Another 5th Beatle passes
March 26, 2008 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Former Beatles roadie Neil Aspinall has died of lung cancer. He was the head of the Beatles’ Apple Corporation until about a year ago, when he resigned after the settlement of a long running dispute with Apple Computer.

Aspinall was a friend and schoolmate of Paul McCartney and George Harrison, and fathered a child by Pete Best’s mother. He took over management of Apple Corp after the death of Brian Epstein, and stayed loyal to the band thereafter - even after their split. He was one of the very few people close to the band to never write a tell-all memoir.
posted by Nick Verstayne (26 comments total)
 
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posted by lunit at 8:56 AM on March 26, 2008


That was a neat blog post about the Apple Computer/Apple Corps backand forth. I liked the quote from one of the comments "Because he avoids the media, there is a mystique around Neil Aspinall. Sir Paul McCartney calls him “Mr. X.”"
posted by jessamyn at 9:09 AM on March 26, 2008


It was also Neil Aspinall who - more than any other one individual - gave the world the Beatles "Anthology" documentary. He had championed the project as far back as 1970 -71, when tensions were high, and the boys (Lennon, especially) were against it. It was Neil who worked behind the scenes, collecting many of the home movies and obtaining rights to other media, and started work in the late eighties putting it all together. He's instrumental in making that a major part of their legacy for future generations.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 9:34 AM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


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At the risk of being overly soap-operatic, it's worth spelling out the weird connections. Neil, one year and 4 days younger than John Lennon, is dating the mother of Pete Best, the drummer in Lennon's band - indeed, fathers a child with her. Then, Pete gets fired and the whole intergalactic-stardom/change-the-face-of-pop-music-forever thing happens. How strange must THAT have been for all of 'em?

Also, to my knowledge, the Beatles' touring was handled exclusively by Brian Epstein, Neil Aspinall, and Mal Evans. Before cell phones and the internet. Mal carried the gear. Brian and Neil split up the business end of it. Pretty remarkable that they managed to do all of that so simply, compared to the mammoth operations of today's rock tours.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:46 AM on March 26, 2008


"Pretty remarkable that they managed to do all of that so simply, compared to the mammoth operations of today's rock tours."

Yeah, but, you couldn't hear them.
posted by JBennett at 9:52 AM on March 26, 2008


Yeah, but, you couldn't hear them.

Not really their fault. They were using the most sophisticated equipment available at the time - indeed, for two US Tours special amplification equipment was built specifically for the band. They did they best they could with what was available at the time.
posted by anastasiav at 9:56 AM on March 26, 2008


True, but they really bit off a bit more than they could chew. My father was at Shea and said you couldn't hear the band. Should have just done 4 nights at the hippodrome or wherever.

That Shea footage is priceless though. (thanks to sound board recording.)
posted by JBennett at 9:59 AM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


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posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 10:11 AM on March 26, 2008


He inspired a local band here in Tallahassee many years ago to name themselves Nell Aspinall. Good band.

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posted by grubi at 10:31 AM on March 26, 2008


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posted by mariokrat at 11:16 AM on March 26, 2008


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posted by Sk4n at 11:28 AM on March 26, 2008


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posted by Aquaman at 12:00 PM on March 26, 2008


Then, Pete gets fired and the whole intergalactic-stardom/change-the-face-of-pop-music-forever thing happens. How strange must THAT have been for all of 'em?

And yet in spite of the weirdness, Mona Best loaned John Lennon her father's war medals to wear for the cover of Sgt Pepper. She's a pretty interesting person in her own right.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:14 PM on March 26, 2008


Maybe the Best family didn't blame the guys; maybe they blamed George Martin.
posted by Senator at 12:36 PM on March 26, 2008


How many 'fifth Beatles' are left now?
posted by popcassady at 1:24 PM on March 26, 2008


How many 'fifth Beatles' are left now?

Not as many as #2 Al Quaeda leaders, it seems
posted by briank at 1:50 PM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


We've had at least four 5th Beatles (Best, Aspinall, Stu Sutcliffe, George Martin), so what i want to know is who's the fifth 5th Beatle?
posted by criticalbill at 2:27 PM on March 26, 2008


The pre-fame period of the Beatles' history is fascinating to me.

I've recently been doing some writing about it and learned several interesting things (that Beatles fanatics are probably already well aware of).

First, many of the folks that worked with Lennon, McCartney and Harrison in The Quarrymen reunited several years ago and are active to this day.

Second, Pete Best, at least publicly, is very gracious about the whole firing thing. On his official site, it is reported that he was never given a reason as to why he was fired. However, in he intervening years
he picked up their albums and expresses admiration for their music. In fact, as of the last decade, he seems to be very comfortable both with the direction his life took and with his place in the Beatles' legacy.

