Who Was The Fifth Beatle? – Part I

Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr are photographed by Bob Bonis while on vacation in Bel Air, California on August 23-24, 1964

Paul McCartney and John Lennon were hailed as The Beatles’ songwriting duo. George Harrison was dubbed “the quiet one.” And Ringo Starr was the best drummer in the world, according to many.

Together they worked as a whole to conquer the world and not only herald, but win the British Invasion. But while The Beatles were bowing to the crowd on stage, there was other key figures working for their success behind the scenes. A number of these have been dubbed “The Fifth Beatle.” Exactly whom that true Fifth Beatle was, however, is still up for debate (and it’s often a hot one). Here are just a few of the most notable “Fifth Beatles.”  We invite your comments and opinions.

Stuart “Stu” Sutcliffe

Before their spectacular rise to fame, The Beatles legitimately consisted of five members. The Fifth Beatle in this instance was their original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe. Before joining band he began his career as an artist and attended the Liverpool College of Art. He left the band in 1961 to pursue his art education and to continue painting. Early the next year he began complaining of headaches, and then tragically, on April 10, 1962, he died from a brain aneurysm.

Brian Epstein

Best known for his role as The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein is largely credited with discovering The Beatles. While Epstein’s management style drew some criticism and amidst the controversy of his personal life, he was instrumental in the band’s rise to fame. In 1997, Paul McCartney said, “If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian Epstein.” Although he received McCartney’s “Fifth Beatle” endorsement years later, the jury has yet to reach a final decision. Quite a lot of controversy surrounds the motives and methods of Brian Epstein, but it is clear that without his influence in the early days we wouldn’t have gotten The Beatles as we know them.

Murray the K

Murray Kaufman, more commonly known as Murray the K, was an influential New York radio DJ during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. He was embedded in the trenches of the Beatlemania and often referred to himself as the Fifth Beatle. His popularity peaked during the mid-60s when he befriended the band as they began performing in the U.S. While there isn’t a general consensus of how the name was attributed to him, his radio station quickly picked up on it and billed him prominently as the Fifth Beatle. In a late 70s interview, Kaufman admitted, “I really didn’t like it very much, but that was it.”

Astrid Kirchherr

Astrid Kirchherr, a German photographer and artist, is most well known for her close association with The Beatles, which lends itself to her candidacy of being the Fifth Beatle. When she first met the band in 1960, she was dating Klaus Voormann, a German artist who created the album artwork for Revolver. She quickly became smitten with original Beatles bassist, Stuart Sutcliffe. Her best known photographic works are of The Beatles in their early days playing in Hamburg, Germany.

Klaus Voormann

Another German artist and musician that joined the Beatles’ circle of friends was Klaus Voormann. Like his then-girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr, he met and became closely associated with the group in the early 1960s. During the band’s early days, Voormann lived in the Fab Four’s London flat. Shortly thereafter he designed the GRAMMY award winning cover artwork for the Beatles’ Revolver album. In the 1990s, he also designed the artwork for the Beatles Anthology albums. Much like Kirchherr, his close relationship with the band led some to speculate about his role as a Fifth Beatle.

This was Part 1 of Who Was The Fifth Beatle? – Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon!

Enter Bob Bonis

While the Fifth Beatles seemingly came and went, Bob Bonis was playing his part as U.S. Tour Manager for The Beatles on all three U.S. tours between 1964 and 1966 (and for the Rolling Stones’ first five trips stateside as well). Undoubtedly, while the others squabbled over who was the true Fifth Beatle, Bonis was keeping his focus on the shutter of his Leica M3 camera.

With his camera always ready for action, he captured never before seen photos of the band in candid, intimate and historically important moments in the early days of The British Invasion.

These iconic photographs are available now for the first time as strictly limited edition, custom fine art prints from the Bob Bonis Archive. Each photograph is hand numbered, estate embossed, and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity from the GRAMMY Museum® at L.A. LIVE!

