Over the years, many people have laid claim to the informal title of the fifth Beatle.
Some say it was original band member Stuart Sutcliffe. Others reckon it was the group’s first drummer Pete Best.
Many point to the influence of manager Brian Epstein or producer George Martin.
The Beatles themselves cited public relations manager Derek Taylor as the fifth, non-playing, member of the band. Road manager Neil Aspinall was also in contention.
There were a few light-hearted pretenders to the title too. Footballer and fashion icon George Best was known as El Beatle – and even racing driver Stirling Moss once donned a Beatles’ wig!
The fifth Beatle headlines first appeared in the press when the Fab Four rose to global fame in 1963-4. Newspapers wanted to know who was behind the band’s phenomenal success.
By then, the Beatles were firmly established as Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. But it was not always so.
The original bassist of the five-member Beatles was accomplished artist Stuart Sutcliffe. He was in the line-up that played the clubs of Hamburg before the band returned to Liverpool in 1961.
A good friend of John Lennon, Sutcliffe had a strong influence on the group’s image. He was the first to sport the famous mop-top hairstyle and, some say, came up with the band’s name.
Sutcliffe stayed in Hamburg and died of a brain haemorrhage. Instead of replacing him, Paul McCartney moved to bass guitar with Lennon on rhythm guitar. The five had become four.
The Beatles’ drummer in the early years was Pete Best, who joined the band in August 1960 – just before the Hamburg club dates.
The Beatles were then known as the Quarrymen and often played in the Casbah Coffee Club set up in the basement of Best’s mother’s house in Hayman’s Green.
Best lasted until August 1962 when he was replaced by Ringo Starr following the band’s first recording session at London’s Abbey Road studios.
Brian Epstein was a major player in the Beatles’ rise to fame. He discovered the band playing in Liverpool and battled hard to win their first recording contract.
He was the Beatles’ manager from 1961 until his death in 1967. He gave Lennon and McCartney a free creative hand, focusing on the group’s business and public image.
George Harrison underlined Epstein’s contribution when the Beatles were awarded their MBEs in 1965. He said: ‘MBE really stands for Mr Brian Epstein’.
McCartney went a step further. In 1997 he said: ‘If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was Brian.’
Producer George Martin also had a massive influence on the Beatles. He worked on nearly all of their albums and wrote the instrumental score for the film of Yellow Submarine.
Many felt Martin, who was trained at the Guildhall School of Music, was one of the few record producers of time with the sensitivity to get the best out of the Beatles.
McCartney described Martin as ‘the most generous, intelligent and musical person I’ve ever had the pleasure to know’.
Mercurial Northern Irish winger George Best was at the height of his fame when the Beatles topped the charts.
In March 1996, he scored twice in Manchester United’s 5-1 demolition of Portuguese giants Benfica in Lisbon’s Stadium of Light – and was later photographed wearing a sombrero.
The papers quickly christened him El Beatle – and the name stuck.
Finally, even motor-racing legend Stirling Moss wasn’t immune to Beatlemania. He donned a Beatles’ mop-top wig to be photographed for a publicity stunt in November 1963.