Some Have Gone and Some Remain
The question is, could Stu Sutcliffe play the guitar?
Well, we knew he could paint. Klaus Voorman said he could see 10 times more than anyone. He was a brilliant artist and best friends with Lennon often brain sparring together, challenging each other's wit. He was a special and amazing teenager, but just one of the guys in the band. The 'bad bass playing' began with a photo taken of Sutcliffe, McCartney, Lennon, Best and Harrison during an audition for a gig (Stu was turned around). Paul said the band was playing a song in the key of A while Stu was in another key. He eventually found his place and they passed the audition. This kind of thing happens when you're a young musician and a little nervous when you're in that spot. To further stir uncertainty Harrison was on record saying that the band would be better off with someone who didn't know how to play bass than to be without one.
The complications of 'he said, she said' was blown to proportions by wannabe band agents and managers. Somehow it was a big deal, but totally untrue. A story was written in 1977 by Allan Williams, "The Man Who Gave The Beatles Away" and if you believe what Allen says you may also be interested in buying a beautiful ocean front property in Arizona.
The boys played all around Liverpool at many different venues and although they had enough songs to fill about an hour they were setting their sights on Hamburg, Germany. They about freaked when they learned the gig was almost 8 hours a night, so you could only imagine how much learnin' they had to do.
Here's an excerpt from Daytrippin' Beatles Magazine:
George: "We had to learn millions of songs. We’d be on for hours…Saturday would start at three or four in the afternoon and go on until five or six in the morning."
John: "We got better and got more confidence. We couldn’t help it, with all the experience, playing all night long."
Paul: "We got better and better and other groups started coming to watch us."
Is it credible to think that all this learning, experience, confidence and improvement affected every Beatle except Sutcliffe—the others were roaring along, but Stu was still just plunking? Stuart himself wrote home: “We have improved a thousand-fold since our arrival.”
These “savage young Beatles” were now playing loud, thrashing, primeval and pumping proto-punk rock—a throbbing nightly musical orgy. Lennon would say these Hamburg performances were the Beatles at their rock and roll best.
“Backbeat” director Ian Softley, after researching extensively and talking to bands and others who attended the German clubs, told the Los Angeles Times: “he (Stu) was very punk, very insistent. He would turn up his bass really loud… it was dominant and driving.”
Howie Casey said in the same Times piece that Stu “had a great live style”. He would know…while the recently-arrived Beatles were still playing the Indra, Bruno Koschmider (owner of both clubs) wanted continual music at the Kaiserkeller. So he split up the Seniors and the Beatles–in effect, creating a third band. Says Casey, “I was given Stuart Sutcliffe along with Derry and Stan Foster and we had a German drummer.” If Stuart couldn’t play, a professional like Casey certainly wouldn’t have tolerated him very long. Casey never complained about Stu’s ability. And this temporary split actually made Sutcliffe the first Beatle to play the sought-after Kaiserkeller gig.
In ‘The Beatles History’, Rick Hardy of the Jets confirmed: “Stu never turned his back on stage. He certainly played to the audience and he certainly played bass. If you have someone who can’t play the instrument properly, you have no bass sound. There were two rhythm guitarists with the Beatles and if one of them couldn’t play, you wouldn’t have noticed it—but it’s different with a bass guitar. I was there and I can say quite definitely Stuart never did a show in which he wasn’t facing the audience.”
Renowned artist and bassist Klaus Voorman says, “Stu was a really good rock and roll bass player, a very basic bass player, completely different. He was, at the time, my favorite bass player…and he had that cool look.” In a 2006 documentary, Voorman’s opinion was, “The Beatles were best when Stuart was still in the band. To me it had more balls, it was even more rock and roll when Stuart was playing the bass and Paul was playing piano or another guitar. The band was, somehow, as a rock and roll band, more complete.”
Interviewed on radio, Beatles drummer Pete Best revealed “what a good bass player Stuart was.” Pete has said, “I’ve read so many people putting him down for his bass playing. I’d like to set that one straight. His bass playing was a lot better than people give him credit for. He knew what his limits were…what he did was accept that and he gave 200%. He was the smallest Beatle with the biggest heart.”
Check out more real stories as told by the man who put the 'Beat' in The Beatles, Pete Best. The story of Pete Best is one that will enlighten any Beatles fan, from early days of friendship to the last day just before Love Me Do was released. For most of the inside account try the Best Boys', "The Beatles, The True Beginning." This pictorial narrative will provide background regarding Mrs. Best's Casbah Coffee Club; The Quarrymen's performances morphing into The Beatles; The trip to Hamburg, Germany where the boys endured a difficult schedule, but managed to hone a unique musicianship that helped to shape a great little rock n' roll band into a legend.
Pete Best is always there for Beatle Brunch. Joe interviewed him on several occasions and you may recall hearing his voice on The Brunch. Pete personally autographed copies of his first CD, "Haymans Green" to winners of Mind Games and he was a featured guest in The Beatle Brunch Club Chat Room. He's a soft spoken guy, very humble and forthcoming. His website is coming alive with many happening things to satisfy the appetite of Beatles fans all over the world and we wish him well.
For YOUR Pete Best fix go to PeteBest.com, and see what he's up to these days.