Who Were The Fifth Beatles?

Often cited as the greatest rock band of all time, The Beatles were four lads from Liverpool who shook the world between 1960 and 1970. The ‘Fab Four’ rose to fame in the early 60s, topping the charts a record number of times and in the process they changed the face of modern music forever.

However, they did not do it alone and a large number of acolytes and affiliates played a part in the band’s success, resulting in many different people being hailed as ‘the Fifth Beatle’.

Who Were The Fifth Beatles YouTube video.

To celebrate the re-release of the documentary film Let It Be (1970), we take a look at a list of candidates who have all been labelled as the legendary ‘Fifth Beatle’ throughout the years.

1.) Stuart Sutcliffe

Stuart Sutcliffe was born on June 23, 1940, in Edinburgh, Scotland. His family later moved to Liverpool, England, where he met John Lennon while they were both students at Liverpool College of Art. Sutcliffe was a talented artist, and his friendship with Lennon grew as they bonded over their shared interest in art and music.

Sutcliffe was a significant figure in the history of the Beatles. He was an early member of the band, joining in 1960 as their original bass player. His time in the band represents a period when The Beatles were a five piece, cementing his occasional title as ‘the Fifth Beatle’.

Who Were The Fifth Beatles - Stuart Sutcliffe
Who Were The Fifth Beatles – Stuart Sutcliffe

Despite his artistic talents, Sutcliffe’s musical abilities were limited, and he struggled with the demands of performing live. He left the band in 1961 to pursue his art career, studying in Hamburg, Germany.

Stuart Sutcliffe’s relationship with photographer Astrid Kirchherr was a significant aspect of his life during his time in Hamburg and it also had a notable impact on the early Beatles. Kirchherr’s influence extended beyond their personal relationship and had a profound impact on Sutcliffe’s identity and sense of style. Under her guidance, he adopted the iconic mop-top hairstyle that would later become synonymous with the Beatles. Kirchherr’s avant-garde photography also captured the band’s early image, helping to shape their visual identity.

His story was explored in the movie Backbeat (1994) starring Stephen Dorff as Sutcliffe, Ian Hart as John Lennon and Twin Peaks star Sheryl Lee as Astrid Kirchherr.

Who Were The Fifth Beatles – Backbeat (1994) Trailer

Tragically, Stuart Sutcliffe’s promising artistic career was cut short when he died of a brain hemorrhage on April 10, 1962, at the age of just 21. His death deeply affected his friends and former bandmates, particularly John Lennon, who wrote the song In My Life as a tribute to Sutcliffe’s memory.

Despite his relatively brief time with the Beatles, Stuart Sutcliffe’s influence on the band’s early development and his lasting impact on their visual identity and artistic direction are widely recognized. He is remembered as a talented artist and a key figure in the band’s formative years. Astrid Kirchherr remained connected to the Beatles and continued her career as a photographer. She is remembered for her significant contributions to both the visual aesthetics of the Beatles and the broader cultural landscape of the 1960s.

2.) Brain Epstein

Brian Epstein was a pivotal figure in the history of the Beatles and is often referred to as the ‘Fifth Beatle.’ Born on September 19, 1934, in Liverpool, England, Epstein was the manager who helped transform the Beatles from a local band into global superstars.

Epstein first encountered the Beatles in November 1961 when he visited the Cavern Club in Liverpool, where they were performing. Impressed by their talent and energy, Epstein saw potential in the band and decided to take them under his wing. Despite having no previous experience in the music industry, Epstein’s keen business sense and vision for the band’s success would prove instrumental in their rise to fame.

Who Were The Fifth Beatles - Brian Epstein at Shea Stadium, 1965
Who Were The Fifth Beatles – Brian Epstein at Shea Stadium, 1965

Under Epstein’s guidance, the Beatles experienced unprecedented success. He negotiated lucrative contracts, managed their finances, and helped shape their image, transforming them from leather-clad rockers to well-groomed pop stars. Epstein’s marketing strategies, including their iconic matching suits and clean-cut image, played a crucial role in their mass appeal.

Despite his invaluable contributions to the Beatles’ success, Epstein struggled with personal demons, including depression and addiction. Tragically, he died of a drug overdose on August 27, 1967, at the age of 32.

