How many fifth Beatles were there?

With Neil Aspinall’s passing, the Beatle circle got everso smaller this week.  There are references out there as to how he really was the “fifth Beatle.”  There have been arguments over the years as to who is best labeled as the elusive fifth Beatle. As this article states, it seems that virtually anyone who did come into contact with the Fab Four can and has been dubbed the true fifth Beatle. 

I have come to the realization that the fifth Beatle best describes the group of supporting characters that had helped the four members of the group be successful.  The would not have been able to be as successful as they were without all of these people in place. It’s impossible to fathom.

This UK Guardian article states that only one figure, Stuart Sutcliffe, can truly be called the official fifth member of the group, but I beg to differ.  If I had to give the title to one single person it truly go to one individual, and that man is – George Martin. He was a true addition to their sound in the studio for most of their career. He tempered their sometimes wild ideas with a stern voice of reason, but also made some of those crazy ideas possible. He was the creative ying to the group’s yang, and in my opinion is most deserving of the term fifth Beatle. 

I do, however, have to admit that I am cheating at answering my own question.  The fifth Beatle title is reserved for all of those people that come to mind.  It was a collaborative effort.

Here’s a question, for you dear readers. 
Who is the true “fifth Beatle” in your opinion? 

  • Stuart Sutcliffe
  • Brian Epstein
  • Pete Best
  • Neil Aspinall
  • Derek Taylor
  • George Martin
  • Derek Taylor
  • Murray the “K”
  • Billy Preston
  • Geoff Emerick
  • Jimmy Nichol
  • Klaus Voorman
  • Eric Clapton
  • Someone else not mentioned.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear your argument for who is dubbed the true fifth Beatle.

Here’s what we’ve read.

Easy. There was one: Stuart Sutcliffe, the hopeless bassist who understood his limitations and who, in 1961, opted to stay in Hamburg with his girlfriend rather than return to Liverpool with the other four.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Neil Aspinall, the man who did more to keep the Beatles alive than any man – especially the Beatles themselves – died on Monday. His place in history remains as insecure as it was in life. On hearing the news, the BBC acclaimed him as the Beatles’ “guru”; by tea-time he had been downgraded to “ally”. In truth, he was a quill-free Boswell: first a van driver, then an assistant and latterly Apple Corp’s gatekeeper and curator. Nobody quite understood what he did, so he was often called the fifth Beatle.

Alas for Aspinall and his place in posterity, he is not the only fifth Beatle. In fact, there are so many of the blighters that even a male voice choir might regard the so-called Fab Four as ludicrously overmanned. Anyone who has ever shaken hands with a Beatle seems to get the nod – from suave Klaus Voorman, who designed the Revolver sleeve, to ill-fated roadie Mal Evans.

Aspinall was never an equal, and producer George Martin was an enabler rather than an innovator and collaborator. PR Derek Taylor was merely a firefighter, although his cheeky suggestion of “London” as the fifth Beatle (after all, it was the backdrop to their every meaningful move) is not without merit. Manager Brian Epstein thought he was a Beatle, yet when they needed anything done beyond organising tours he was out of his depth.

Nobody, of course, would be foolish enough to suggest Yoko Ono. Or Linda McCartney. In short, after Sutcliffe’s departure, nobody came close.

Source: UK Guardian


25 Responses

  1. George Martin… far.

  2. To me it seems like a close call between Epstein and Martin – musically it’s Martin, but if you’re arguing for Beatle as a social phenomenom it’s perhaps Epstein, but actually I would argue that the “Fifth Beatle” is rather a whole group of people, like Martin, Epstein, Aspinall, even Mal and Emerick. Perhaps even periphery-characters like Robert Freemann and Klaus Vormann. The Beatles had a lot of good people helping them as a “collective Fifth Beatle”, but if one were to point to one it’s either Martin or Epstein, depending on whether you think the Beatles would’ve made it with another manager, or if the Beatles would’ve made such great records with another producer.

    Stu is the hard one; one the one hand he was an important formative piece in regards to name and his girlfriend Astrid Kirchner was important for the style of the boys, but one the other he was never musically important.

  3. I totally agree with Hans Hustveit. Fifth beatle Brian or George.( or even a group of important people involved in the beatles career)

  4. The Fifth Beatle to me is always going to be my friend Joe Pope who passed away several years ago. He published a Beatles fanzine called Strawberry Fields Forever which enjoyed a run for 25 years and he operated a phone line called the Beatlephone, where he dispensed daily Beatles news with a humongous dose of humor. While he never actually met any of the Beatles (he didn’t want to, as he felt it would spoil his fan’s perception of them) he did meet several notable people in the Beatles’ history.

