The 5th Beatle plus Session Musicians

Part 1: The Fifth Beatle

Recently I saw keyboardist Billy Preston referred to once again as the Fifth Beatle. I don’t know why it’s so commonplace to refer to this asshole or that asshole as the FIFTH BEATLE but in most cases it’s completely irrational. The candidates:

PETE BEST – The group’s drummer in the touring years of the early 1960s before Ringo came along. I would say he is NOT the fifth Beatle simply because he was replaced. If Ringo was the FOURTH BEATLE then Pete Best is just the EX-FOURTH BEATLE.

STUART SUTCLIFFE – A member of the band during the Pete Best days. He was the bassist during a time when John, Paul and George ALL played guitar. When he left the band he was not replaced and the Beatles became a four piece. So I’d say Sutcliffe has a legitimate claim to the title.

BRIAN EPSTEIN – The Beatles’ fucking manager from the pre-major label days to the mid-60s when he deceased. A MANAGER IS NOT A GODDAMN BAND MEMBER.

BILLY PRESTON – A fucking keyboardist that was hired to play along with the band on the Let It Be sessions. The band was going for a live sound and didn’t want to mess around with overdubs. A hired clown that never toured or contributed songwriting, arrangmenetdnfafas blah blah is not a band member.

GEORGE MARTIN – You know! That guy that produced 90% of everything the Beetlez recorded. The guy that came up with those awesome string and horn arrangements on songs like “Eleanor Rigby” and “I Am The Walrus”. The guy that played piano on dozens of Beatles songs. If any asshole is a FIFTH BEATLE, it’s this asshole.

Part 2: Session Musicians

While I’m on the topic of the Beatles, it bothers me that it’s almost cliche to make jokes about Ringo Starr and how inept he is on the drums and what an overall loser he is. What? Where did this even come from? This really makes no sense and most of the people that propagate these jokes are probably not even very familiar with the source material.

During a very early recording session George Martin was displeased with Ringo and brought in a session guy for one track. A few years later Ringo was stressed out and took a sabbatical. I don’t know if these are the foundation for the rumors but they’re pretty flimsy. Ringo was perfectly capable and I’d even say he was ideal. His greatest quality was that he didn’t think inside of the box. Many of his drumlines were far from straightforward beats.

The fact that anyone even knows who he is and can make fun of his drumming is pretty exceptional. Most people don’t even know who the drummers were in bands like The Beach Boys, The Zombies, The Byrdz, etc. What’s more, at least Ringo was actually playing the drums on his albums. Many of the bands of this era typically used session musicians for their drumlines and lots of other things.

The Beach Boys, as many people know, reached the point where Brian Wilson recorded all the instrumental tracks with session dudes while the band was on tour and then had the band add vocals when they returned. The Byrds used session guys for practically everything but vocals.

End of rant? Was there a point? I can’t remember.


10 responses to “The 5th Beatle plus Session Musicians

  1. maybe it’s just cuz ringo’s neckbeard…

  2. Ringo Rocks…so does Hal Blaine session drummer for The Beach Boys!

  3. Here Here, agree completely with comments about Ringo. He truly was competent & unique. I also don’t like the bad things people say about him. I’d like to see the knockers beat or even match him. To those who put shit on Ringo “GO FUCK YOURSELVES” He is the one laughing now!!!

  4. Also considering Ringo was blind drunk most of the time he did an exceptional job. Three cheers for Ringo!!

  5. The jokes about Ringo were propagated so as to cover the fact that Harrison couldn’t play guitar (much less “lead”). The jokes were like a shiny object, and like crows, everyone’s glance goes to it so as not to notice Harrison’s incompetence.

  6. The people who played on the beach boys records are member of the infamous wrecking crew superb musicians for example the drummer is Hal Blaine who played as well on Simon and Garfunkel frank Sinatra and so many others, on the Beatles albums the playing is just exceptionally good hard to believe that its them playing since to play like you need great facility on the instrument lots of experience and a lot of love, i know its known they wouldnt let any1 else play on their songs but still im a musician cant but be skeptical about this entire thing, to play a guitar solo like on the song Michelle takes enormous amount of playing culture just sounds easy to some its really really not, im sure there are secrets that we dont know, let us know! we’re not buying it!

  7. David Scott

    The jokes about Ringo’s drumming were meant as a “heat sink”… to take your eyes off the fact that Harrison couldn’t play lead worth a f***. Wasn’t it Lennon who was asked, “Is Ringo the best drummer in the world?” by a journalist, and Lennon replied, “Ringo isn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles” (thinking of McCartney, no doubt). But listen to the overage of Beatles songs that have either A) lousy lead breaks, or B) NO lead break (Help!, a rockin’ tune, merely slows down in the middle for a break – there’s dozens and dozens of other examples). Harrison didn’t do his own guitar soloing on his own tune ABOUT a guitar (Clapton handled it – with no label credit – was he helping to “retool” the Beatles for the late ’60s, in the face of bands that could jam?). There is a Harrison song with a decent lead break, Taxman, but… oh… McCartney plays that. The joke should have been, “Is George the best lead player in the world?….” “No, he’s not even…” Thanks for listenin’.

  8. What is with the misconception that the Beatles didn’t use session musicians? The Beatles had just as many session dudes as the Beach Boys. They just didn’t get the credit. And the Beach Boys played on their records just as much as session dudes, ‘specially all the early BBs albums.

  9. Well, say whatever you will about Harrison’s guitar playing. It may not have the shine that Clapton shows or the dexterity of some shredders, but if you listen to the lead guitar solos he played on his solo albums, the emotion and smooth hand speaks. That cannot be said about many other well known lead guitarists.

  10. Uhh…first of all george martin was more than the producer he WAS the beatles. Paul and John gave him lyrics and martin pieced em into songs and made them presentable, without martin they were beyond incapable of holding it together as a group. ,2nd- there were other drummers and guitarists on hard days night, help, rubber soul and revolver, EVERYONE used session players back then, the beatles were NO exception.

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