May 162007

As we all know, the End Times are upon us.

And there are several rock-related issues that require closure. Up first, Who IS The Fifth Beatle? This term has been bandied about more than Paris Hilton’s labia and I for one am more than ready for some closure. And to my mind there is only ONE logical answer but apparently there are others with “opinions” of their own.

The Wikipedia does a pretty good job of outlining the “candidates” here. So good in fact that some of this write-up is blatantly plagarized. There are 25-some odd people mentioned here! A few make sense: Stu Sutcliffe, Pete Best. I would genuinely listen to arguments for these gents. Although if you’re going to argue these guys, wouldn’t – like – Pete be the fourth, Stu the fifth, and Ringo the Sixth? Feel free to Prince Nez me on the chronology here.

But Billy Preston? Klaus Voorman? Phil Spector?!!! Give me a break! And who the fuck is Alf Bicknell?! Please.

Sadly, The Beatles themselves are WRONG on the issue. Depending on your source, either George and/or Ringo declared Murray the K as The Fifth Beatle. At the Beatles’ 1988 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, George Harrison stated that there were only two “fifth Beatles”: Derek Taylor and Neil Aspinall. That’s just bad math. Paul McCartney, in 1997, stated: “If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was Brian.” This statment by Paul precedes Linda’s death so I’m more likely to give it credibility. Anything A.L. though is just pops and buzzes.

To make this issue more imminent is the upcoming film, yup, The Fifth Beatle, a biopic on the life of Brian Epstein. Anyone here bi-curious?

OK, so here’s the fact: The only possible The Fifth Beatle can be George Martin. George Martin produced nearly all the Beatles’ recordings and wrote the instrumental score for the Yellow Submarine soundtrack album, and the string and horn (and even some vocal) arrangements for almost all of their songs (with the famous exception of the Phil Spector re-production Let It Be). Martin’s piano playing also appears on several of their tracks, including “Misery” and “In My Life”.

So is this just a rhetorical post or does someone disagree? If there is dissent here, let’s hear it and afterwards we’ll set up a poll and let The People decide.

WARNING: Arguments for Jeff Lynne will be immediately deleted.


  37 Responses to “Once and for All: The Fifth Beatle”

  1. hrrundivbakshi

    Not sure what you’re looking for here beyond a “vote.” Mine goes to George Martin, for sure.

  2. BigSteve


  3. saturnismine

    Stu? Pete? George Martin? Billy Preston? Brian Epstein?
    Barrington Womble?

    George Martin.

  4. sammymaudlin

    Not sure what you’re looking for here beyond a “vote.”

    What got me back on this pet peeve was a rash of headlines in mid-April like this: “Fifth Beatle” Aspinall quits top job, referring to Aspinall’s departure as the head of Apple Corps.

    It just seems so crystal clear to me that if there were a Fifth Beatle it would have to be Martin. I wanted to see if any of the authorities here could possibly believe otherwise.

  5. On an extremely tangentially related topic, has anyone noticed that Paris Hilton’s PR rep is former John Lennon B.F.F. Elliot Mintz? Yuck.

  6. Mr. Moderator

    Are you suggesting, Townsman Chickenfrank, that Elliot Mintz is the fifth Beatle?

    As easy as it is to dub Martin with that title once and for all, I have to wonder if Epstein should get the credit for his early work on helping the band gel as a commercial entity, believe in themselves, and perfectly form that special “Beatles spirit.” The fact that Martin’s work with the band far outlasted Epstein’s contributions is worthy of consideratino, but I say that without Epstein pushing them and pulling them into an easy-to-digest formulation that there mihght not have been a Rubber Soul and beyond, or that only folks like us would have cared sso passionately.

  7. No. Elliot Mintz was the 9th Plastic Ono Bander.

    Not my selection, but the guy who the Beatles were most comfortable having with them inside the inner sanctum was Mal Evans. From the earliest days driving the van to the later days throwing Hells Angels out of Apple Corps, he was the guy they shared the majority of their time and jelly babies with. I’m a Martin man, but I like Mal as my Dark Horse.

