do remember one incident: going up the motorway when the windscreen got knocked out by a pebble. Our great road manager Mal Evans was driving and he just put his hat backwards on his hand, punched the windscreen out completely, and drove on.” – Paul McCartney

After the Beatles broke up, Evans worked with a number of different bands including Badfinger and Splinter, but continued to work and socialize with the now-solo members of the Beatles. He co-wrote the song ‘You and Me (Babe)’ with George, which appeared on Ringo’s 1973 solo album.

By the mid-seventies, Mal was living in Los Angeles and began acting erratically. On January 5, 1976, his girlfriend called police to report that Mal had a gun, was on Valium, and was acting confused. Police arrived on the scene, and while Evans was only holding an air rifle, he pointed his gun at the police officers, and refused to drop his weapon. He was shot and killed by police.

Evans had written a biography detailing his time with the Beatles called Living The Beatles’ Legend, but the manuscript remains unpublished.

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Neil Aspinall

Neil Aspinall first met George and Paul when they were all students at the Liverpool Institute.

He left school in 1959 to work as an accountant. At the time, Neil was renting a room in Pete and Mona Best’s house. He was a close friend of Pete’s, and began a secret relationship with Mona that resulted in a son named Roag Best.

In early 1961, Neil was asked to drive the Beatles and their equipment to gigs in his van, and he eventually became the Beatles road manager and personal assistant. He worked closely in the office with Brian Epstein, while continuing to drive the band to gigs all over Great Britain.

beatles neil aspinall

Neil Aspinall with Paul McCartney (Image Source: BeatlesBible.com)

On the day Pete Best was fired from the group, Neil wasn’t sure what he should do, being close with Pete but fiercely loyal to the Beatles.

He decided to stay on and continue to work with the group as if nothing had happened. According to legend, he asked the band about Pete the next time he saw them. “It’s got nothing to you with you. You’re only the driver,” they replied.

Neil made minor contributions to several Beatles songs, including Within You Without You, Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite, and Yellow Submarine.

After the death of manager Brian Epstein, Aspinall became the band’s manager temporarily, and later became the chief executive of Apple Corps.

“Neil Aspinall was overshadowed by Brian in those days, but his closeness to the Beatles made him the ideal person to take over the reins. He fitted the part as if he were born to it and he astonished the big players in the record business with his acumen.” – George Martin

beatles 1964When Allen Klein was hired to manage the Beatles in 1969, he fired several people including Aspinall, who was reinstated after the Beatles complained.

After the group disbanded, Aspinall continued to supervise the marketing of Beatles music, videos, and merchandising, and initiated several lawsuits against Apple Computers for violating the Beatles’ Apple trademark.

In the early 1990s, Aspinall acted as executive producer for the Beatles Anthology project.

It’s interesting to note that at the Beatles’ induction ceremony to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, George Harrison commented that, in his opinion, there were two “5th Beatles” – Neil Aspinall and press officer Derek Taylor.

Neil Aspinall passed away in 2008.

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Brian Epstein

By late 1961, the Beatles had made several trips to Hamburg, often playing for 8-10 hours a night, and had really learned how to twist and shout on stage.

Their business affairs, however, were far from organized.

The Beatles had briefly experimented at having a manager before. Mona Best and Allan Williams had each loosely managed the group for a time, but the Beatles had a falling out with both, and were once again on their own.

They now had a great live act, and were gaining popularity in Liverpool. They took up residence playing a series of lunchtime concerts at the infamous Cavern Club, and that’s where they were on November 9, 1961, when Brian Epstein entered the building.

Brian was an interesting character with an upper-class demeanor, and a cellarful of secrets. He came from a wealthy family, and after an attempt to beatles brian epsteinbecome an actor in London ended poorly, he returned to Liverpool and began to run the record department at the family-owned NEMS (North End Music Store).

Despite having no interest in the family business before, Brian soon discovered he was quite good at his job. Eventually the family opened a second store in Liverpool, and asked Brian to manage the ground floor.

Back in Hamburg, the Beatles had befriended another British musician named Tony Sheridan, and accompanied him to a recording session, where they backed him up (billed as the Beat Brothers). One song they recorded was a cover of ‘My Bonnie’, which was released in Germany to a minimal amount of success.

Legend has it that a customer named Raymond Jones entered NEMS one day and asked Brian for a copy of ‘My Bonnie’, which led to him ordering copies of the single, and seeking out more information about the Beatles.