Brian Epstein: Two Sides of a Valuable Coin

All four Beatles, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison board an airplane at the SeaTac airport in Washington, Augst 22, 2964

While The Beatles became accustomed to being embroiled in controversy, there was a key player behind the scenes of the band’s success and image that created a drama of its own.

Brian Epstein, born September 19, 1934, is best known for his role as The Beatles’ manager and is largely credited with their discovery, as well as a key player in their rise to fame.

His management of the band was undoubtedly important to their success, but his business dealings drew much criticism, and the man’s personal life was a whirlwind of gambling and drug abuse that would ultimately become the catalyst for his demise.

When Epstein first heard of The Beatles, he was working at his family’s record and musical instrument shop. Then, on the fateful day of November 9, 1961, he saw the group perform onstage at The Cavern Club in Liverpool, England.

The group he saw on stage that night, though, was in direct need of an “Epsteinification.” They just didn’t know it yet. At the time, according to History.com, they would eat and drink onstage between songs, dress in all-black leather, and play only cover songs.

Epstein and The Beatles’ Rise to Fame

But nonetheless, The Beatles had made a powerful first impression. He said he was enthralled by “their music, their beat and their sense of humor onstage,” reports the New York Times. He quickly decided The Beatles would become the biggest band in the world. He said, “My own sense of inferiority and frustration evaporated with The Beatles because I knew I could help them.”

In early December of 1961, Epstein and the band began discussing the possibility and terms of his management role. By the end of January, he was officially their manager. Although he didn’t have experience managing an artistic group, he was very influential in determining the band’s signature appearance and their trademark end-of-show bow to the crowd.

The Beatles take a bow on stage at the Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota on August 21, 1965. Photo by Bob Bonis

During his time with the group, he managed the band’s business affairs, but he also helped to settle interpersonal conflicts. Epstein worked tirelessly for The Beatles, and as a result, its members trusted him with an ardent loyalty. Author Johnny Rogan writes in Starmakers and Svengalis: The History of British Pop Management, “Even on the brink of a nervous breakdown, his devotion to the Fab Four was all-consuming.”

Tragically, on August 27, 1967, at the age of 32, Epstein died of an accidental drug overdose after taking too many sleeping pills. Epstein had been with them for the entire trek up to the summit. But with his sudden death, anticipation of climbing down from the peak crept in suddenly, as did the truth behind some of Epstein’s business dealings.

Brian Epstein Remembered

In the biography Many Years From Now, Paul McCartney said that the band had always signed the contracts presented to them by Epstein without reading them. Following Epstein’s death, John Lennon bemoaned, “Well, he was alright. I’ve found out since, of course, that he wasn’t quite as honest to us as he made out.” However, in his biography For the Record, Lennon attested to the band’s loyalty to Epstein by saying, “We had complete faith in him when he was running us. To us, he was the expert.”

Despite the controversy, Epstein was without any doubt instrumental in The Beatles’ rise to fame. In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, when asked about the time following Epstein’s death, Lennon said, “I knew that we were in trouble then. I didn’t really have any misconceptions about our ability to do anything other than play music, and I was scared. I thought, ‘We’ve had it.’”

Although The Beatles were beginning their descent from the top, the view was still clear and bright as each member carried on with their respective, similarly best-selling solo projects. But, also in the background of The Beatles’ success was their U.S. Tour Manager, Bob Bonis.

Bonis served as U.S. Tour Manager for all three of the band’s American tours between 1964 and 1966 (as well as for The Rolling Stones’ first five trips across the pond). As he worked with the Fab Four, he also satisfied his passion for photography, capturing rare and never before seen moments in rock-n-roll history.

These iconic and intimate photographs are available now for the first time as strictly limited edition, custom-printed fine art prints from the Bob Bonis Archive. Each photograph is hand numbered, estate embossed, and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity from the GRAMMY Museum® at L.A. LIVE!

Reaching For The Guitars: Happy Birthday Keith Richards!

