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Who backed The Beatles? (6) PDF Print E-mail

Pete Shotton: He was one of John Lennon's closest friends - a friendship that endured for thirty years - from early childhood up to his tragic death. Pete Shotton, a blond-haired boy, lived on Vale Street in Liverpool, not far from John Lennon's home in Menlove Avenue. Both boys went through school together, ending up at Quarry Bank High School. After that Shotton became a member of a gang of child hooligans, formed by Lennon, and, of course, when Lennon formed his first skiffle group, Pete was immediately accepted into it as a permanent member of the group. He played the washboard. And although John and Pete were inseparable friends, the former didn't let this stop him from smashing the washboard over Shotton's head when he realised that the time of skiffle bands had passed. Shotton understood everything and left the group without making a fuss.

While John started at the Liverpool College of Art, Pete became a police cadet. Nothing could destroy their friendship, though. They continued to see one another occasionally, including after the Beatles had become famous. Lennon remained a true friend forever, always ready to offer a helping hand. For example, he wanted to provide funds to enable Pete to set himself up in business, at some point giving him a cheque for £2000. But nothing went right for Shotton. One day, this was in 1964, John met Pete, who by this time had left the police force and was in dire financial straits and prepared to do anything, and again decided to help his friend sort his life out. Lennon bought a supermarket Shotton liked in Hayling Island for just under £20,000. Then, on 18 March 1965, they formed a new company Hayling Supermarkets Ltd. of which John Lennon, George Harrison and Peter Shotton were directors.

When the Beatles formed the Apple Corporation company, Lennon asked Shotton to find someone else to manage the supermarket and come to London to run the new Apple Boutique. This was in 1968. And as we know, the shop was soon forced to close. At the request of the other Beatles, John Lennon replaced him with another employee of the company and Shotton briefly became John Lennon's personal assistant. The last time Pete Shotton and John Lennon saw one another was at his home in the Dakota Apartments, New York. His years of friendship with John are documented in his book "John Lennon: In My Life", first published in 1983 and written in collaboration with Nicholas Schaffner.

Sir George Martin: The famous producer of the Beatles recordings.
George Martin was born in London. He is known, first and foremost, as the Beatles' producer - he is even sometimes referred to as the "fifth Beatle". Before the Beatles, he had produced recordings for Shirley Bassey and Matt Monro, plus skiffle and jazz bands' recordings and the recordings of comic actors. After the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein brought Cilla Black, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas to the company Parlophone, where Martin was working, Martin went on to produce their records too. In 1965 Martin formed his own studio, AIR London. In the 1970s he produced a series of live albums for the band America, and also worked with Neil Sedaka, Ringo Starr, Jimmy Webb and Jeff Beck. He remained in touch with all former members of the Beatles and in 1977 he prepared the release of "At The Hollywood Bowl". He produced Paul McCartney's solo albums and the soundtrack for his film "Give My Regards To Broad Street".

At the end of the 1970s he built a studio on the Caribbean island of Montserrat at which McCartney, Dire Straits and the Rolling Stones were more than happy to work.

In 1989 a hurricane devastated the island, and many musicians provided their own recordings for the charity album "After The Hurricane", created by Martin. George Martin also produced a television documentary film devoted to the 25th anniversary of the "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album, and his last job was to oversee production of three double Beatles Anthology CDs.

Stuart Sutcliffe: The first official "electric" bass guitarist, of Scottish nationality, Stuart Sutcliffe, or simply Stu, the only real "fifth Beatle", was born on 2 June 1940 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His full name is Stuart Fergusson Victor Sutcliffe. Stuart's father, Charles, was a sailor, and his mother, Millie, a teacher. The family also included two younger sisters: Joyce and Pauline. When the Sutcliffe family moved to 37 Aigburth Drive, Liverpool, Stuart joined Prescott Grammar School, and later attended the Liverpool College of Art. Here he met a fellow student, John Lennon and a few other lads, including Rod Murray and Bill Harry. The latter would go on to become a famous chronicler of Mersey Beat and the Beatles. They were all interested in art, literature, the cinema and things mystic.

At the time Colin Wilson's book "Outsider" and J. D. Salinger's "A Catcher in the Rye" were very popular among this group of lads. They were then particularly keen on films by the famous Polish director, Andrzej Wajda. The Polish film actor Zbigniew Cybulski became a symbol of courage, strength, pure love and bravery for them in those days. He had played a magnificent role in the very popular, you could even say, celebrated, Polish film, also by Wajda - Ashes and Diamonds.

