McCartney Times

I Was The Sixth Beatle | HuffPost

I Was The Sixth Beatle | HuffPost

I Was The Sixth Beatle | HuffPost
January 08
09:18 2018

I’ve kept the secret for nearly sixty years. I promised Paul I would, and I’ve been true to my word. Now, at last, Paul has given me permission to finally tell the story. The story of how I became the Sixth Beatle.

I met Paul McCartney in early December of 1960 on the 54 bus in Liverpool. I had my acoustic guitar and was playing around with some songs, when Paul got on and took a seat across the aisle from me. After watching me for a few minutes, he moved to the seat beside me.

“Guitarist, huh, mate?” he said.

“I play a little, yeah.”

“I think you’d have better luck if you flipped it over,” Paul said. “You know, so the hole and strings are pointing outward.”

And thanks to that little tip, my guitar playing improved markedly. But more importantly, Paul and I became fast friends.

Paul introduced me to bandmates John Lennon, George Harrison, and Pete Best, and eventually suggested to them that I join the group. George seemed okay with it, but John and Pete clearly didn’t like the idea, especially John. But Paul persuaded them to give me a chance, and that’s how, on December 12, 1960, I became a Beatle.

Pete never really warmed up to me. He refused to talk to me or even make eye contact. If we absolutely had to converse, he insisted we do it by telegram. This made small talk both difficult and costly.

As for John, things came to a head one night outside the Cavern Club. We’d just finished a set and were tired and on edge, plus I’d accidentally spilled my drink on John’s amp, slightly electrocuting him. He called me an “untalented wanker,” and I shot back, “Yeah, well you’re a big stupid!” I think John was so impressed with my quick wit and clever use of words (something very dear to John), I disarmed him. He broke into laughter and slapped me on the back. So I was hurt and surprised the next day when, at John’s urging, the fellas had a meeting behind my back, and afterwards told me they were changing my instrument from rhythm guitar to snapping my fingers occasionally.

It was only when I wrote my first song and showed it to the guys, that things finally started turning around. It was called “I Want to Hold Your Foot,” a ballad in 4/4 time about a guy with a foot fetish. Paul and John said there was something about the tune that intrigued them, but were uncomfortable with the lyrics and asked if they could play around with them a bit. I said sure, and a few days later, after discarding all the words and all but the second to last note (which apparently is what intrigued them), they had reworked it into “Please Please Me.”

It was around this time that Brian Epstein became our manager. He dressed us in the collarless suits, had our hair cut in the moptop style, and things really started to pop for us. Meanwhile, the band decided that my inability to distinguish one note from another was hurting the harmonies, and it was determined that from now on I would be limited to singing only the “ooh”s in the chorus of every eighth song. This is where my friendship with Paul paid off; John wanted it to be every twelfth song, but Paul overruled him. (Don’t think I didn’t have a good laugh at John’s expense at that one!) They also decided that when I did sing my “ooh”s, it would be into a microphone that wasn’t plugged in.

Then came our big break. We signed a recording contract with Parlophone Records. On June 6, 1962 we had our first session with the great producer George Martin. Not long after, Paul, George, and John paid me a visit. They said there were going to be changes. Pete was out, to be replaced by Ringo Starr. I felt bad for Pete, but to be totally honest, I was more interested in yours truly.

“What about me?” I asked.

“You’re still with the group,” Paul said.

“All right!”

“But you can’t be in the studio when we record,” John said.

“Oh yeah?” I said.

“And you can’t appear on stage with us either.” George added.

“Or at any public event,” John said.

“But I’m still with the group? I’m still a Beatle?”

“Wouldn’t be the Beatles without you,” Paul said.

And then we were off on our first visit to America. “The Ed Sullivan Show” was one of the great thrills of my life, as I stood in the wings watching us perform. But as Beatlemania swept the planet, I noticed the dynamics between my bandmates and me undergo subtle changes. One example: George and I, who’d always got on famously, had our first fight. I was shy, as was George, and we got into a yelling battle over who was going to be “The Quiet One.” George won, and I had to settle for, “The One Without A Nickname.”

It was on that first trip to New York that I met and fell in love with Lacie. She was beautiful and intellectual and an artist in her own right. She created a stir with a series of twelve collages made entirely out of human scabs, which drew the attention of several art dealers and even more psychiatrists. She was a true bohemian, and insisted on a non-traditional relationship. We had what Lacie called an “ajar relationship” to distinguish it from an “open relationship.” The idea was she could sleep with anyone she wanted but I couldn’t. Also, I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone we were seeing each other and she wouldn’t either.

There was only one cloud in the blue sky that was me and Lacie—she maintained that John, Paul, George, and Ringo were playing me for a fool. I always defended them, which she she said proved her point, and then she’d go off and sleep with someone.

But over time, Lacie’s words eventually struck a chord, something I was contractually not allowed to do.

On August 29, 1966, we closed out our third U.S. tour with a concert in Candlestick Park. As we performed our eighth song, “I Wanna Be Your Man,” and I sang my only “ooh”s in the show, I suddenly realized that Lacie was right. I was a fool. What could be more demeaning than standing there by myself in the visiting team dugout singing my one syllable into a dead mic?

Afterward, I told the guys it was over. I was quitting the Beatles. They couldn’t have been nicer about it. I understood it was mostly Paul’s doing, but they even insisted on putting me on the Sgt. Pepper’s album cover. I’m the guy behind the palm tree behind Diana Dors.

Source: I Was The Sixth Beatle | HuffPost

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Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

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