Keith Richards at RCA Studios in Hollywood, California, May 12-13, 1965. Photo captured by Bob Bonis who served as US Tour Manager for The Rolling Stones and The Beatles between 1964 and 1966.

On December 18, 1943, the rock-n-roll gods willed Keith Richards into existence and guided him along the path that would lead him to The Rolling Stones and to become one of world’s greatest guitarists.

Keith, an only child, was born in Kent, England, to Doris and Herbert Richards, a factory worker dad who was injured in World War II during the Normandy Invasion, according to the book Keith Richards: The Biography. Although his father saw little value to music, Keith’s grandfather took an opposite and more playful approach to encouraging the rock-n-roll-tot.

Keith’s grandfather, ‘Gus’ Dupree, toured England with a jazz big band, which helped pique Keith’s infatuation with music and the sound of a six string. During an October 25, 2015, BBC Radio program, Keith said his grandfather ‘teased’ him with a guitar he had placed on a shelf out of little Keith’s reach. Then Gus offered him a deal: if Keith could reach the guitar, it was his.

Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Ian Stewart at RCA studios in Hollywood, California, September 1965. Image captured by Bob Bonis while serving as US Tour Manager for the Rolling Stones between 1964 and 1966.

And so, with destiny just out of reach, Keith set off on the task of devising a way to reach the guitar. After finding a chair, and the subsequent books and couch cushions needed to reach the prize, Keith reached the peak victorious. But there was a catch: learning the rudiments of Keith’s first tune, ‘Malaguena,’ a classical tune which had become a popular jazz song.

After practicing the number “like mad,” Keith’s grandfather let him keep the guitar. Now, with “the prize of the century” in his grasp, Keith practiced at home, becoming familiar with world renowned artists such as Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.

As the years passed and as he grew older, Keef began to focus less on his formal education and more on playing guitar. By the year 1959, he could play most of the solos performed by blues legend Chuck Berry.  Not long after, Keith, along with his friends Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Ian Stewart, and Charlie Watts, began playing together in the group that would soon become The Rolling Stones.

In a 1986 Guitar World Magazine article, Stewart said that Keith was without a doubt the band’s leader. Keith’s job was to keep the band working as a finely tuned machine, to which Bill Wyman commented that while most bands follow their drummer, there is “no way of not following” Keith’s lead.

Over the years, Keith’s signature “guitar weaving,” or the interplay between lead and rhythm guitars, graced the world with one hit song after another. With Keith driving the beat and Jagger singing to the crowd, the world class songwriting duo wrote 14 songs featured in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” The magazine also ranked him fourth on its list of 100 best guitarists, adding that Keith is to thank for “rock’s greatest single body of [guitar] riffs.”

From 1964 to 1966, Bob Bonis had the honor of serving as the U.S. Tour Manager for the Rolling Stone’s first five trips across the pond (as well as all three U.S. Beatles tours). Armed with a passion for photography and his Leica M3 camera, Bonis captured the band in their honest, behind the scene moments.

These intimate, and often iconic photographs are available now for the first time as strictly limited edition, custom fine art prints from the Bob Bonis Archive. Each photograph is hand numbered, estate embossed, and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity from the GRAMMY Museum® at L.A. LIVE!

Keith Richards, we wish you Happy Birthday and a sincere thank you for your years of contribution to the world of music, rock-n-roll, and killer guitar riffs. Here’s to many more!  Party on Keef!

We Don’t Miss John Lennon Only On The Anniversary Of His Assassination

 Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.

John Lennon

October 9, 1940 – December 8, 1980

On the anniversary of John Lennon’s killing, every fan page and newspaper, every music blog and every related website commemorated his life and his passing.  But we realized that this homage should not be limited to the actual anniversary date of this horrific act only, but that true Beatles fans, Lennon fans and most real human beings miss John – as they should – every day.  Thus, our take on this infamous event, a few days later.

As John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono returned to their New York apartment at the Dakota on December 8, 1980, a killer lurked in the shadows, waiting for the right moment.