Tony Sheridan (and the Beat Brothers) – My Bonnie

However, this story is probably not true. Bill Harry (a friend of John and Stu’s at the Liverpool Art College) had started a magazine called Mersey Beat about the local music scene in Liverpool in July, 1961. He arranged for Brian to sell copies at NEMS, which quickly sold out. The second issue, with the Beatles on the front page, also quickly sold out, and Brian approached Harry about writing a record review column. So Brian was almost certainly aware of the Beatles (who were also regular customers at NEMS) before he went to see them at the Cavern Club.

Whatever led him to their door, Brian was immediately blown away by their performance, and sensed that they had great potential. Within days, he approached the Beatles about managing the group, and they soon accepted the offer.

“I was immediately struck by their music, their beat, and their sense of humour on stage. And even afterwards when I met them I was struck again by their personal charm.” – Brian Epstein

Epstein set his sites on getting the Beatles a recording contract, and was turned down by almost every music company in London. He famously arranged for an audition at Decca, where the boys performed a bunch of songs on January 1, 1962. They weren’t bad, but the group sounded nervous and out of their element, and were quickly turned down.

“Guitar groups are on the way out, Mr. Epstein.” – Dick Rowe, Decca Records (1962)

As a last-ditch effort, Brian went back to London in May and eventually got the group an audition with George Martin at Parlophone. George wasn’t overly impressed the first time he heard them, but soon saw a spark in the Beatles, just as Brian had. Within months, they would be churning out number one hit singles.

beatles brian epsteinIt’s hard to understate the influence Brian had on the Beatles. He was tremendously honest (to a fault), contrary to your typical music industry figure, and quickly earned their trust. He convinced them to stop eating and swearing on stage, and to replace their leather outfits with matching suits. He began booking all their shows, getting them more money per gig within days, and handled their financial affairs along with their concert and recording schedules.

His professional, courteous manner forced people to take them seriously, and his enthusiasm won them over.

The Beatles relied on Brian tremendously throughout the years, and famously signed every contract he presented without bothering to read them.

When they decided to fire Pete Best, they made Epstein to do it.

He also handled the group’s merchandising, although it was a new concept in those days, and he ended up signing a disastrous deal that would cost the Beatles millions of dollars.

Brian created a management company and began managing other musical acts, though nothing could touch his loyalty to the Beatles. He managed Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Fourmost, Billy J. Kramer, the Cyrkle, Tommy Quickly, and Cilla Black, who he adored.

“If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was Brian Epstein.” – Paul McCartney (1997)

Brian became depressed after the Beatles stopped touring in 1966, as he had a lot less work to do, which made it more difficult to stave off the feelings of loneliness and isolation that had haunted him for years.

Brian was gay, at a time when it wasn’t socially acceptable (and was, in fact, illegal) to be so. He also experienced some discrimination due to his Jewish heritage. The stress of keeping his sexuality a secret led many of his friends to believe he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

In the early days, the Beatles had introduced Brian to the stimulant drug Preludin, which they started taking in Hamburg when they were working eight days a week. They all relied on these pills to stay awake during many a hard day’s night spent at concert venues, and on the road traveling from town to town.

beatles concert poster

By the mid-sixties, Brian was addicted to several types of pills, and had his hands full managing his addictions in addition to his bands. He also battled severe insomnia.

The Beatles’ album Sergeant Pepper and the Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in June 1967. Shortly afterwards, in August 1967, Brian ingested a fatal mix of sleeping pills and alcohol, passing away in his sleep at the age of 32. His death was ruled an accident.

The Beatles were stunned, having never having taken much interest in the business side of things before. Losing Brian would later be considered by many fans and observers to be the beginning of the end for the Beatles.

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George Martin

Back in 1962, Brian Epstein believed wholeheartedly that the Beatles were going to be huge, here there and everywhere. The only problem was that nobody else did. After spending months working unsuccessfully to get the Beatles a recording contract, he finally managed to arrange an audition with a record producer at EMI.

George Martin had a very musical upbringing, learning to play the piano at a young age. He soon became interested in many different instruments and musical genres.

beatles_georgemartinIn 1950, he began working for the EMI record label in London, as assistant to the head of Parlophone, Oscar Preuss. He took over in 1955 when Preuss retired, and produced a series of classical, stage and comedy recordings. He produced several hit comedy records, and worked with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, two people the Beatles greatly admired.