And Stuart also idolised the Polish actor, even going so far as to imitate him. He always wore the dark glasses favoured by Zbigniew Cybulski, who was known as the Polish James Dean. By the way, lean and delicate and fairly enigmatic in his dark glasses, Sutcliffe also bore a certain resemblance to James Dean. At the time Stuart was renting a room in Percy Street and many students, including John Lennon, showing a keen interest in people and all manner of different ideas and schemes, often visited Sutcliffe.

Stu and John gradually became great friends and often, discussing a myriad of subjects over cups of tea or other drinks, they would almost always forget the time and John would have to spend the night at Stu's. The lads went on to become such good friends that Stu, John and Rod Murray rented a flat together at Gambier Terrace. It's interesting that the same building that housed the Liverpool College of Art was also home to the Liverpool Institute where Paul and George were then studying. During breaks and other free periods they would meet up with John and Stuart and exchange news. At some stage John let it slip that his group really needed a bass guitarist and when Stuart, an accomplished artist, exhibited his paintings at a show organised by a local millionaire, John Moore, at the Walker Art Gallery, he was offered £60 for one of them. John managed to persuade Sutcliffe to buy a Höfner-President guitar with this money and join the group.

It should be pointed out that a short time later Paul McCartney started to speak disparagingly about Stu and his involvement in their group because he was frustrated by Stu's inability to learn how to play the bass guitar properly. What's more, McCartney was envious of the very close relationship between John and Stu and was further irritated by the fact that despite Sutcliffe's being a weak musician he possessed a very distinct, unusual appearance and had a unique fashion sense. But Paul McCartney didn't have any extra rights within the group, indeed John was its leader, and the group really needed a bass guitar, the owner of which was Stuart. Peter Brown, someone with intimate knowledge of the Beatles throughout these years, recalling Sutcliffe, said that "this was a strong personality, who can chiefly be explained as a gift from God".

Many people probably don't know that it was Stu and not John who thought up the group's name. It was he, playing around with the name of all the Beatles' favourite group, Buddy Holly's The Crickets, who suggested the name "Beetles", and a little later, "Beatals", incorporating here the word "beat", i.e. rhythm. And it was here that John, who never held back from becoming involved in any matter concerning the group, suggested, as he would later recall - "... It was just to have a laugh, we changed this word just a bit to the Beatles so that it would have a connection to pop music ..." Shortly afterwards, as a result of all this, John agreed that the group would benefit from its name being expanded for its performance at an audition organised by Larry Parnes, and the end result was The Silver Beatles.

The first tour, in which Stuart Sutcliffe took part as the group's bass guitarist, was the two-week tour of Scotland with Johnny Gentle (1960). During the tour Stu adopted a pseudonym, taking the name of the Russian artist who, to be honest, is not very well known today, Nicholas De Stael - Stu De Stael. This trip to Scotland was an ordeal for all concerned; constant hunger, performances in all manner of dreary venues, Johnny Gentle's complaints about the group's lack of professionalism, and to cap it all, John's argument with Stu, which led to Lennon constantly picking fault with him ...

After these tours, the Silver Beatles continued to play at various venues, including at places not every group or performer would dare to appear ... One day, Allan Williams agreed to one of the groups he was managing performing in a working-class district of ill-repute on the outskirts of Liverpool, and sent the Silver Beatles there. To date, no one knows exactly what happened there.

Whether it was John Lennon - incidentally there has never been any evidence to support this - who said something to someone, one of the local thugs, or some girl or other who had paid excessive attention to one of the Beatles, it doesn't really matter, but members of a local gang were waiting for the Silver Beatles at the car park adjacent to Litherland Town Hall. The Beatles, trying to save their skins, ran off. The gang gave Stuart, who hadn't managed a quick get-away, a serious beating, kicking him all over with their pointed boots. Seeing what was happening, John was the only one in the group who didn't leave Stu in trouble. He ran back and, launching himself into the fight, managed to rescue Stu(!).

When Sutcliffe came to there wasn't a part of his body that wasn't scratched or bruised. His head had suffered in particular. And by all accounts it was these head injuries that caused his death of a brain haemorrhage on 10 April 1962, in Hamburg. But back then, after it was all over, Stuart recovered and the group again began playing gigs in various cinemas and concert halls. Soon, though, Williams, who knew Bruno Koschmider, the owner of several night-clubs in Hamburg, West Germany, gave him the idea of inviting Liverpool groups to Hamburg.

And it wasn't long before John and his team, now known as The Beatles, followed several other groups there. This took place on 16 August 1960. The very next day, 17 August, the Beatles began performing at the Indra club, and later at the Kaiserkeller. On the first occasion they remained in Hamburg for four and a half months. And they would have been there for longer had it not been for the problems which had arisen between the Beatles and Bruno Koschmider as a result of their decision to leave him for another club manager.

