Throughout the annals of popular-music history, the designation of the “Fifth Beatle” has been passed around like candy. There are several figures that have been dubbed the Fifth Beatle at one point or another, though real fans know that there’s one who deserves the title more than any other thanks to his massive musical contributions to the band’s output. Join Facts Verse as Paul McCartney officially names the Fifth Beatle Member.
Was George Martin the True “Fifth Beatle”?
In March of 2016, a notable music producer by the name of George Martin passed away. While George Martin might not be a household name, he arguably should be. In fact, the man is widely considered to be the honorary fifth member of the most popular music group of all time! Those that do know of George Martin will know that he was not only the man who offered the Beatles their very first recording contract, but that he also remained the group’s producer until it broke up. The contributions that George made to the music of the Beatles saw him take on far more roles than the average producer, with the man providing most songs’ orchestral arrangements.
Anyone familiar with the Beatles’ music knows just how integral George Martin’s lush orchestration was to the majority of the group’s classic songs. The four main members of the group were all relatively untrained musicians that simply had a knack for songwriting. It was George Martin who harnessed their talents. Upon George Martin’s 2016 passing, the surviving members of the Beatles were quick to pay their respects to him.
Since the Beatles broke out into prominence in the 1960s, there have been many people that have been dubbed the “Fifth Beatle”. Though the band started out with five members in the 1960s, it had only it’s four core members by the time that it rose to prominence. After George Martin passed away, Paul McCartney came out and confirmed what most people already knew: that George Martin was, in fact, the Fifth Beatle. Not only did Paul consider George Martin to be an honorary member of the band, but he also considered him a father figure.
Stuart Sutcliffe Was the Beatles’ Founding Bassist
The Beatles were five members strong when they were founded in England in 1960. These five members included John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison. At the time, John was on rhythm guitar and George was on lead, which were the roles that they would continue occupying once the group found popularity.
Though Paul McCartney would later be known as the bassist of the Beatles, he started out as the group’s second rhythm guitarist. Stuart Sutcliffe was the band’s founding bassist, and Pete Best was it’s original drummer. If it weren’t for a tragedy that occurred in 1961, Stuart Sutcliffe arguably would’ve remained the Beatles’ bassist. If this had been the case, who knows how the sensational trajectory of the band would’ve changed over the course of the ensuing 1960s! During the days that Stuart Sutcliffe was the Beatles’ bassist, the band was just a fledgling club act among dozens of others.
In 1961, Stuart Sutcliffe passed away as a result of a brain hemorrhage. The death was untimely and tragic, and it would be made even more so by the fact that the Beatles would go on to achieve unprecedented fame. Eventually, John Lennon and George Harrison would talk a reluctant Paul McCartney into taking on the role of bassist. Paul’s bass playing is iconic, and it was an important part of what ended up making the Beatles’ sound so popular. If Stuart had stayed the Beatles’ bassist, the band might not have had such success!
Stuart Came Up with the Beatles’ Iconic Mop-Top Hairdo
Many have called into questions the musical talents of Stuart Sutcliffe. This, combined with the fact that he only performed with the Beatles for a brief period of time, significantly decrease the merits of calling the man the Fifth Beatle. Though Stuart isn’t deserving of such a designation, he did make some significant stylistic contributions to the band that would carry over into the days of it’s mainstream success. It was Stuart Sutcliffe who was the first member of the Beatle’s to adopt what would later become their iconic mop-top hairdos.
According to legend, Stuart Sutcliffe was inspired to come up with the mop-top hairdo after seeing a similar hairdo on artist Klaus Voorman. The remaining members of the Beatles would then adopt similar mop-top hairdos for themselves. After Stuart passed away in 1961, the Beatles kept their hairdos and became famous for them! If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Pete Best Referred to Himself as the Fifth Beatle
Not only did Stuart Sutcliffe inspire the Beatles to adopt their iconic mop-top hairdos, but some have also suggested that he was the one who came up with the group’s name! Though the Beatles would become famous partly because of their signature mop-top hairdos, they would abandon them a few years after rising to prominence and adopt hippie looks instead.
Another figure that could reasonably be called the Fifth Beatle is the aforementioned Pete Best. As stated, Pete was the Beatles’ drummer before Ringo Starr. Pete performed with the group for a good deal longer than Stuart Sutcliffe did, though his contributions to the band are arguably lesser. Pete Best served as the Beatles’ drummer from 1960 to 1962, though he wasn’t featured on any officially released recordings from the band until the release of the album Anthology 1 in the mid-1990s.
Within the liner notes of Anthology 1, which was a compilation made up of unreleased material from the Beatles’ earliest years, Pete Best made a fairly egotistical claim. However, it’s likely that the claim was at least partially made with his tongue in his cheek. Pete wrote in the notes that the surfaced recordings contained in Anthology 1 were going to prove once and for all that he was, in fact, the Fifth Beatle. Like Stuart, Pete was technically a member of the Beatles during the period of time in which the group was a five-piece ensemble, and he’s also not considered one of the four core members. Because of this, it’s not unreasonable to call Pete the Fifth Beatle. However, once again, he is not the real one.
Other Potential Fifth Beatles
Another early member of the Beatles that is rarely talked about is Chas Newby. Chas played bass for the group when Stuart Sutcliffe couldn’t, as Stuart lived in West Germany and the Beatles were technically based out of Liverpool. The Beatles spent much of their early days working as a club act in West Germany, which is when Stuart was their bassist. When the band returned home to Liverpool, Chas took over duties on the bass temporarily. Chas’ contributions to the group are even lesser than Stuart Sutcliffe’s and Pete Best’s, so he’s nowhere near deserving of being designated as the Fifth Beatle.
Now that we’ve talked about several potential Fifth Beatles that are undeniably unworthy of the designation, let’s take a look at a man who has nearly as much claim to being called the Fifth Beatle as George Martin does. That would be Brian Epstein, who was the manager of the Beatles from 1961 until his death in 1967. Brian is the man who helped secure the Beatles their contract with George Martin, and it was his unwavering faith in the group that allowed them to blossom into the successful act that they became. Unlike most managers over the course of music history, Brian didn’t want to impose himself on the Beatles’ creative freedoms. This allowed the Beatles to show the audience who they really were.
Brian Epstein stuck his neck out for the Beatles during the band’s early days, and this allowed the group to achieve it’s unprecedented success. The core members of the Beatles all greatly revered the man, and they were saddened when he passed away in 1967. Many believe that Brian Epstein passing away signaled the beginning of the end for the beloved popular-music group. Given how hard it was for the band to function without him, there’s a lot of merit to calling Brian the Fifth Beatle.
Who Was the Real Fifth Beatle?
Though Paul McCartney came out after George Martin’s recent death and confirmed the music producer to be the Fifth Beatle, George Martin himself always considered the Fifth Beatle to be Brian Epstein. Though Brian didn’t make any musical contributions to the group’s output, he was more important to the chemistry of it’s core members. Without Brian Epstein, the Beatles wouldn’t have broken out into prominence. Without George Martin, their music would’ve have been as groundbreaking.
One man who disagreed with George Martin being dubbed the Fifth Beatle was the late John Lennon. According to John, if George Martin’s musical contributions to the Beatles were so great, how come he wasn’t as popular as they were? John particularly took umbrage with the fact that George Martin received so much credit for the sonic experimentation on the group’s self-titled “White Album”. According to the late John Lennon, he and Yoko Ono did most of it themselves.
Though many people have been dubbed the “Fifth Beatle” over the course of popular-music history, one man deserves the title more than any other. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that the Beatles started out as a five-piece ensemble, and that one of the group’s founding members died tragically young? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!