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The Sixth Beatle, Director – Tony Guma and John Rose

September 10, 2016

6thbeatle_02

I was uncertain about this film but it turned out to be hugely entertaining. The directors are two Americans who had a band in the 80’s that never really amounted to much but in the course of trying to make it they encountered Steve Leach, a Liverpool based band promoter who told them he was the one to discover and originally promote the Beatles. While they took all this with a grain of salt at the time, they decided to revisit the story many years later. As they started to track down Leach and do some research they realized they were on to a real story. The title of the film comes from the often used “fifth beatle” that has been applied to Pete Best – the first drummer for the group, Brian Epstein – the first major promoter, or George Martin – their record producer. Steve Leach turns out to be a major Liverpool promoter who was behind many of the Mersey Beat bands like the Searchers, the Swinging Blue Jeans etc. He and another promoter Allan Williams booked the band into local clubs but did not have the connections to take them to London and beyond. Brian Epstein took the band away from Leach in the early 60’s and had the money to give them the opportunities they needed to become the huge success they became. Nonetheless it all might have fallen apart without the support and work that Leach and Williams and Pete Best’s mother gave them at the very start. The charm of the film is the interviews with all these ageing Liverpool characters and Liverpool itself. Leach and Williams were funny and not at all bitter about losing out on the huge success. Another surprise is Pete Best who contributed so much to the film and the early success of the band but who was unceremoniously dumped by Epstein in favour of Ringo, another local drummer who was not nearly as talented. Best is also over the bitterness so the film is not angry at all but rather an interesting and charming story of the early days of the Beatles and the Mersey Beat.

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