Who Were The Fifth Beatles – Brian Epstein Meets The Beatles Video

Brian Epstein’s legacy as the Beatles’ manager is enduring. His vision, dedication, and belief in the band’s talent helped shape their unparalleled success and cultural impact, solidifying his place as one of the most important figures in the history of popular music.

3.) Jimmie Nicol

Jimmie Nicol is best known for his brief stint as a drummer for the Beatles during their 1964 world tour. Born on August 3, 1939, in London, England, Nicol was a seasoned session drummer who had previously worked with various artists in the British music scene.

Nicol’s association with the Beatles began in June 1964 when he was asked to fill in for Ringo Starr, the Beatles’ regular drummer, who was temporarily hospitalized due to tonsillitis and pharyngitis. Nicol was chosen for his ability to quickly learn and adapt to the Beatles’ extensive repertoire.

Who Were The Fifth Beatles - Jimmie Nicol
Who Were The Fifth Beatles – Jimmie Nicol

Nicol’s tenure with the Beatles lasted for just over two weeks, from June 3 to June 15, 1964, encompassing ten concerts in total. Ringo Starr rejoined the band in Melbourne, Australia, on June 14, 1964, and Nicol’s brief but memorable stint as a ‘Fifth Beatle’ came to an end.

Who Were The Fifth Beatles – Jimmie Nicol plays with The Beatles

Following his time with the Beatles, Nicol returned to a relatively low-profile career as a session drummer. Despite his fleeting moment of fame, he struggled to recapture the success and recognition he experienced during his time with the Beatles.

4.) George Martin

George Martin, often referred to as the ‘Fifth Beatle’, was a highly influential figure in the music industry, best known for his work as the producer for the Beatles. Born on January 3, 1926, in London, England, Martin initially trained as a classical pianist before transitioning into a career in music production.

In 1950, Martin joined EMI’s Parlophone label as an assistant to the head of A&R (artists and repertoire). Over the years, he worked with a diverse range of artists, from comedy acts to classical musicians. However, it was his collaboration with the Beatles that would catapult him to legendary status.

Who Were The Fifth Beatles - George Martin
Who Were The Fifth Beatles – George Martin

Martin first encountered the Beatles in 1962 when they were still a relatively unknown band looking for a recording contract. Impressed by their talent and charisma, Martin signed them to Parlophone and became their producer. This partnership would prove to be groundbreaking, as Martin’s musical expertise and innovative production techniques perfectly complemented the Beatles’ creativity and ambition.

Throughout their career, Martin played a crucial role in shaping the Beatles’ sound, contributing to the development of their music in profound ways. He helped refine their songs, arrange their compositions, and experiment with new recording techniques, pushing the boundaries of what was possible in the studio.

Who Were The Fifth Beatles – George Martin Meets The Beatles Video

Martin’s collaboration with the Beatles resulted in numerous groundbreaking albums, including Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, often hailed as one of the greatest albums in music history. His contributions to the Beatles’ catalog earned him widespread acclaim and recognition.

5.) Billy Preston

Billy Preston was a highly talented musician and songwriter who made significant contributions to the music industry, particularly in the realms of soul, funk, and rock. Born on September 2, 1946, in Houston, Texas, Preston began playing the piano at a young age and quickly displayed remarkable musical prowess.

Preston’s career took off in the early 1960s when he became a sought-after session musician, playing with artists such as Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and the Beatles. His exceptional keyboard skills, coupled with his ability to infuse soulful elements into his playing, made him a standout performer.

Who Were The Fifth Beatles – Billy Preston

Preston’s association with the Beatles began in the late 1960s when he was invited to contribute to their Let It Be album and subsequent rooftop concert. His electrifying keyboard work on tracks like Get Back and Don’t Let Me Down added a new dimension to the Beatles’ sound, earning him the moniker the ‘Fifth Beatle’.

Who Were The Fifth Beatles – A Young Billy Preston Appears With Ray Charles Video

Beyond his collaborations with the Beatles, Preston enjoyed a successful solo career, releasing numerous albums and singles on the Beatles Apple Corp label, that showcased his versatile musical talents. He scored several hit singles, including Outa-Space and Will It Go Round in Circles, both of which topped the charts in the early 1970s.