    Still miss you, Joe.

  5. The Sun newspaper in England lists the following:
    Pete Best
    Stu Sutcliffe
    Brian Epstein
    George Martin
    George Best (soccer player)
    Yoko Ono
    Neil Aspinall
    Apu from The Simpsons
    Derek Taylor
    Lady Mucca (aka Heather Mills)

    I’m not sure how serious they were being but here’s the link to their article online:

  6. While I’m here, I read this article on Neil today

    A very nice tribute, I think

  7. Its a bit silly really. We all know that the Beatles were a four piece group. Its as simple as that.

    There was no 5th Beatle.

    But in my opinion it has to be George martin. Hes the only one that actually made a differeance to the sound. The beatles were a pop group of cause and would not have sounded like they did AT ALL without George Martin.
    You could say Brian. They wouldnt have made it without him but then again everybody else turned Brian down except George..
    saying it was Stuart or Pete, you may as well say Chas newby or tommy moore. All important in the story but they were past members of what eventually became the settled line up.
    Nobody else, however important they were in Beatle history can really be considered a 5th Beatle.
    I will say though that NEIL was the unsung hero in the story. He was there from start to finish. But the Beatles would still have made it without him. They would not have made it without George & Brian and they would not have sounded the same without George Martin.

    So my choice is George Martin….. But like i said . THERE WAS FOUR BEATLES….. Simple as that. There never was a 5th Beatle and we all know that.

  8. taffaroo has it!!!(by George! Sorry,had to use that pun)

  9. i know it was only one album but no one has mentioned phil spector.

  10. Uh, Stuart Sutcliffe actually was the literal “fifth Beatle”. What his influence was I can’t calculate, but I’m sure his life and death made a deep impression on John Lennon, his best friend.

    Which is not me arguing about this whole “fifth Beatle” thing, only that it’s kind of silly to ask if Stuart Sutcliffe was “the fifth Beatle”. Of course he was. The Beatles were a five man band back in the day…

  11. Stuart Sutcliffe was not a hopeless guitarist and he did return to Liverpool to play with the Beatles again early in 1961.
    Paul McCartney and Klaus Voormann were among the many people who, at the time, said Stuart was a good bassist. George Harrison wrote to him asking him to come back to the group.
    The wrong information which appeared in Alan Williams’ book is what resulted in people saying he was hopeless as a bassist.
    This is not so. A bass sound is essential, you can’t get away with a really bad bassist in a group. Stuart even joined a group with Howie Casey at the Kaiser Keller and Howie would not have stood for a bad guitarist.

  12. George Martin is the Fifth Beatle. He was the man behind the music; the music is what the Beatles are.

  13. OMG, so obvious, Ringo is the 5th as Pete was the 4th!!!

  14. Stuart Sutcliffe is the literal fifth Beatle.

    However, I like the idea of a “collective Fifth Beatle” because I think that describes it perfectly.

  15. check out the Anthology…

    was it George or Ringo who said that Murray the “K” if the fifth Beatle? That’s the Dj guy is he not?

  16. to me, it’s a title that can be shared by a few …
    1. stu sutcliffe
    2. pete best
    3. george martin
    4. brian epstein
    5. geoff emerick
    6. neil aspinall
    7. mal evans
    8. derek taylor

    these are the 5th beatles….., without whom……….

  17. I agree with Taffarroo. No fifth Beatle. The Beatles were and will forever be the Fab Four. Iconic, a unit that was only as good as the sum of its four equal yet individual contributors, John Paul George Ringo. End of Story.


  18. Stuart Sutcliffe =)

  19. Well you know, technically, Stu was the fourth Beatle, Pete was the fifth Beatle and Ringo Starr was the sixth Beatle.


  20. How about Scott Muni?

  21. I strongly believe that George Martin was the ‘fifth’ Beatle. He helped put their sound on the records and made a lot of their ideas possible.

  22. Pete Best
    Stu Sutcliffe
    Brian Epstein
    George Martin
    George Best (soccer player)
    Yoko Ono
    Neil Aspinall
    Apu from The Simpsons
    Derek Taylor
    Lady Mucca (aka Heather Mills)

  23. “Derek Taylor was merely a firefighter”? Do fuck off, Derek wasn’t “merely” anything.

  24. HI GEOFF.

  25. Stuart Sutcliffe
    Brian Epstein
    Pete Best
    Neil Aspinall
    Derek Taylor
    George Martin
    Derek Taylor
    Murray the “K”
    Billy Preston
    Geoff Emerick
    Jimmy Nichol
    Klaus Voorman

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