I’m not old enough to have been in the group The Beatles but I am old enough to remember them when they were still together. I was almost 2 years old when they arrived in the U.S. for the first time. I was 8 years old when Paul McCartney announced he was leaving the group. Meet the Beatles is one of my all-time favorite albums. They were a large part of the soundtrack of my youth.
As I learned more about the Beatles as a teenager in the 1970’s, I often heard people referred to as “The Fifth Beatle”. There are many articles on the internet that discuss who qualifies as a potential fifth Beatle. This is my list. I don’t claim that it is all inclusive. It has the ones that I feel are most noteworthy and my personal favorites.
Murray the K was the name that Murray Kaufman went by. He was a famous New York DJ. He promoted the Beatles heavily before their first trip to the U.S. Because members of the girl group, the Ronettes, had told the Beatles about him he was given access to them and even traveled with them on a portion of this first tour. I believe that he was the first person ever referred to as the Fifth Beatle and the term was even used as a promotional tool for him. I wouldn’t know who he was if it weren’t for his association with the Beatles.
Billy Preston played keyboards on many of the later Beatles recordings. When I have heard the term Fifth Beatle thrown around, his name is the one I most often hear when it comes to performers on Beatles albums. The song you notice him on the most is “Get Back”. Fittingly, he performed this song in the 1978 film based on Beatles music, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. He had a solo career that included the singles “Will It Go Round In Circles”, “Nothing From Nothing” and my personal favorite, the instrumental “Outa-Space.” The strongest case for naming someone the Fifth Beatle goes for him.
Pete Best was the group’s original drummer before Ringo Starr. I get a feeling that he has made a career out of the fact that he was once a Beatle. Still he is the only person other that the Fab Four that can accurately claim that they were officially a member of the group. Yes, I know there was at least one other guy around at this point but he doesn’t count because he hasn’t made a career out of it.
Tony Sheridan was a popular musician in Germany. He used the Beatles as his backup band and during some recordings done in 1962. He is a noteworthy candidate for Fifth Beatle because these recordings have been released somewhat successfully. Tony Sheridan is to the Beatles what Ted Healy is to The Three Stooges.
George Martin was the producer on most of the Beatles recordings. Prior to working with the Beatles, he worked on classical recordings and several successful comedy recordings with the likes of Dudley Moore and Peter Sellers. He occasionally played on the Beatles recordings. He helped them come up with their distinctive sound. Without him, they would not have been the musical force they became.
Brian Epstein was the other person most responsible for making the Beatles what they became. He was their manager and the brains behind creating Beatlemania. And when I say Beatlemania, I’m referring to the popularity explosion of the group, not the tribute band. Epstein promotional efforts with the band were helped by a global environment that was ready to embrace this band. But his efforts were new, different and paid off big. You can see a difference in the band after he died.
Eric Clapton played the guitar solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Other than Billy Preston’s work on “Get Back,” this is probably the most recognizable music work by a non-Beatle on any of their recordings. Other famous rockers performed on other Beatles songs like “Yellow Submarine” and “All You Need Is Love”, but they are just in the background chorus. This is a major solo on a significant single. There are no illusions that Clapton was ever considered a member of the band. To be honest, my knowledge of all things Beatles is so shallow that it was only a few years ago when I discovered that George Harrison had not played that solo.
A Volkswagen Beetle on the Abbey Road album cover rounds out my list for obvious reasons.
Do you have any suggestions you would like to add?
Singer, Songwriter, Entertainer, Storyteller