Who was the fifth Beatle?
BY ALAN WESTON
9 MAR 2016
Sir George Martin's death at the age of 90 re-ignites debate
Who was the fifth Beatle?
The sad death of Sir George Martin has re-focussed attention on one of the great debates of popular music - who was the fifth Beatle?
Sir George, whose death at the age of 90 was announced today, had a far better claim than most. He took a punt on The Beatles by signing them to a record deal when no-one else would touch them. Just as importantly it was he who, as producer, honed the sound of the Fab Four at Abbey Road studios, helping them create a string of timeless classics.
Paul McCartney gave his opinion in a moving tribute to Sir George today when he said: "If anyone earned the title of the fifth Beatle it was George."
George Martin arrives for the Stella McCartney fashion show at LIPA in 2008
But debate it likely to continue.
Over the decades, the argument has often become frivolous, with anyone who so much as made a cup of tea or opened a car door for the Beatles claiming somehow to be the fifth member.
And in a way, it’s a silly question. The Beatles were a close-knit unit of four, made up of John, Paul, Ringo, and George, and no-one else. But here is our selection of serious and not-so-serious claimants to the title.
The Beatles’ manager until his untimely death in 1967, under still mysterious circumstances. Along with Sir George, Epstein could legitimately claim to be the joint “fifth Beatle”.
While it was George Martin who developed the Beatles as recording artists, it was Brian who transformed their image from rough-house, leather jacketed “scallies” to the sophisticated pop idols who could appear before the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance and later be awarded MBEs.
John Lennon was instrumental in easing his Liverpool College of Art pal into the group as bass player, even though Stuart had no particular skill as a musician. But during their riotous, pre-fame Hamburg days, the presence of Stuart attracted the attention of a certain photographer called Astrid Kirchherr, who captured their raw charisma on camera and was also said to have transformed them from “Teds” to “mop tops.”
Former Beatles drummer Pete Best
It came as a shock to everyone - not least to Pete himself - when he was sacked as the group’s drummer just before they hit the big time. Although the reasons for his abrupt dismissal has led to all kinds of conspiracy theories, not least because he was generally reckoned to be the best-looking member of this first incarnation of the “Fab Four”, the real reason is probably the most prosaic: that he wasn’t a good enough drummer.
Beatles Love Me Do single_180
In fact, not having a good enough drummer seems to have been a perennial problem for the Beatles in their early days.
When it came to recording their all-important debut single for Parlophone, Love Me Do / PS I Love You, producer George Martin decided new boy Ringo’s drumming wasn’t up to the job.
He was substituted instead by session musician Andy, leaving poor old Ringo to hit a tambourine or shake maracas... Andy died last November at the age of 85.
Ringo Starr (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
John Lennon’s famously cutting remark that “Ringo wasn’t the best drummer in the world. He wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles”, though probably apocryphal, reflects a widespread belief that Ringo was some distance behind the other three in terms of musical talent.
Quite apart from the musical chairs on who occupied the drum stool in the early days, a number of the Beatles’ most famous later tunes - such as Back in the USSR and The Ballad of John and Yoko - featured Paul McCartney on drums, after Ringo briefly walked out on the group or was not invited to take part.
A picture of Bob Dylan taken on May 14 1966 near Stanley Dock taken from the book early dylan by barry feinstein
Dylan was a big influence on everyone in the 60s, but especially on the Fab Four. It was he who showed that songs could be about more than the swings and roundabouts of teenage romance.
A song such as John’s You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away is so Dylan-esque as to be almost pastiche. It was Dylan who also introduced the Fab Four to the so-called “delights” of marijuana which, whatever you think about it, also helped transform their songwriting and sound.
Yoko Ono wears John's old school tie as she visits Alder Hey Hospital in 2007, she is pictured admiring a mural in the day ward.
For a while, Lennon’s new squeeze was the “fifth Beatle” in fact as well as theory after the inseparable couple decided to turn up at the recording studio together - much to the irritation of the others.
She was a constant presence at the sessions for the Let It Be film and soundtrack album, and by all accounts this was one of the factors which hastened the group’s acrimonious break-up in 1970.