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The Fifth Beatle

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The Fifth Beatle

This epithet has long been one of the most over–used clichés in the book. As I've said on the main Beatles page, it's probably been afforded to anyone (they are all male) who ever had a meaningful artistic or professional relationship with the Beatles – and even a few who didn't.

Paul McCartney said in 1997 that "if anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian [Epstein]". He said the same about George Martin following the latter's death in 2016.

On the Beatles' induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1988, George Harrison said that there were only two "fifth Beatles": Derek Taylor and Neil Aspinall. Derek Taylor was a journalist, who became the Beatles' press officer; Neil Aspinall was their roadie, later becoming CEO for Apple Corps – a position he held until 10 April 2007.

Ringo Starr's thoughts on the Fifth Beatle don't seem to have been recorded; but he did tweet, on George Martin's death: "Thank you for all your love and kindness George peace and love ... God bless George Martin peace and love to Judy and his family love Ringo and Barbara George will be missed."

John Lennon generally refused even to entertain the concept of a Fifth Beatle. (He even denied, in a lyric from the Plastic Ono Band album, that he believed in Beatles.)

The Liverpudlian comedian and musician Mitch Benn (probably best known for his appearances on Radio 4's The Now Show – at least, he is to me) performed a show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013 entitled Mitch Benn is the 37th Beatle. He listed the other candidates "in descending order of Beatledom":

5thActually the Fourth Beatle: recruited to play drums following the demise of the Quarrymen; replaced by Ringo in 1962 (by Brian Epstein, on advice from EMI technicians) Click to show or hide the answer
6thThe actual Fifth Beatle: recruited shortly after the above to play bass guitar; left in July 1961 to stay in Hamburg with the photographer Astrid Kirchherr, to whom he had become engaged, and to concentrate on his painting. He died of a brain haemorrhage, in Hamburg, in April 1962 Click to show or hide the answer
7thSinger backed by the Beatles on stage in Hamburg, and on some early records Click to show or hide the answer
8th–12thThe other five members of John Lennon's first band – including washboard player Pete Shotton, who later managed a supermarket that was owned by Lennon and George Harrison, and went on to found the Fatty Arbuckle's chain of restaurants Click to show or hide the answer
13thSession drummer who replaced Ringo on the US single release version of Love Me Do Click to show or hide the answer
14thDrummer who stepped in for a series of concerts in 1964, at the height of Beatlemania, when Ringo was suffering from tonsillitis Click to show or hide the answer
15thThe only artist to receive a joint credit on a Beatles single: Get Back was credited to The Beatles with ... Click to show or hide the answer
16thPlayed a guitar solo on While My Guitar Gently Weeps; also played on solo recordings of all four Beatles, after their split Click to show or hide the answer
17thThe manager who turned the Beatles into global superstars Click to show or hide the answer
18thProducer of nearly all of the Beatles' recordings (the Let It Be album was produced by Phil Spector; see also 26th, below) Click to show or hide the answer
19thThe journalist who became the Beatles' press officer Click to show or hide the answer
20thAssistant road manager; shot dead by police at his home in Los Angeles in 1976 Click to show or hide the answer
21stA schoolmate of McCartney and Harrison (and a close personal friend of Pete Best), who owned a Commer van and became the Beatles' roadie, later becoming CEO for Apple Corps – a position he held until 10 April 2007 Click to show or hide the answer
22nd–25thThe first group signed to the Apple label (1968) Click to show or hide the answer
26thClose collaborator of George Harrison, and co–producer of the Beatles' Anthology reunion singles Free as a Bird (1995) and Real Love (1996) Click to show or hide the answer
27th–32ndDescribed by George Harrison as "a continuation of the spirit of the Beatles" Click to show or hide the answer
33rdMusical collaborator with the above, and co–creator (with Eric Idle) of the Rutles Click to show or hide the answer
34thPaul in the Bootleg Beatles Click to show or hide the answer
35thJohn in the Bootleg Beatles Click to show or hide the answer
36thPaul McCartney's songwriting collaborator on the Flowers in the Dirt album (1989) Click to show or hide the answer

Mitch Benn doesn't even mention any of the following:

38th?Played bass guitar for the Beatles in Hamburg, after Stuart Sutcliffe left the band. When McCartney left in 1970, precipitating the Beatles' break–up, he was mooted as a replacement. After the breakup and until 1976, he played on almost every solo album recorded by the other three Beatles. He also drew the main cover illustration for the Revolver album Click to show or hide the answer
39th?A New York radio DJ who promoted the Beatles during their first US tour. He possibly invented the term 'the Fifth Beatle' – to describe himself. According to CNN Entertainment, the four actual Beatles were happy to go along with this self–promotion Click to show or hide the answer
40th?The Beatles' de facto first manager. He recruited Pete Best, secured the band their Hamburg residencies, and drove the van in which they travelled there. He parted company with them in 1961, after they refused to pay him commission for a later trip to Hamburg. Brian Epstein contacted him a year later to check that there were no remaining contractual ties and to seek his opinion of the band. He was advised "Don't touch them with a f***ing barge pole" Click to show or hide the answer
41st?The proprietor of the Kwik–E–Mart convenience store in The Simpsons – best known for his catchphrase, "Thank you, come again." In the episode Lisa the Vegetarian, when Lisa Simpson is struggling in her efforts to avoid eating meat, he introduces her to Paul and Linda McCartney. He claims to have met the Beatles while studying meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He jokes about being "the Fifth Beatle", at which Paul rolls his eyes and sarcastically replies, "Yeah, sure you were ..." Click to show or hide the answer
42nd?Famously dubbed 'El Beatle' by the British press after Manchester United's 5–1 victory over Benfica, at the Estádio da Luz, in the quarter–finals of the 1965–6 European Cup. He also shared a surname with Mitch Benn's nomination as the actual Fifth Beatle Click to show or hide the answer

© Haydn Thompson 2018