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Paul McCartney’s blunt reason Stuart Sutcliffe was ‘edged out’ of The Beatles | Music | Entertainment


Over the years a number of men have been referred to as the “Fifth Beatle” from original drummer Pete Best to keyboardist Billy Preston.

Another is The Beatles’ original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, who attended Liverpool College of Art with John Lennon and moved in with him.

Eventually, Lennon and Paul McCartney convinced Sutcliffe to buy a bass guitar and join them with George Harrison in The Silver Beetles, who were formerly known as The Quarrymen.

During 1960, Sutcliffe would book gigs for the band and the group would often rehearse in his Gambier Terrace flat.

By August, The Silver Beetles had become The Beatles, hired Best as drummer and were performing in Hamburg.

In Germany, Sutcliffe met photographer Astrid Kirchherr, but he left the band that summer. The Beatles’ original bassist decided he wanted to focus on being an artist and enrolled at Hamburg’s University of Fine Arts, but it turns out there’s a rumour he was “edged out of the group for a very specific reason.

Speaking on the Michelle episode of his podcast McCartney: A Life in Lyrics, Sir Paul said bluntly: “Well, he wasn’t very musical, Stuart. He loved his music, but he just wasn’t… All of us had played guitar, so the transition to go to bass wasn’t too hard. Stuart hadn’t, so he had to learn from the ground up, and we showed him things. But we actually used to have to ask him to turn his back to the camera if there were any photos being taken, because we knew that people could see he wasn’t necessarily playing in the same key as us.

“Now, the rumour since has been that I edged him out of the band because we certainly did have our difficulties. For me, it was mainly because I didn’t think he was a very good musician, which he wasn’t, and he admitted it…For me, that caused problems because you could say being a perfectionist, but actually asking the bass player to play in the same key as us isn’t really looking for perfection. It’s quite a mild request.”

Having left The Beatles, Sutcliffe lent McCartney his bass until he could afford to buy one for himself. However, being a left-hander Macca had to play the instrument as it was, as requested by its owner.

That November, Sutcliffe and Kirchherr were engaged but the following April he suddenly died at the age of just 21. The Fifth Beatle had been suffering painful headaches and was acutely sensitive to light in the preceding months, while collapsing during an art class in February 1962.

On April 10, 1962, Sutcliffe collapsed again and was taken to hospital, but tragically died of a brain haemorrhage in the ambulance on the way. The cause of his ruptured aneurysm is unknown although it may have been caused by an earlier head injury.

McCartney: A Life in Lyrics is an iHeartPodcast and can be listened to here.


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