  8. I agree with ChickenFrank. “The 5th” has to be in deep with the band – going to the smelly, disgusting, places that only band members can stand. To me, that’s Mal.

  9. general slocum

    I always thought the fifth Beatle was Paul McCartney.

  10. George Martin is the Fifth Beatle. Of all the candidates mentioned, he had the biggest input on the music, obviously. Plus, unlike Epstein, he was there for pretty much the whole of the band’s existence (not counting the embryonic bar-band phase).

    Also, I’m convinced that Elliot Mintz is made of wax. I mean, look at him!

  11. sammymaudlin

    he had the biggest input on the music

    Yes. And isn’t that the criteria for being given band-member status?

  12. Mr. Moderator

    In most bands, sure, musical contributions carry the greatest weight, but we’re talking about a cultural phenomenon. What does it mean to be “a Beatle?” I say it means more than to be part of a creative, vibrant musical combo; it also means to walk tall across the earth, in full knowledge that your achievements are representative of your era and will be marked in history for as long as history can hold the memory of the 20th century. Arranging strings and setting up mics is huge, making tea and managing the groupies is surely essential, working the books is important, but doing all in your power to give shape to those raw Liverpool lads? PRICELESS. For that reason I will stand by Epie. Think about it, folks. The man was a Dream Maker.

    I will note that should we decide once and for all that Martin is the 5th Beatle, I can live with that choice. I agree with Sammy that it’s important we put an end to this debate.

  13. general slocum

    Mr. Mod woefully miscalculates:
    I agree with Sammy that it’s important we put an end to this debate.

    END? How long are you dorks planning to live? Every single issue on here has to keep coming back with at least the asymetrical regularity of a comet, until we have the final round of Last Man Standing, which is, of course, played literally. If questions like “Who is the fifth Beatle?” or “Doesn’t that ewe bush look just like Rollie Massimino?” are never asked, everyone will actually have to attend to their jobs and the business at hand! Do you want to live in that world? Mr. Gergely might, but count me out! Just take care, Mr. Mod, not to kill the goose that lays the golden “healing.”

  14. Eddie Murphy used to play sax for them back in the day.
    They kicked him out for being black.
    Then he went and formed The Black Beatles.

  15. I’m down with George Martin, but I honestly wish we could all just agree to agree to put this argument down, and that there is in fact NO fifth Beatle. It’s like a conspiracy theory that The Beatles themselves don’t even have the answer to. The Beatles are what The Beatles are. It’s the Fab Four, not the Fab Five. Let It Be, man;)

    On a whole other note – I would pay to have the RTH bomb logo with the cracking earth on a dirtweed shirt. Who’s gonna make me one? Who?

  16. sammymaudlin


    Agreed… to a point. When Jeff Lynne can appear on an “authoritative” list of potential Fifth Beatles, the discussion has clearly gotten out of control. It is at these rare and unfortunate junctures that we at Rock Town Hall, not unlike the Supreme Court, need to step in and make a decisive verdict.

  17. mockcarr

    Has anyone mentioned Gummo Beatle yet?
    John would never have been able to sing so well without Gummo’s steady supply of Wrigley’s Spearmint.

    I agree with Sally to a point. Ain’t no fifth Beatle. None of those people were adopting disguises to live their lives or subject to the same pressures. Where is George Martin when the girls are chasing the lads? Where is Brian when the tunes are layed down? Songs without contributions by Martin aren’t less Beatley. The post and pre-Brian periods are still Beatley. I think Mal Evans had the closest experience to Beatlrey within the suspects, but was clealy a lackey and not “musical”, except for one organ part. Anvil and alarm clock playing notwithstanding, he seems to have the closest relationship and shared the tour and studio time and inbetween craziness, albeit serving mostly as a trusted buffer.

    I do believe George Martin is the fifth Action, and Brian was a Pacemaker or perhaps a Dakota.

  18. sammymaudlin

    I fear “There is no Fifth Beatle” may only create more confusion amongst the masses resulting in potential civil unrest and police action. The rock nation turns its lonely eyes to us.

  19. BigSteve

    I can definitely go with the “we would never have known about the Beatles without Brian Epstein” position.

