There were only four of them. That's why they were called the Fab Four and why when Ringo Starr became their drummer, Pete Best wasn't allowed to set up next to him. Other people imagined themselves as one of the group. Murray the K was enough of either an annoyance or a well-connected industry mover and shaker to be accorded "fifth" Beatle status. Which is really a bit like being named an "Executive Producer" on a film. No one knows what you actually do, but someone's planning on hitting you up for money at some point.
To put it in terminology that everyone can understand, being considered a "Fifth Beatle" is a bit like being someone's 400th FaceBook friend. It sounds more impressive than it actually is and there are plenty of people who think they deserve the distinction.
Here are ten folks who could potentially lay claim.
10) Murray the K: Murray Kaufman often referred to himself as the "fifth Beatle," indicating that he didn't necessarily clear it with anyone. He just went ahead and did it. Makes you wonder if you could promote yourself as the "Third Simon and Garfunkel" or the "second Bob Dylan" or the "Sixth Drive-By Trucker." Would this help? Kaufman, a NYC DJ who played lots of Beatle records, claimed either Harrison or Starr gave him the nickname. You mean someone finally listens to what the drummer has to say?
8) Ed Sullivan: Ed wouldn't have looked right banging a tambourine or standing in front of a keyboard, and who knows if Sullivan liked any of the talent he had on his show. Show business is a business. You have on whoever drives the ratings highest. How else do we have so many people who know nothing talking about important matters on our cable television? And why do you think anyone gets excited when U2 show up to play for a week on someone's program? Who wants to visit anyone for a week? Unless you're being paid.
Jimmy Nicol: Jimmy Nicol replaced Ringo Starr on drums for ten gigs in 1964 while Starr had his tonsils out. So for ten gigs, Nicol knew what it was like to be in a band where no one could stop shouting for more. Then he went back to being like the rest of us and being ignored. Supposedly, he got a watch out of the deal. Why do people like watches so much?
6) Horst Obber: Obber was the German waiter who was caught on tape at the Star Club in Hamburg Germany singing "Be Bop A Lula" and "Hallelujah I Love Her so" while the other guys in the band did something else. Had Obber sensed this pivotal moment in history, he might've negotiated a few "points" and written himself a little further into the band's legacy. Instead, he settles for a footnote and a name that should've become way more famous.
4) George Martin: If anyone deserves the distinction it should be this man, the Beatles' producer. I know people who pray to him when making production decisions. He played on their records. He coached them along. He tolerated their craziness. He went along with their experiments and he never got weird.
2) Billy Preston: Billy Preston had the distinction of being the only musician to play on a Beatle record and receive equal billing who wasn't named Tony Sheridan. The "Get Back" single was credited to The Beatles with Billy Preston. He'd met the group as early as 1962 when he was touring as a member of Little Richard's backing band.
Yoko Ono: Some people think she broke up the band. But then some people think the Beatles could've lasted forever. In any case, she inspired Lennon to work on "Revolution #9," a Beatle track that often causes people to disagree with one another. She is also the "Yoko" referenced in the songs "The Ballad of John and Yoko," "Oh Yoko" and "Dear Yoko." Unlike the Beatles' previous work, "Michelle," millions of impressionable young people did not immediately start naming their newborns "Yoko."
- Ringo Starr