Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Neil Aspinall - a story worth telling

The title “The Fifth Beatle” has been conferred on various individuals for over 40 years. Brian Epstein and George Martin had solid claims to it, Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe, one time band members, also had claims. But Neil Aspinall, whose name few music fans know and even fewer would have recognised in the street, had one of the strongest claims of all.

In their heyday in the sixties The Beatles had what their biographer Hunter Davies called “paid mates”. There were two of them, Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans, and they acted variously as roadies, assistants, drivers, gofers and, yes, paid mates. Aspinall went back the furthest. He was at school at the Liverpool Institute with Paul McCartney and George Harrison. And he survived the longest, Evans dying in strange circumstances in a police shoot out in America in 1976.

Aspinall went pretty much everywhere with The Beatles, always just out of camera shot when pictures were taken, always just away from the platform at the Fab Four press conferences. In 1961 he even became romantically involved with the mother of the then Beatles drummer Pete Best and fathered a child with her, though she was 20 years his senior.

After the band broke up he went back to his first love of accountancy and was chosen by The Beatles to run their company, Apple. There were two reasons for this. First, he proved to be a very good accountant. Perhaps as importantly in the bitter aftermath of The Beatles’ break-up, he was the only person that all four trusted.

As chief executive of Apple, his financial skills must have surprised even The Beatles. He helped to multiply their fortunes many times over, with initiatives such as the successful court case with Apple computers over use of the name. His cautious protectiveness of the group’s interests did not always help the fans – the Beatles were late entrants on to the CD market, for example. But, equally, he never allowed the brand to be compromised through such things as use of the music for adverts.

I met Aspinall in the 1990s at the time of the release of the Anthology albums of Beatles’ alternative takes and unreleased tracks. I asked him why he had never until that point had any visible presence or spoken to the media. He replied that The Beatles had so much to say, what was the point of someone like him stepping into the limelight?

Maybe. But, for all the innumerable biographies of the biggest group in popular music history, this was the one person who knew them since they were all teenagers and also knew the secrets of their business empire. His would have been a story worth hearing. - independent

1 comment:

Judith Furedi said...

This is indeed, sad news. I read the news - the other day, oh boy.

Neil was hopitalized a few blocks from where I live, in Sloan Kettering Hospital.

I would have loved to interview him before he got sick. I wish I knew of people who knew him well enough to make a comment about him, for my forthcoming book, which will include Lennon and Beatle people - their comments, short anecdotes and thoughts, along side of fans illustrations and original photographs and memorabilia.

If you or anyone want to participate in this project, you may view my prototype for the book which is called 'Dear John: Letters from A Fan in New York City, An Interactive Book.' The new book will be expanded, on a much higher level, with more content from new authors and contributors, a professional photographer of NYC (Dave Beckerman). We already have an introduction by Sid Bernstein and a submission from May Pang.

We are desperately seeking people who have been related to John Lennon and the Beatles, but who have not had a chance to voice their opinions and share their stories before in a book.

Please visit my website, It is still under construction, but you may contact me by writing to

Thanks, all and R.I.P. Neil.

Judith Furedi