  20. Mr. Moderator

    BigSteve’s got me covered! I sense a groundswell of support and, eventually, agreement…once and for all.

  21. sammymaudlin

    We would never have known about The Beatles if hadn’t been for their Mums either.

  22. mockcarr

    I give Brian credit for kicking Pete Best out and buying enough records to give them a hit.

  23. Actually its Bernard Purdie who recorded the drums for them early on…

  24. Mr. Moderator

    McClean’s onto something! Bernard Purdie is not only the fifth Beatle but the seventh Rolling Stone (behind sixth Stone Ian Stewart).

  25. mockcarr

    Young Jimmy Page did all the guitar solos too.

  26. And still no votes for Jimmy Nichol yet.

  27. BigSteve

    Murray the K seems to be striking out too.

  28. general slocum

    Just wanted to point out, we’ve got a very well-rounded shame spiral going with the RTH poll. I’m proud, very proud.

  29. general slocum

    Also, one of those funny-because-partly-true things from the Onion today, enjoy:

  30. saturnismine

    now i’m less interested in who deserves 5th beatle status than i am interested in the origins of the concept: what’s the earliest known reference to a so-called “5th beatle”?

    re. the poll, i’m proud (or am i ashamed?) to have authored the “rock nerd-dom” option, and to know that others feel the same way. thank you rth…

  31. dbuskirk

    Mention is deserved for Andy White, who unquestionable propelled their early career, setting them on the course to success.

    But maybe in the spirit of TIME’s Person of the Year in ’06 being “you” perhaps we’re all the Fifth Beatles. How would the Mop Tops have progressed if no one bought their records, would they have been as experimental or would they just chase trends? We, the collective Fifth Beatles might have been the most important Beatle of all. Give youselves a round of applause, the rest of you just rattle your jewelry.

    np Sly and the Famly Stone – STAND!

  32. BigSteve

    now i’m less interested in who deserves 5th beatle status than i am interested in the origins of the concept: what’s the earliest known reference to a so-called “5th beatle”?

    I’m pretty sure it goes back to New York DJ Murray the K. He certainly promoted himself as such, but it’s unclear whether he took an offhand comment from either George or Ringo and ran with it, or if he just made it up.

    Then after the concept was out there, it was variously applied to other more or less deserving people.

  33. saturnismine

    steve, i think you’re right. i was going to put that out there as an answer to my own question, but i wanted to see what others would say.

    i always imagined that the comment by george and ringo (which is documented) was less a way of complimenting Murray the K than it was a way of bringing his ‘wannabe’ status to the forefront. they were so dry, i always figured it was a dig, which he ran with, as you suggest.

  34. We would never have known about The Beatles if hadn’t been for their Mums either.

    I thought it was their trousers?

    The only problem I have with either George Martin or Brian Epstein is that they already had set roles. To me, “The 5th beatle” tag is a more nebulous role

  35. Mr. Moderator

    Judging by the Showdown poll that’s been running for 2 days, I think it’s settled…once and for all: George Martin is the 5th Beatle.

  36. general slocum

    Frustration at the narrowness of the poll, and absence of the “add your own answer” pressure valve kept me from voting on this earth shaking issue. When next an “erroneous” 5th Beatle is mentioned on RTH, someone may pince nez this result, but I find definitive answers of almost any kind anathema to the RTH experience.

  37. Mr. Moderator

    General, this is all part of the thoroughly planned changes around here that some have complained about. After all these years of trying to browbeat people into my opinions on matters of rock, I’m ready to let the chips fall where they must, but set them up and fall they will. From now on, we need to decide on these issues. We need to move forward, into the future – or at least the mid-90s. The last thing I ever want to do is revisit something like how unlistenable Love’s Forever Changes is or the flavor of Kool-Aid that folks drink to allow them to say they love the music of Mission of Burma – or to even question how anyone in their right mind can like Style Council. That’s the old Rock Town Hall, man. Now we’re gonna set ’em up and knock ’em down once and for all. You wait and see, when the world gets wind of our historic decision on the 5th Beatle, these debates will cease. Rock Town Hall has spoken. Now, let us pray…

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