Lennon and Ono were returning from the recording studio where they were mixing Ono’s song “Walking on Thin Ice,” which featured Lennon on guitar. “John and I were gloriously happy in the first week of December. In our minds, we were a team – old soldiers,” Ono recalled to British newspaper The Daily Mirror.

Going Home

John Lennon back stage at The Club House, Busch Memorial Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri, August 21, 1966. Photograph by Bob Bonis and reprinted by the Bob Bonis Archive.

As they passed the small autograph-seeking crowd gathered outside their building’s entrance, Mark David Chapman, who Lennon had signed an autograph for hours earlier, stepped out from the archway in which he was hiding and raised his revolver, aiming directly at Lennon’s back. Five shots cracked into the night. One of the .38 Special’s hollow point bullets missed, two hit Lennon in the left side of his back, and two penetrated his left shoulder.

Police arrived on the scene within minutes to find Lennon lying in the lobby bleeding profusely. Outside they found Chapman waiting calmly for his arrest, holding a copy of J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel A Catcher In The Rye. In the book he had written, “This Is My Statement.” He signed it Holden Caulfield, the story’s protagonist, which had become a cultural icon of rebellion and angst.

The Mirror reports that upon realizing the severity of Lennon’s wounds, officers placed him in the back seat of a squad car and rushed him to a hospital; they did not believe he would make it if they had to wait for an ambulance. But upon arrival, Lennon’s pulse and breathing had stopped. Attempts to resuscitate him proved futile, the damage sustained and the volume of blood lost was simply too great. Shortly after 11 p.m., Lennon was pronounced dead. And the world changed forever.

Worldwide Mourning

The death of Lennon, one of the most iconic and outspoken Beatles, rocked the earth to its core. Fans poured into the public to share their grief. The world had watched his mind blossom with each new Beatles hit. Following the breakup, they listened to him espouse love and world peace with his solo projects and public protests. His murder left an indelible scar on the realm of music, and the hope for a better world.

Chapman had been a devout Beatles fan, but Lennon’s increasingly controversial statements, such as how The Beatles were more popular than Jesus, would come into direct conflict with his religious beliefs and his perceptions of reality. In a 2001 article, author Lynne H. Schultz quotes Chapman as saying, “At that point, my mind was going through a total blackness of anger and rage.” As his disgust with society continued to fester, so did his obsession with killing Lennon.

Lennon’s remains were cremated, but no funeral was held. A week after his death, at the request of Yoko Ono, millions of people around the world took pause for ten minutes in silent reflection of Lennon. The New York Times reported that thirty thousand people gathered in Liverpool, but over 225,000 occupied New York’s Central Park to remember Lennon while every radio in the city went silent.

In the time before the trial, Chapman underwent extensive psychiatric evaluations and was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Although he was encouraged to enter an insanity plea, Chapman opted for a guilty plea and was sentenced to 20 years to life with the possibility of parole. He has been denied parole eight times and remains incarcerated to this day.

Early Years

Bob Bonis had the pleasure to know John Lennon while serving as U.S. Tour Manager for The Beatles (as well as for The Rolling Stones) during all three of their American tours between 1964 and 1966. With his trusty Leica M3 camera, Bonis captured never seen before moments of John Lennon and The Beatles as they grew under the watchful eye of the world. His photographs chronicle the years of the band’s rise to fame, and snapshots of the moments leading up to Lennon becoming the musician, activist, and icon the world fell in love with.

These iconic and intimate photographs are available now for the first time as strictly limited edition, custom-printed fine art prints from the Bob Bonis Archive. Each photograph is hand numbered, estate embossed, and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity from the GRAMMY Museum® at L.A. LIVE!

John Lennon: although your life ended at the hands of insanity, and way too early, your message of peace and love still rings clear, and you live on in our hearts day after day. We miss you constantly. Your music and your messages changed the world forever; thank you for your unequalled contribution to peace.

Down the Rabbit Hole: LSD, the CIA and The Rolling Stones

They were strange days all around as the Vietnam War marched on and The Rolling Stones gave rhythm to a blooming counterculture, evolving social norms, and dangerous civil unrest.

