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.