George Martin was extremely versatile and skilled at his job, and had achieved a modest level of success. Still, many at EMI considered Parlophone to be a trivial part of the company.

In May 1962, Martin met with Brian. He listened to the tape of the Beatles’ Decca audition, and while he wasn’t overly impressed, he soon decided to offer the Beatles a recording contract, though he refused to sign it until after meeting the group.

The Beatles first appeared at Abbey Road Studios on June 6, 1962, and recorded 4 songs (including ‘Love Me Do’). After the session, Martin informed Epstein that the songs weren’t good enough, but that he wanted to schedule another date, where he planned to use a session drummer instead of Pete Best.

When the Beatles returned in September to record what would become their 1st single ‘Love Me Do’, they brought along their new drummer Ringo Starr. However, Martin had already arranged for session drummer Andy White to play, and it is Andy White’s drumming that can be heard on the single version of ‘Love Me Do’ and its b-side. (Ringo’s drumming can be heard on the album version of ‘Love Me Do’). Over the years, Ringo and George Martin often joked about this incident.

The Beatles – Love Me Do – 3 Different Drummers

Martin had secured a song for the Beatles to record called ‘How Do You Do It’, which later became a hit for Gerry and the Pacemakers. While they agreed to record a version of the song, the Beatles hated it, and asked Martin if they could do one of their own instead; a song called ‘Please Please Me’. Having been won over by the group, Martin decided to give them a chance and agreed to their plan. However, he suggested they speed up the tempo of the song and add a harmonica. When they were finished recording, he said, “Gentlemen, you have just made your first number one record”.

George Martin – The Making of the Please Please Me album

Upon arrival at Abbey Road, the Beatles were talented but raw, with virtually no experience in a studio. George Martin was invaluable in teaching them the tricks of the trade. As the years went by, the Beatles became more comfortable in the studio, making more complex music, but still relied on Martin to help them get the sounds they heard in their heads, onto tape.

He helped the band make their music more sophisticated; for example, it was George Martin who convinced Paul to use a string quartet on ‘Yesterday’. He also composed the score for ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘Something’, along with several other Beatle songs.

“The Fifth Beatle, without question.” – Julian Lennon

Frequently John or Paul would have an idea for a part in a song involving strings, a trumpet, or some other exotic instrument, and would hum it to Martin, who would then take on the task of transcribing the part, and hiring musicians to play it.

beatles george martin

Martin also played on several Beatles songs himself, including ‘Lovely Rita’, ‘Fixing a Hole’, and ‘Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite’.

Perhaps the most famous example is the song ‘In My Life’, one of John Lennon’s classic compositions. As the story goes, the band were working on the song, and needed a piano solo. John told George Martin he wanted it to sound “baroque”.

At one point, the Beatles left the studio, and while they were gone, George Martin played a piano part, sped up the tape, and fit it into the song. When the Beatles returned, they loved it, and Martin’s piano part remains a key element of the song.

Beatles – In My Life (George Martin piano solo 1:28-1:47)

In the early 1970s, after the breakup, John Lennon was irritated about a lot of things Beatle-related, and made some sarcastic comments about the amount of praise that George Martin had received for the Beatles music. He asked to hear some of George’s own music, and noted that he had been unable to re-create the Beatles success with any of the other groups he had produced.

However, John later praised George for having been of vital importance to the group in studio.

“George Martin made us what we were in the studio. He helped us develop a language to talk to other musicians.” – John Lennon

Martin continued to work on a variety of Beatle projects over the years, writing several books, and cobbling together the Beatles 1978 live album from tapes recorded during two concerts in 1964-5. (Note that a newly remastered version of The Beatles Live of the Hollywood Bowl (view on Amazon) was just released on September 9).

He helped remaster songs for the three-part Beatles Anthology in the mid-90s, along with the soundtrack for the Cirque de Soleil’s production of Love in Las Vegas.

George Martin died peacefully in his sleep on March 8, 2016, at the age of 90.

“If anyone earned the title of the fifth Beatle it was George [Martin].” – Paul McCartney, 2016

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Honorable Mention

There are several other candidates for 5th Beatle who didn’t quite make our list, but deserve a quick mention.

Derek Taylor

In the end, Derek Taylor fell just short of making the grade, but he was another integral member of the Beatles inner circle.

Taylor was working as a journalist at the Daily Express in London when assigned to review a Beatles concert on May 30, 1963. His editors expected a dismissive report of this new teenage “fad”, but instead received an enthusiastic review.