Also, I recall reading (I think in the article linked above) that when Pete Best started playing music again, his band included his younger brother, Roag Best, son of Neil Aspinall.

My opinion on why they kicked him out? Why, I'm glad you asked. Everything I've read suggests that he didn't hang out a whole lot with the other three while they were in Germany. I've noticed that people who are forced to spend a lot of time with a small group tend to scapegoat somebody else as the source of problems. I can't help but imagine that by not hanging around with McCartney, Lennon and Harrison, he became the group scapegoat. The fact that there aren't a whole lot of solid excuses put forward as to why he was booted suggests to me that The Beatles themselves weren't entirely sure why they did it. Perhaps they just plain didn't like him and booted him for no reason better than that.

Anyhow, that's what I think.

Finally, on to the subject of this post, the late Neil Aspinall. He is really a fascinating figure in the Beatles history. When they sacked Pete Best, Aspinall was furious and wanted to quit, but Best advised him to stay on. When Aspinall approached Lennon about why Best was fired, he was told it was none of his business as brushed off as "just our driver."

In the last link, you'll note that he didn't marry Mona Best because it would be "detrimental to the health" of her ex-husband. They broke up shortly after Best was fired.

Here is a brief YouTube tribute with a few photos of Mr. Aspinall and the Beatles.

One piece of information about him that is repeated over and over again is that one of his greatest qualities was his ability to stay discreet. If anyone was in a position to write a warts and all tell-all shocker about the group, it was he. Instead (as was previously mentioned), he helmed the Anthology series, which was more of a loving tribute than anything else.

Anyhow, R.I.P, Mr. Aspinall.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:43 PM on March 26, 2008


criticalbill: We've had at least four 5th Beatles (Best, Aspinall, Stu Sutcliffe, George Martin), so what i want to know is who's the fifth 5th Beatle?

Billy Preston.
posted by chococat at 4:01 PM on March 26, 2008


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posted by mabelcolby at 4:21 PM on March 26, 2008


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posted by andraste at 4:46 PM on March 26, 2008


I can't help but imagine that by not hanging around with McCartney, Lennon and Harrison, he became the group scapegoat. The fact that there aren't a whole lot of solid excuses put forward as to why he was booted suggests to me that The Beatles themselves weren't entirely sure why they did it.

As far as I know, there wasn't a single reason. That he wasn't socially in sync with John, Paul, and George certainly played a role. And there may be some truth to the contention that Paul was jealous of his good looks. But there's also the strong impression that his drumming didn't suit the group. The incompatibility is easy to hear on the Decca audition and every other recording he made with them, but sticks out particularly badly in the Anthology take of "Love Me Do." George Martin refused to work with him. The other three took that as a cue to replace him, for the sake of their future. When he joined the group, Pete was pretty much the only drummer available. When he was sacked, Ringo was widely regarded the best drummer in Liverpool (maybe excepting the Big Three's Johnny Hutchinson - another fifth Beatle, by the way, for one early audition - but he hated the Beatles).

How stunned John, Paul, and George must have been when Martin rejected Ringo as well!
posted by Greenie at 5:27 PM on March 26, 2008


JoeyMichaels:
The fact that there aren't a whole lot of solid excuses put forward as to why he was booted suggests to me that The Beatles themselves weren't entirely sure why they did it.

This is untrue. In no particular order: In various texts, it's been said that they were unhappy with Pete Best's playing. This was confirmed separately after the EMI audition when George Martin said he did not like "his beat". Also, if you look at all the early photos, you will notice that John, George, Paul and Stu began to grow their locks forward. and we see the beginnings of the infamous Beatles haircut -- part of Astrid's [Stu's photographer girlfriend] influence on the band. Pete did not change his slicked-back hairstyle, as the photos prove. As you mentioned, he did not hang out as much with the others, but it was more - according to Paul anyway, that he just didn't "fit in" after a while. Ringo did; he had already sat in with the band at various times, and they knew him from Liverpool when he was with Rory Storm, and also the Hamburg days. By then, they were comfortable with him.
Sources include: "The Beatles Recording Sessions" by Mark Lewissohn, "The Love You Make" by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines, "Anthology" (the book) by the Beatles, Hunter Davies book "The Beatles: The Authorized Biography", many more.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 5:34 PM on March 26, 2008


A well lived life, Mr. Aspinall. Well done!
posted by Dizzy at 6:17 PM on March 26, 2008


He dumped out of promising career to drive the boys around and lug gear... I don't think they would have made it without him... too bad he didn't write a book.

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posted by chuckdarwin at 6:20 PM on March 26, 2008


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posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:23 PM on March 26, 2008


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