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What if Pete Best and Stu Sutcliffe stayed in the Beatles?
4 May 2014
10.36pm
MrMoonlight
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Another thread inspired by something else, the "What If" thread on All Together Now provoked me to wonder: what would it be like had Pete Best stayed in the Beatles and Stuart Sutcliffe never to have died and stayed part of them?

I'm speaking from a solely hypothetical viewpoint. We know that it was Stu's choice to leave, and we know Pete was kicked out. But I'm wondering: how would the band dynamic be? What would go differently, both historically and aesthetically? Hell, what songs would they have sung?

I've always wondered how it would have been if the all-too familiar "John, Paul, George and Ringo" was "John, Paul, George, Stuart, and Pete". Doesn't have the same ring to it. But it's still interesting to ponder even what they'd looked like, let alone sounded like. Pete with a moptop, Stuart with long hair and a moustache... Would they both have written songs?

Remember: hypothetical. No pedantic complaints a-hard-days-night-george-10

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5 May 2014
12.16am
Annadog40
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I don't think Stu would have wrote songs. John and Paul partnership wouldn't be as strong because Stu is there and Pete is not as endearing from what I seen so I don't think it would have worked as well.

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5 May 2014
12.44am
Von Bontee
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It'd've been cool if Stu could've gotten the chance to paint a Beatles album cover or two, even though such a thing probably couldn't have occurred before 1966 or so. I can't offhand think of any pop album covers with abstract-expressionist art before the psychedelic era or thereabouts.

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HeyTrud, parlance, MrMoonlight
One day, a tape-op got a tape on backwards, he went to play it, and it was all "Neeeradno-undowarrroom" and it was "Wow! Sounds Indian!" -- Paul McCartney
5 May 2014
1.52am
Billy Rhythm
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MrMoonlight said 

 
I've always wondered how it would have been if the all-too familiar "John, Paul, George and Ringo" was "John, Paul, George, Stuart, and Pete". Doesn't have the same ring to it.

Pun intended?...:-)

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parlance
5 May 2014
10.41am
Zig
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MrMoonlight said

what would it be like had Pete Best stayed in the Beatles and Stuart Sutcliffe never to have died and stayed part of them?

They would have struggled mightily because they would have been terrible. The band would feature a one trick pony on drums and a bass player who just couldn't get the hang of the bass. I don't think Stu would ever have played much better than average. They would have become passe' even in Hamburg and been forced into the workplace with very little talent for anything. Not even songwriting. From what I've read, their early compositions were not very good. If the band had gone nowhere, they would not have had the opportunity to hone their songwriting skills. Nobody would remember them and we certainly would not be expressing our opinions of them in this forum. I shudder to think what would have happened to them.

Yes, I believe it would have been that bad.

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HeyTrud, parlance

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5 May 2014
11.41am
Ron Nasty
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Pete still in the band, undoubtedly a worse band. He was a dedicated musician who wasn't good enough, and who didn't fit.

Stuart? I think there's a more difficult question. What if Stu had taken the group, and being a musician, seriously? Part of me believes that he never got good on bass because he never took being a musician as seriously as John, Paul and George did. What if he had? What if Paul had had nothing to complain on the music front?

It would have been a very different band, with a very different axis. Lennon-McCartney would not have happened in the way it did with Stu in the band.

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
5 May 2014
2.38pm
Von Bontee
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I really have to question the theoretical notion that they would've necessarily been terrible and gone nowhere with Stu & Pete. ('Cause this is just all speculation, after all...) We'll never know how good a songwriter Stu or even Pete might've been if they had opportunities to hone their skills. Is it impossible to believe that Pete Best mightn't've written several songs better than Ringo's pair if he had opportunity to work at it for years? Or that Stu might have had a budding songwriter in him?

Ray Davies' early songs with the Kinks were pretty bad. And as Zig said, so were those early Lennon-McCartney compositions. And yet all three of them blossomed into legendary songwriters because they kept working at it. And Syd Barrett was a gifted visual artist (hey, just like Stu!) who likewise abruptly transferred his energies from painting into rudimentary guitar playing/songwriting, and eventually he became good enough to lead Pink Floyd and create their legendary early works.

Conversely, what if Stu didn't worry about songwriting at all, just stayed content to do the best he could on bass. Would that really have been an impediment to John & Paul's early songwriting methods? Sure, the songs wouldn't have sounded as good onstage when they were played, but they still would've looked COOL. (The bass player turning his back on the audience while playing: Just like Miles Davis, man!) And that's ultimately the reason Brian Epstein took an interest and worked tirelessly on their behalf, isn't it? I don't think Brian would necessarily have had any opionions on what makes a good bass line.

Does it really ultimately matter that much how well the rhythm section played onstage? Especially after they got huge and couldn't even be heard? George Martin felt that Pete's drumming was insufficient, and no doubt would've felt the same of Stu, and would've employed session players for recording purposes, but there's no reason they couldn't have stayed in the band anyways. Would the fans have known they weren't playing on their own records? Probably not, at least not for several years. And maybe Pete would've become more skilled in the ensuing time.