Brian Epstein soon invited Derek to meet the Beatles, and the newspaper decided to capitalize on their rapidly growing popularity by offering a newspaper column to one of the Beatles, which would be ghostwritten by Derek. George Harrison was chosen, and they began to collaborate.

beatles Derek Taylor

Derek Taylor (Image Source: Wikipedia)

In 1964, Brian hired Derek to be the Beatles press officer. For a short time, he also worked as Brian’s personal assistant, and helped him write his autobiography A Cellarful of Noise. However, after a falling out with Brian, he left the Beatles to work at the Daily Mirror.

In 1965, Taylor moved to California and started his own public relations company, working with the Byrds, Beach Boys, Harry Nilsson, and several other American groups.

Taylor and George Harrison remained close, and George’s song ‘Blue Jay Way’ was written in 1967 while he was waiting for Derek and his wife to arrive, who were lost in a fog.

In 1968, Taylor returned to work for the Beatles, as press officer for Apple Corps. He played a major role for the band between 1968-1970, creating publicity campaigns for various projects, and is mentioned in the lyrics of John’s song, ‘Give Peace a Chance’.

Derek remained close to John, George and Ringo, and continued to correspond with John into the late 1970s. He also helped George edit his 1980 autobiography, I, Me, Mine. In 1987, Derek published his own book, It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, about the making and impact of Sergeant Pepper.

In the 1990s, Taylor was placed in charge of marketing for several Beatles projects, including Live at the BBC, and wrote extensive liner notes for the Beatles Anthology albums. He passed away in 1997.

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Klaus Voorman & Astrid Kirchnerr

When the Beatles first went to Hamburg in 1960, they were young and inexperienced. Spending a few months on the notorious Reeperbahn changedbeatles revolver album cover all that, as the Beatles hung out with strippers, transvestites and gangsters, often playing for 8-10 hours a night, 7 days a week.

One night, a young German named Klaus Voorman entered the club, and was enthralled by the Beatles. He later dragged his friends Astrid Kirchnerr and Jürgen Vollmer out to see them.

Klaus remained a confidante of the group throughout the Beatle years and into the ’70s. He designed the album cover collage for their album Revolver, and later became the bass player for Manfred Mann. He played bass on solo albums by John, George and Ringo.

Astrid gave Klaus, and later Stuart Sutcliffe, the famous Beatle hairstyle. On a trip to Paris, John and Paul ran into Jürgen Vollmer, and asked him to give them Beatle haircuts as well. George soon followed (though Pete did not), and the rest was hair-story. Astrid also took the iconic early photos of the Beatles in Germany.

Murray the K

Murray the K was a New York disc jockey who helped heavily promote the Beatles when they first arrived in New York City in 1964 for their historic appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The case for Murray as the 5th Beatle is pretty weak, but it should be noted that he referred to himself as the “Fifth Beatle” on air, and probably coined the term. George Harrison also jokingly called him the 5th Beatle at that time.

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Clarence

Clarence claims to have been a saxophone player and the 5th Beatle in the early days of the group, helping write songs like ‘She Loves You, Man’, until they had a falling out, with the Beatles removing Clarence and his contributions from all photos and recordings. With little physical proof available to substantiate these claims, Clarence’s exact connection to the Beatles remains a mystery.

Billy Preston

Billy was a prolific musician who first met the Beatles in Hamburg in 1962. He was especially skilled at playing the Hammond organ.

beatles billy prestonWhen the Beatles were making the album and film project that would later become Let It Be, tensions were mounting within the group. They hated filming and recording in a huge studio space and were arguing frequently, so Billy was brought in to give the band a boost, and help lighten the mood.

At one point during these sessions, John even suggested that Billy join the band as a real actual “5th Beatle”, but the idea was quickly dropped. Preston can be heard quite prominently throughout the album, and can also be seen and heard playing with the group in their infamous rooftop concert at Apple.

Billy is the only person ever credited on a Beatles recording, other than the Fab Four themselves. The single ‘Get Back’ is billed as “The Beatles with Billy Preston“.

Verdict: Who Was the Fifth Beatle?

Throughout the entire career of the Beatles, if you encountered John, Paul, beatles the endGeorge and Ringo, odds are that you would also find Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall somewhere nearby.

They knew the Beatles secrets, and were essential members of their entourage from the beginning to the end. So they were definitely strong contenders, as was the star-crossed Stuart Sutcliffe.