The Beatles left behind a great many German friends and fans of the youthful existentialist movement, then popular in West Germany, which included intelligent young people who loved to discuss the meaning of human life, always wore black and had mop-top hair cuts. John Lennon called them the "Exis". Two of them, Klaus Voormann and Astrid Kirchherr, were close friends of the Beatles. And this is how they met: Klaus, a young artist and designer had quarrelled with Astrid (she was his girlfriend at the time) and, by chance, strolling through Hamburg, dropped in at the Kaiserkeller at which the Beatles were performing.

He was simply enchanted, not only by the cacophony of sound they were producing, but also by their unusual and somewhat foppish appearance. "I couldn't tear my eyes away from them", Voorman subsequently recalled. Having called in at the club a few more times, he persuaded Astrid to go with him and have a look at the Beatles. With some reluctance, she nonetheless agreed to go with Klaus to the club ... and was similarly entranced by the Beatles.

This is what she said, remembering that day: "I've always admired foppish-looking men, and then suddenly there were five of them in front of me. I just sat there with my jaw dropping". Fate was lying in wait for her here: For Astrid, the first time she set eyes on Stuart Sutcliffe it was love at first sight! They all rapidly became friends. Klaus and Astrid started bringing their friends along and in the breaks between performances the Beatles and their new friends drank and ate together, and spoke with the aid of sign-language. The Beatles gradually overcame their anti-German prejudices, and also became interested in acquiring their German friends' style. Stu and Astrid soon started seeing each other.

Back then Astrid's English wasn't sufficiently good to enable them to communicate freely, and Stuart knew just a few words in Germany. As a result the lovers used a German-English dictionary. Astrid and Stu were very much in love. It was Astrid, through Stuart, who had a great influence on the Beatles: With Astrid's help, the mop-top haircuts, Pierre Cardin suits and the Beatles inculcation in the philosophy of the "Exis" all, as we know, subsequently acquired a truly global significance, bringing with it a virtual world revolution among young people in the 1960s in terms of the clothes they wore, their outlook, etc.

In December 1960, when Paul (1 December) and John (10 December) returned home to Liverpool following George's deportation (21 November) from Germany because of his minor status, Stu stayed behind in Hamburg until February 1961. And when in early June 1961 the Beatles returned to Great Britain having completed their second tour of Hamburg, Sutcliffe made his final decision. He decided to remain in Germany, marry Astrid, and resume his art work. His meeting Astrid had finally forced him to acknowledge that art was more important to him than playing in the group. Astrid gave him a room in her flat. At the same time as getting married, Sutcliffe decided to start a course at an art college of some sort. Two of his German friends, also artists, recommended the Hamburg State Art College to Stu.

Paul McCartney was very happy to see Sutcliffe leave the group; he had long hankered after the bass guitarist position, and, as we know, had for some time been trying to upset Stu somehow. One day this spilled over into a fight on stage. This is what happened: Every time Astrid came to the club, Stu would immediately go up to the microphone and start singing the very tender and melancholy love song "Love Me Tender", a great favourite of Elvis Presley's, for her.

Both the Beatles themselves and their German friends would always laugh and make good-humoured jokes about this. One day, though, Paul McCartney made a sarcastic comment about this and, as Pete Best, who along with the other Beatles witnessed what happened, recalled: "Paul said something that put Stuart in such a rage that he turned from the microphone, first hit Paul and then threw him off the stage. We separated them, but, remember, Pete was in a rage."

After this incident they made their peace, and Paul didn't mock him again. However, to date Astrid Kirchherr is reluctant to talk to McCartney, remembering his attitude towards Stu back then. By the way, it should be acknowledged that now and then the other Beatles were also fairly rude to the gentle Stu, but Paul's attitude towards him had crossed all limits. Millie, Stuart's mother, remembered her daughter Pauline telling her how one day Stuart had taken her to the Cavern Club to introduce her to John. The next day Pauline said to her mother: "These Beatles hate Stuart, especially Paul McCartney."

The last time Stu played with the Beatles was in March 1961, at the Top Ten club. By then McCartney was trying every trick in the book to become bass guitarist. Incidentally, not everyone may know that during a recording session for the company Polydor, when the Beatles were backing Tony Sheridan, Paul successfully insisted on playing the bass guitar. When Stu announced his decision to leave the group, become an artist and marry Astrid, John and the others understood this.

When they said their goodbyes Lennon, who really loved Stu, often hiding this behind his habitual rudeness to Stu, had the following to say: "You're leaving us, but never forget that you'll always be the fifth member of our group. And no matter where we are, you can always come back to us". Upon leaving, as a gesture of reconciliation and sign that everything bad had been forgotten, Stu generously gave his bass guitar to Paul. Thus McCartney finally became the Beatles' bass guitarist.

