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22nd March, 2021

The Confidant in the Shadows - Neil Aspinall

Debate amongst Beatles lovers across the world continues in regard to the identity of the true ‘Fifth Beatle’. Yet when immersed in the life and times of The Beatles, one finds the task of identifying a sole person very difficult. You see, The Beatles were the Fab Four and quite rightly so, but their success is shared with many others who helped them along their journey.

In this series of special blog posts, we will explore the lives and roles of those who were very much integral to the growth and evolution of The Beatles over the years.

Road manager turned CEO of Apple Corps, Neil Aspinall was involved in every aspect of The Beatles and their rise to global stardom, this is his story…

Born in Prestatyn in 1941, Neil met Paul and George at the Liverpool Institute, an all-boys grammar school in the city. Although George was the year above them both, Neil remembers the first time they met;

“My first encounter with George was behind the school’s air-raid shelters. This great mass of shaggy hair loomed up and an out-of-breath voice requested a quick drag of my Woodbine. It was one of the first cigarettes either of us had smoked. We spluttered our way through it bravely but gleefully. After that the three of us did lots of ridiculous things together. By the time we were ready to take the GCE exams we’d added John Lennon to our ‘Mad Lad’ gang…”

After school, Neil went on to study accountancy and was a trainee accountant for 2 years. He enjoyed music and had a membership for the Casbah Coffee Club ran by Mona Best where The Beatles as we know them today first played as The Quarrymen and then as The Silver Beatles with Pete Best as their drummer. Neil became a close family friend of the Bests and eventually rented a room in their house. It was Pete Best who asked Neil in 1961 to be the band's part-time roadie and from there, his relationship with The Beatles grew stronger.

Eventually, Neil gave up his studies and became their full-time road manager. During this time, he also developed a romantic relationship with Mona Best and their child was born in 1962. When Pete Best was sacked as their drummer by Brian Epstein, Neil felt a massive loyalty for Pete and indicated that he would quit as a result. Due to Pete’s encouragement and belief that The Beatles were going places, Neil continued to work for them whilst maintaining his friendship with Pete.

As The Beatles continued to grow and their entourage got bigger, Neil became more of a personal assistant to the band working closely with Brian Epstein. Always just out of the camera shot, he went everywhere with the band. He was a great friend, helping them remember lyrics to songs, offering relationship advice and even standing in during rehearsals if anyone was sick, as was the case during rehearsals for The Ed Sullivan Show when George caught tonsilitis. As Beatles biographer Hunter Davies states, he was one of the ‘paid mates’, who the fab four trusted unconditionally.

Neil’s training in accountancy never did go to waste because come 1967, he was asked to head Apple Corps - a role which he officially held for over 30 years. Throughout the years, he played an integral role in managing the band's numerous commercial interests. This included overseeing various lawsuits and most notably producing The Beatles Anthology, where his friend Pete Best would finally receive royalties for the part he played during the early years of the band.

On this day, we remember the extraordinary life of Neil Aspinall who sadly passed away after a battle with lung cancer in 2008. He is survived by his wife Suzie Aspinall, 3 daughters and 2 sons. He is remembered as a fierce protector of the band’s legacy who always had their best interests at heart. As an insider, he never did publish any memoirs but his story is remembered through The Beatles Story exhibition and will continue to be shared with visitors from across the world.

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