Stu Sutcliffe, Love Me Tender

Posted in Stu Sutcliffe, The Beatles on April 7th, 2012 by Willie

There is a lot of conjecture as to who the fifth Beatle is, or was.  Some think it was George Martin, their famed producer, others Brian Epstein, their cavalier manager.  Others think it was Pete Best, the drummer ousted on the precipice of the Beatles massive fame.  The real answer is the departed Stuart Sutcliffe.  Stu was John Lennon’s best friend in art college and was a massive influence on the man in their short friendship.  Stu died at 21 years old of a brain hemorrhage, also on the eve the of the massive Beatle tidal wave set to cover the planet, but his impact on the Beatles was real.  First, he collaborated on the name “Beatles” with John, probably coining it himself.  Second, he came up with the Beatle hair cut with the help of his girlfriend Astrid.  Lastly, with his skills as an abstract artist, Stu got John thinking about rock and roll as a conceptual art form, expanding John’s view of what the Beatles could really be.  Stu was the original bass player, not as terrible as it is portrayed in Beatle movies and Beatle literature; competent enough to be recruited by other local Hamburg bands during the Beatles stay in Germany.  It is true he left the band to stay in Germany and marry Astrid, but his friendship with the Beatles never ended.  Had he lived, his fame probably would have exploded in one form or another due to his Beatle association and movie star good looks.  It was also known, by those who heard him, that Stu was a more than decent singer, getting plenty of vocal time during the Beatles marathon 6 hour sets when John and Paul’s voices were fading.  Stu’s friendship with John, killer look, and burgeoning talent caused a small rivalry with Paul McCartney.  Paul was jealous of Stu’s place in the Beatles, but also rightfully critical of Stu’s full commitment to the group.  Stu was considered a brilliant artist by his teachers and his peers, and had a bright future painting.  When the pressure from Paul intensified as to where Stu’s priorities were, he resigned the group graciously without putting up much of a fight and wished his friends luck.  But still, his early tragic death created a lot of mystery and what if scenarios had he lived.  What was he really like?  Would he have ever been asked to rejoin the group?  Could he really sing?  The answer to the last question might have been solved with the release of Stu’s rendition of the great Elvis ballad, “Love Me Tender.”  Stu’s family claims that the vocalist on the record is absolutely Stu, recorded in Hamburg as a gift for Astrid, right after the Beatles left.  Critics have other theories, but no one knows for certain.  If it is Stu on this record, it leaves a spooky impression of a voice that might have had a major impact in global culture had he lived…We’ll never know, but check out this ghostly performance and ask yourself, what if…

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