To quell the rising movements in opposition to the war, the Central Intelligence Agency and British Security Service MI6 carried out secret illegal (and immoral), covert experiments to explore mind control techniques for use in espionage, warfare, and population control. Most of the subjects involved were never informed they were being used in these experiments.

Project MK-Ultra, often referred to as the CIA’s mind control program, was extremely broad in scope, but the experiments conducted with LSD, or “acid,” were some of the most notable, and disturbing. While Keith Richards and Brian Jones would end up trying the drug with a little help from their friends, but according to author John L. Potash, Mick Jagger needed a little coaxing from an undercover British Intelligence asset.

Keith, Brian and The Merry Pranksters

Richards and Jones were first introduced to LSD while The Stones were winding down their fourth American tour. At the same time, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author Ken Kesey and his troupe of Merry Pranksters were ramping up their historic Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test parties, promoting the use of such psychedelic drugs.

Outside the Stones’ concert in San Jose on December, 4, 1965, the Pranksters passed out handbills, trying to capture the frenzied energy created by the Stones, inviting the concertgoers to the second ever Acid Test. Although the band didn’t attend the Test, Stones bassist Bill Wyman wrote in his book Stone Alone that after the tour’s final show in Los Angeles the next day, “Keith and Brian took LSD at a party given by the writer Ken Kesey and his followers [The Merry Pranksters].”

Mick Jagger, though, fell into a different, bizarre, and covertly sinister rabbit hole. Much to the chagrin of the CIA, he had successfully resisted taking the drug until February of 1967. Some experts argued that LSD could be effectively used to disarm radical political beliefs. As a result, both the CIA and the MI6 used various methods of manipulating and controlling popular music to influence its listeners: the millions of youth in opposition of the Vietnam War.

Operation ‘Get Mick High’ is a Go!

In Drugs as Against Weapons Against Us, author John L. Potash explains that by glamorizing drug use with music from bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Project MK-Ultra could create a bandwagon effect, increasing drug use while decreasing commitment to political beliefs. Prior to 1967, Jagger unwittingly dealt a blow to the plot by publicly defending himself against false claims of using the drug.

But Jagger’s actions would soon be corrected. The morning after a party held at Richard’s English estate, guests who stayed the night (including Jagger, George Harrison and his wife Pattie Boyd) were offered a special LSD-laced tea by David Schneidermann, a known drug dealer working for British Intelligence and the FBI.

Potash writes the group was tripping all day, and later on, hashish was added to the party. But that evening, the house got raided by police and both Jagger and Richards were arrested and imprisoned on drug charges, which were later appealed. The mission, though, had been accomplished.

Identity Confirmed

Through a web of covert operations and agencies, Schneidermann admitted he was linked to the MK-Ultra program and its plot to manipulate mass populations with drug use. Potash notes that during this time, the CIA and British Intelligence were in the process of bringing LSD into England and were actively trying to introduce the drug to musicians.

In 2010, London newspaper The Daily Mail confirmed that Schneidermann did indeed work as an undercover operative to set up Richards and Jagger for the drug bust. The raid and the ensuing court case proved the band used drugs, subconsciously coaxing fans to imitate their idols by turning on, tuning in, and dropping their radical beliefs.

While serving as U.S. Tour Manager for The Rolling Stones (as well as for The Beatles) between 1964 and 1966, Bob Bonis had the rare privilege and unrestricted access to witness band’s non-drug antics. He was uniquely positioned to build a friendship with the band and to watch them wander down the occasional rabbit hole. He captured candid, historic, and never before seen moments on film. But instead of a spy camera, he had his trusty Leica M3 strapped to his hip.

These photographs are available for the first time as strictly limited edition, custom-printed fine art prints, from the Bob Bonis Archive. Each photograph is hand numbered, estate embossed, and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity from the GRAMMY Museum® at L.A. LIVE! To buy your very own and to share a piece of true rock history, click here.

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