Fab Four – or Super Seventeen?*

How many of the Beatles are dead and how many are alive?

Simple question.

Well, no. It’s not.

We know John Lennon is dead. He was shot by Mark Chapman outside the Dakota Building in Manhattan on December 8, 1980. 

And we know George Harrison is dead. George died on November 29, 2001 aged 58.

So that’s it then. Two Beatles are dead.

Well no. That’s not it.

Don’t forget Stu Sutcliffe who was the original bass guitarist for the Beatles. He actually earned the title The Fifth Beatle, not the first or last to do so though. He died on Apjril 10, 1962.

And of course there was Brian Epstein, the man who managed the Beatles to worldwide success and fame. Indeed, some newspapers called him, eh, The Fifth Beatle. He died of a drug overdose on August 27, 1967.

Of course, Neil Aspinall was a school friend of Paul McCartney and George Harrison, he went on to head the Beatles’ company Apple Corps. The Beatles employed Aspinall first as their road manager, which included driving his old Commer van to and from shows, both day and night. They called him the Fifth Beatle. He died on March 24, 2008.

And it would be wrong not to remember Pete Shotton. Pete was a member of the Quarrymen and was close to the band all the way through their career. So much so, they often called him – can you guess? – that’s right. The Fifth Beatle. He died on March 24, 2017.

Only one person was ever invited to join the band once the line up of John, Paul, George and Ringo was decided. And that will Billy Preston. He played with them on that famous rooftop gig on the Apple building in 1969. That day, at least, he was The Fifth Beatle, though he was often referred to as such afterwards. He died on June 6, 2006.

You may not be as familiar with the name Norman Chapman who was the original drummer with the Silver Beetles, who eventually became The Beatles. Yes. Some did call him The Fifth Beatle. Norman died on March 20, 1985.

Tommy Moore, who died on September 21, 1989 was also a drummer with the Silver Beetles and was called – it’s getting tedious – The Fifth Beatle.

Mal Evans was the band’s long serving roadie and was very close to the lads. So much so, he was called The Fifth Beatle. He was shot dead by police in Los Angeles on January5, 1976. They mistakenly thought he was armed.

Joe Flannery was the booking manager for the band in 1962/63. He became known, not as The Fifth Beatle, but The Secret Beatle. He died on March 27, this year.

And then there’s George Martin. Would there have been a Beatles story to tell without their legendary producer, acknowledged – we’re back there again – as The Fifth Beatle? It’s doubtful.

George died on March 8m 2016.

So I make it twelve of the Fab Four dead.

That leaves..?

Well, Jimmy Nicol who is best known for temporarily replacing Ringo Starr in the Beatles for a series of concerts during the height of Beatlemania in 1964, elevating him from relative obscurity to worldwide fame and then back again in the space of a fortnight. They called him the Fifth Beatle

Chas Newby was bassist for The Beatles for several gigs in December 1960, while Stuart Sutcliffe was still in Hamburg focusing on his art career. They called him the Fifth Beatle

Pete Best was famously replaced by Ringo and as a result has spent the rest of his life being called The Fifth Beatle – among other things.

Oh yes. Better not forget.

I think here are two others.

Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr

Seventeen in all!

*(Just the four for me. John, Paul , George and Ringo. OK. And maybe George Martin. And Billy Preston…I’ll stop now.)

4 thoughts on “Fab Four – or Super Seventeen?*

  1. Brendan

    What about Geoff Emerick – an essential part of Team Beatles. (Look him up)


  2. Brendan Martin

    What about Geoff Emerick (died 2018)? An essential part of The Beatles’ story. And what about Allan Klein (died 2009)? And what about me (still alive) for buying all their records?


  3. paddytm

    Ok. We’re at the Notorious Nineteen. Will we get a Top Twenty (and George Best is not acceptable even if Spanish media christened him El Beatle!)


  4. Colin Kerr

    Great article Paddy.


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