Having returned to Liverpool, John, missing his friend, wrote Stuart a lengthy letter. By the way, Astrid recalled that Stu didn't forget about John either, spending several hours at a desk answering John's letter. On one occasion George Harrison also wrote to Sutcliffe, asking Stu to return to the group, and promised that Paul would give up his bass guitarist position to Stuart. But in any case, dreadful as it is to say, Sutcliffe's days were already numbered.

It was then that his mother, Millie Sutcliffe, told his Liverpool friends that Stu had stumbled on the stairs at Astrid's house and had fallen, seriously injuring his head. After this he would often complain of terrible headaches and blackouts. She said she was very worried about her son. (And there's another version of the cause of Stu's death). Clearly Stu too had some sort of premonition because when he and Astrid and his friends went to Liverpool for Christmas 1961 and met Paul McCartney's brother, Michael, in a local jazz club, he told him that he felt that something was going to happen to him when he returned to Hamburg.

"He was really fidgety and on edge", recalled Michael. But none of Stu's Liverpool friends thought then that this was the last time they would see their dear friend alive ...

On 12 April 1962 the Beatles flew to Hamburg for a third time. A reasonably large crowd was there to meet them. John stood on tiptoe and looked around, searching for Stu: They had arranged with Stu that he would meet them. Finally catching sight of Astrid Kirchherr, who had come to meet them, he asked: "And where's Stu?" "Stu died the day before yesterday", replied a sobbing Astrid. John, shocked by the tragic news of the death of his friend, came to a standstill, his legs gave way, and he fell unconscious to the ground. Paul and Pete Best started crying. John, who was barely conscious and had an inconsolably weeping Astrid in his arms, stood as though turned into stone as a result of this dreadful news.

"It was the most painful scene I have ever seen in my life", said Peter Eckhorn, manager of the Top Ten club. "We managed with difficulty to bring Lennon round. He then spent a long time walking around and crying so great was his feeling of grief at the loss of Stu. He later told me that Stu had been the best friend he had ever had." We should add that George Harrison arrived in Hamburg a little later than the others (13 April) and therefore didn't find out about Stu's death until later. "I looked up to Stu. I depended on him to tell me the truth, the way I do with Paul today. He'd tell me if something was good and I'd believe him", John Lennon later remembered.

In February 1962 Stu had gone to the doctor to complain about the terrible headaches but the doctor was unable to explain to Sutcliffe what was causing them. Stuart was debilitated by this pain, would often suffer blackouts and temporary blindness. On 10 April 1962 Astrid found Stuart lying unconscious in their bed. She quickly phoned the hospital. An ambulance arrived almost immediately but it was already too late. Stuart Sutcliffe, the enigmatic fifth Beatle and artist, died in Astrid's arms while the ambulance was rushing them to hospital. It was 4.30 in the afternoon. Stu never reached his twenty-second birthday, which was just under two months away ... He was 21 years old and Astrid 23. They were very much in love, but alas, death had separated them ...

Astrid then sent two urgent telegrams to Stu's mother. The first read: "My Stu is dying" and the second: "My Stu is dead". It's worth mentioning that she received the second telegram before the first.

Stu's father was unaware of his son's death. Charles Sutcliffe, a sailor, was on a ship on the coast of South America. His daughter and Stu's sister, the 21-year old Joyce, said: "Dad had a weak heart and we couldn't tell him about Stu's death on the ship's radio. He found out about everything when he arrived in port".

Millie Sutcliffe flew to Hamburg to take her son on his last journey. Stuart was buried in Liverpool's Huyton Parish Church cemetery, situated at the junction of Stanley Road and Bluebell Lane, Huyton.

His mother, Millie, decided to devote her life to the memory of her son and his works of art. Several times during the 1960s and 1970s art exhibitions were opened and run in Liverpool and London in memory of Stuart Sutcliffe. In the second half of the 1980s his work was put on sale at the famous London Sotheby's auction house and fetched fairly high prices. At the end of the 1980s his sister, Pauline Sutcliffe, in collaboration with Malcolm Evans, wrote a book about the life and works of her brother. She also organised an exhibition in his memory in Liverpool and London.

The BBC made and broadcast a lengthy documentary radio programme, dedicated to Sutcliffe, and Granada TV produced a magnificent feature film, in colour, "Backbeat" (1992) about Stu's life, which was based on the Hamburg years. The Beatles didn't forget Stu either! Look at the Sgt. Pepper cover and you'll find among the other immortalised Beatles their dear friend Stuart Sutcliffe, or just Stu.

Stu is buried in Liverpool at the Huyton Parish Church cemetery (at the junction of Stanley Road and Bluebell Lane, Huyton).

His grave is numbered 552, in section 1939.

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