The Fifth Beatle

Sixty years ago, Johnny and the Moondogs changed their name to The Beatles (good call). I first heard them 15 years later, when they exploded onto the American airwaves. But it wouldn’t have happened without the Fifth Beatle.


It seems so silly now, but as a kid growing up in sunny SoCal I had a dogged loyalty to our locally grown Beach Boys that required me to “hate” The Beatles, those foreigners with goofy haircuts. I was also absurdly jealous of the adoration they got. From, you know, girls. Duh. As if any other kind of adoration mattered.

Then I heard the opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night” and I fell in love. I didn’t know it then, but the cupid behind my crush was an unassuming genius named George (eventually Sir George) Martin, the producer who relentlessly pushed the Beatles to try new things, including that impossibly addictive opening chord.

Like a knight, Sir George rescued the maiden Beatles from obscurity as “one-time pop idols,” dragging them off to his castle-slash-recording studio at Abbey Road, constantly insisting they push themselves beyond the easy to the unimagined, the untried. The immortal.

When Paul McCartney brought in his wrenchingly beautiful song “Yesterday,” Sir George wrote a string accompaniment that supported the melody like the shell supports The-Beatles-George-Martin-the-beatles-33432395-400-400Botticelli’s Venus. “But we’re a band,” Paul said, “we play drums and guitars.” “Just give it a try,” the impetuous knight cajoled.

Sir George played the baroque piano solo on “In My Life.” Wrote and conducted the heartbreaking double string quartet behind “Eleanor Rigby.” Added that adorable piccolo trumpet to “Penny Lane.” Layered and orchestrated the unforgettable closing of John Lennon’s “A Day in the Life.” And on and on and on…

But in a way, the Beatles also rescued George. He was a knight without a quest, a formally trained musician producing spoken language recordings, until a disheveled group of working class geniuses from Liverpool walked into his rented castle. Together they produced a body of music that transcended their individual talents–a collaborative miracle.

Paul called him the one true “grown-up” in the Beatle’s lives, their “second father,” and “the fifth Beatle.” To that, I would add that Sir George was the divine cupid who made everyone–including me–fall in love.

George Henry Martin passed away three years ago, but the music he and the former Johnny and the Moondogs created is as memorable as Beethoven, who (with Chuck Berry’s help) they advised to “roll over” and make room for them among the immortals!

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
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19 Responses to The Fifth Beatle

  1. My Dad was a Beach Boys fan first as well, but there was no denying The Beatles power of songwriting, so if I remember correctly: The Beach Boys were on our jukebox, but The Beatles were on our tv screen via Hard Days Night and Help. Great post – they needed each other. It was a family.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. sniderjerry says:

    I used to work as a caddy. I earned $2.50 for 18 holes. That was enough in the mid 60s to buy a Beatles album. Yeah Yeah Yeah…Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

  3. IanC555 says:

    Incredible story, Mitch. “falling in love” to the melody and lyrics in great music. YES!

    LOVED THE BEETLES AND THE BEACH BOYS, TOO. And I ran It to that culture-genre pressure, only in my circles it was between the Osmonds and the Jackson Five. We were meant to “Love” the Jackson five, and of course I DID love them! Buhhhht (blush) Despite prevailing pressures and bias, I NEVER missed an episode of the Donnie and Marie show..NOT EVER. I wonder why this was tolerated. I was always left alone with my particular odd vice. LOL

    Thanks for this great article. Took me back.


    PS: Grew up in SoCal, too. The smell of oranges blossoms still haunt me! LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  4. nancyehead says:

    A captivating piece, Mitch. Well done. God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Fascinating bit of cultural history, Mitch. I always did prefer the Beach Boys, but some of those haunting Beatle-melodies like Yesterday and Eleanor Rigby did catch my attention. Now I know why!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Very interesting and engaging post! I enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fascinating!
    Yeah, I tried to “hate” the Beatles at first, too, mainly because I thought all the other girls were being so goofy about it. I liked to think I was too cool for all that shrieking and crying. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Soooo, you MUST see Yesterday, the movie. Fascinating concept. What if the Beatles had never happened? Would the world be a poorer place as a result?
    Who can forget “She came in through the Bathroom Window?” “Baby, you’re a Rich Man?” “Baby, you can drive my Car?” “Everyone’s got something to hide but me and my Monkey?” Classics! What? oops.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Jennie says:

    He was a genius!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. HAT says:

    Don’t forget that the Beatles were Beach Boys fans, too! (Pet Dreams sent them off in a whole new direction.)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ann Coleman says:

    I didn’t know about him at all, but I believe you are right: we often need someone else to push us to do/give our best. And we never know where that someone is going to come from. Thanks for this post, I learn so much from the blogging world….

    Liked by 1 person

  12. revruss1220 says:

    Thanks for shedding some needed light on this unsung hero of the Beatles story. I vividly remember the Beach Boys vs. Beatles rivalry, and yes, you are correct: it was necessary to choose sides. That is until the Rolling Stones burst onto the scene and pulled the audience in a whole new direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: A Hero Comes Home | Mitch Teemley

  14. Pingback: The Day My World Got Bigger | Mitch Teemley

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