But in this Olympic year, there are no medals awarded for 4th or 5th place. Unless we’re talking about the 5th Beatle, of course!

Bronze: Pete Best

It’s hard to see Pete Best as a Beatle, since he never really fit in, and was gone before anybody got to know them. But he was still a long-term official member of the Beatles. And unlike Stu, Pete wasn’t a liability musically, and wanted to be in the group.

With a luckier roll of the dice, history may have been very different. But missing out on a lifetime of fame and fortune, and not even really knowing why, is something that has haunted Pete Best since all those years ago.

Then again, it’s not all too much. He did receive a large sum of money and recognition when the Beatles Anthology was released, and also finished 3rd on this list, so it turns out he didn’t get written out of the script entirely.

Silver: Brian Epstein

The rules of this game are very subjective, and Brian Epstein could easily have passed the finish line first. Both final candidates are excellent options, and even Paul can’t decide between them.

There is no question that the Beatles could have continued to flounder for years if they hadn’t met Brian, or fell under the wing of a scoundrel instead. Brian provided them with exactly the connections, enthusiasm, and gameplan they needed to realize their full potential.

A man in the right place at the right time, doing the right things for the right reasons. But also yet another casualty of war, as the trip along the Beatles long and winding road left far too many shallow graves behind.

Gold: George Martin

the 5th beatle george martinA lot of time has been spent analyzing the Beatles’ image, personalities, and even their haircuts. But the Beatles were all about the music. And George Martin was an invaluable resource in helping them make their music as great as possible.

It seems pretty likely that the Beatles music and career would have turned out quite differently had they been signed by another record company.

George Martin was young, talented, and hip enough that the Beatles could relate to him, but also had the right temperament and gravitas to act as an authority figure in the studio when necessary. His keen ear for music, and wide variety of skills encouraged the Beatles to believe that they could put to record anything they could possibly dream up.

Like so many other aspects of the Beatles story, George Martin provided a perfect port in the perfect storm, almost like it was meant to be.

What would have happened to the Beatles if Brian Epstein or George Martin had not been there to help them reach the toppermost of the poppermost? Tomorrow never knows.

But we feel comfortable in awarding the Gold Medal to Sir George Martin.

Verdict: George Martin, The 5th Beatle

If you find the early days of the Beatles as fascinating as we do, we strongly recommend Mark Lewisohn’s amazing book Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years (click to view on Amazon) to learn more about the unbelievable journey of this incredible band.

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to like and share it!

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Comments (7)

  • Jody Cowan Reply

    I never knew all this stuff! I always, always listened to the Beatles, graduated high school in 1971. So yea, I’m old now. LOL I love this post. It’s so interesting reading all this about them My son is 18 now and that’s when they started! Plus all the other things, drummers, Brian overdosed. Thanks for all this info!

    September 2, 2016 at 5:59 pm
  • Janice Wald|MostlyBlogging Reply

    Hi Jody,
    I went to England and visited the Beatles museum.
    Thanks for coming to Blogger’s Pit Stop last week.
    Janice, Pit Stop Crew

    September 8, 2016 at 6:19 pm
  • Kathleen - Bloggers Lifestyle Reply

    Thanks for this comprehensive story of the Beatles. I remember when they got the haircuts, they caused a huge storm and people said that long hair was a sign of rebellion. When you look at their hair now it does not even seem long. It was at a time when short back and sides were expected and respectable. I loved your whole story, thanks for the time and effort of putting this together.

    Kathleen
    Bloggers Pit Stop

    September 10, 2016 at 8:46 am
  • Rhonda Albom Reply

    Wow, that’s a lot of history. I never knew even a small fraction of all the going ons with the Beatles. Thanks for the history.

    September 19, 2016 at 11:42 pm
  • Colette S Reply

    As I didn’t grow up listening to the Beatles, this is quite the bit of information.
    Thanks for sharing and also joining our music train!
    Welcome and have a great week!

    September 21, 2016 at 12:01 am
  • Lee MacArthur Reply

    Fascinating. I really enjoyed this.

    December 8, 2016 at 1:08 pm
  • Justin Reply

    Wow! I like your post, I’ve never known those things about the beatles and it’s good you shared them. Knowing about their history and somewhat being able to be part of it even just while reading is truly an amazing experience. My father and father in law loved them so much that I’ve been familiar with their songs up until now. Listening to their songs makes me think that they did every great song. Every song is the best! Do you agree with me?

    February 7, 2017 at 1:19 pm

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