Honourable Mentions

The five people we have named above comprise our shortlist of ‘Fifth Beatles’ but there have been many people to be called this over the years. So, below are some honourable mentions that have also been associated with the title and could be considered by some as ‘Fifth Beatles’…

Mal Evans

Mal Evans was an integral member of the Beatles’ inner circle, serving as their trusted road manager and personal assistant throughout much of their career. Born on May 27, 1935, in Liverpool, England, Evans initially worked as a telephone engineer before finding his calling in the music industry.

Evans first crossed paths with the Beatles in 1961 when he was hired as a bouncer at the Cavern Club, a popular music venue in Liverpool where the band frequently performed. Impressed by Evans’ imposing stature and friendly demeanor, the Beatles soon enlisted him as their roadie and general assistant.

Who Were The Fifth Beatles – Mal Evans

Tragically, Mal Evans’ life was cut short on January 5, 1976, when he was fatally shot by police during a misunderstanding at his home in Los Angeles. His untimely death was a shock to the Beatles and their fans, who mourned the loss of one of their beloved associates.

Despite his relatively low profile compared to the Beatles themselves, Mal Evans played an indispensable role in their success and left an indelible mark on their legacy. He is remembered fondly for his dedication, loyalty, and contributions to the Beatles’ music and career.

Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton’s association with the Beatles is multifaceted and spans several significant moments in both his career and the Beatles’ history.

One of the most notable collaborations between Eric Clapton and the Beatles occurred during the recording sessions for the White Album (officially titled The Beatles) in 1968. Clapton contributed guitar work to the song While My Guitar Gently Weeps, which was written by George Harrison. Clapton’s soulful and expressive guitar solo on the track is widely regarded as one of the highlights of the album.

Who Were The Fifth Beatles – Eric Clapton on stage with John Lennon and Keith Richards

In addition to his musical contributions, Clapton had a significant influence on the Beatles’ later work. His blues-inspired guitar playing and songwriting style left a mark on the band, particularly during their experimental Let It Be sessions and the recording of Abbey Road.

Overall, Eric Clapton’s association with the Beatles is a testament to the mutual respect and admiration shared between two of the most influential forces in the history of popular music. Clapton’s contributions to the Beatles’ music, both as a collaborator and as an inspiration, are celebrated as part of the rich tapestry of their legacy.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was an Indian spiritual leader and the founder of the Transcendental Meditation technique. Born on January 12, 1918, in Jabalpur, India.

Maharishi’s association with the Beatles brought him widespread attention. In 1967, the Beatles, along with other celebrities, traveled to India to study meditation with Maharishi at his ashram in Rishikesh. The Beatles’ visit drew significant media coverage and helped popularize the practice of TM among Western audiences.

Who Were The Fifth Beatles – Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

However, the Beatles’ relationship with Maharishi was not without controversy. Their time at the ashram was marked by interpersonal conflicts and disagreements, leading to their eventual departure. Nonetheless, Maharishi’s teachings left a lasting impression on the band members, particularly George Harrison, who continued to practice meditation throughout his life.

Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono’s affiliation with the Beatles is often discussed in the context of her relationship with John Lennon, but her influence on the band extends beyond their personal connection.

Yoko Ono first met John Lennon in 1966 at one of her art exhibitions in London. Their relationship quickly blossomed into a romantic partnership, and Yoko became a constant presence in Lennon’s life, both personally and creatively.

Who Were The Fifth Beatles – Yoko Ono

Yoko’s avant-garde artistic sensibilities and unconventional approach to music made a significant impact on Lennon, who was already exploring experimental sounds and ideas outside of the Beatles’ mainstream pop repertoire. Yoko’s influence can be heard in songs like Revolution 9 and The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill from the White Album, where she contributed vocals and conceptual input.

Yoko’s association with the Beatles reached a controversial climax during the band’s breakup in 1970. Many fans and commentators blamed her for contributing to the tensions within the group and ultimately causing their dissolution. However, others argue that the Beatles were already facing internal conflicts and creative divergences that would have led to their breakup regardless of Yoko’s involvement.

That concludes our Who Were The Fifth Beatles article!

Think we’ve missed any out, or not included your favourite Fifth Beatle movie? Then let us know in the comments below.

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Greg Fisher
Greg is a digital content creator, photographer, filmmaker and writer. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @theflyingartist