I guess what I'm saying is that the whole Beatles phenomenon was so unprecedented that there's really no way of knowing what variables may have made a difference. I just think that we all know the Beatles Story so well that it's difficult to imagine that some of the things that we think went miraculously right, may have gone even better!

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MrMoonlight
One day, a tape-op got a tape on backwards, he went to play it, and it was all "Neeeradno-undowarrroom" and it was "Wow! Sounds Indian!" -- Paul McCartney
5 May 2014
3.08pm
Linde
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I think Von Bontee has an interesting point there. Maybe they could have developed to be better. I always thought Stu didn't really WANT to be in a band though. And as for Pete, he's still playing in bands right? I haven't heard anything by him, but is he a good drummer now? Just asking.

I think I'll have to go with what Zig says here. They wanted to dump Peter, and I'm sure they would've dumped Stu too, had he still been there. They wanted to make it, and you just can't make it if you've got a drummer who can only drum the same pattern over and over again and a bassist who can only play a few bits. They wouldn't have made it and would've eventually faded away into the great big nothing. Of course one can only speculate about what would've been if they had changed a few variables, but I've got a hard time believing they would've been as big as they were and still are, had Pete and Stu still been in the band.

5 May 2014
3.39pm
c64wood
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Ditto to what Zig said.  But I think they would have been a little better than terrible since they were good enough with that lineup to work their way to better jobs in Hamburg.  That and hookup with Tony Sheridan (even though by the time they recorded with Tony, Stu was no longer with the band).

From the tracks I've heard when Pete was with the band, he was not really that good.  He'd speed up and slow down.  He tried to be too flashy with the fills and wasn't good with fills.  Eventually J, P and G would have dropped him.

They would have stayed a nice little bar band had Stu and Pete stayed with the band and nothing more.

I know you know what you know, but you should know by now that you're not me ~ Ron Nasty
5 May 2014
3.50pm
Von Bontee
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Linde said

I think I'll have to go with what Zig says here. They wanted to dump Peter, and I'm sure they would've dumped Stu too, had he still been there. They wanted to make it, and you just can't make it if you've got a drummer who can only drum the same pattern over and over again and a bassist who can only play a few bits.

But is this really the case? Or was it the case in 1962? My point was that those early audiences didn't care much how good or bad the rhythm section was. Pete Best's drumming insufficiencies didn't prevent him from being the most popular Beatle! I think they became hugely popular because of the way they looked and the way they sang, with the way they played being less of a factor. And anyways, George Martin was prepared to use session musicians to beef up the rhythm section for the recordings. And he's stressed that this didn't necessarily mean kicking Pete out of the band. The Kinks, to name one band, used a session drummer on their earliest material, and still became successful.

I mean, I guess the Beatles felt they needed to replace Pete in order to be successful, so in that sense it was necessary as a motivating factor. But in retrospect, I just think they had the talent & good looks & ambition to make it regardless of who their drummer was. (Sorry if it sounds like I'm badmouthing Ringo - I just think that he's the 4th most important Beatle.)

One day, a tape-op got a tape on backwards, he went to play it, and it was all "Neeeradno-undowarrroom" and it was "Wow! Sounds Indian!" -- Paul McCartney
5 May 2014
5.43pm
Zig
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c64wood said

They would have stayed a nice little bar band had Stu and Pete stayed with the band and nothing more.

That was my point.

Consider this - they did not get "discovered" until after Stu had left the group and Paul took over on bass. To me, this makes the use of session musicians on any studio album a moot point. There would have been no recording contract offered in the first place. Yes, they were popular in the bars and dives and dance halls. But so were Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. They too faded into the sunset despite the fact that they had talented musuicians in Johnny Guitar and Ringo. Stressing the fact that this is only my humble opinion, I don't think they would have amounted to anything had Pete and Stu stayed with the band. It is fun to think about and debate though. Nice idea for a thread.
apple01

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5 May 2014
9.41pm
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I think issues between Paul and Stu would have caused serious arguments and they would have eventually split and went into different groups as it was a huge relief when Stu decided to stay in Germany with Astrid and focus on his art. If Stu had remained a member i also doubt as a group of musicians they would have gotten far at all, just remaining another good band in Hamburg and Germany - for me his heart wasn't in it but John was loyal and would never have thrown him out.

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9 May 2014
3.35pm
MrMoonlight
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Von Bontee said
It'd've been cool if Stu could've gotten the chance to paint a Beatles album cover or two, even though such a thing probably couldn't have occurred before 1966 or so. I can't offhand think of any pop album covers with abstract-expressionist art before the psychedelic era or thereabouts.

Now you've made me want to go to the alternate universe in which Stu stayed. Damn you.

Mal's got a mop and another glass of orange juice!
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'Cause he doesn't like looking like he looks back~
9 May 2014
5.58pm
Von Bontee
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Zig said

c64wood said

They would have stayed a nice little bar band had Stu and Pete stayed with the band and nothing more.

That was my point.

Consider this - they did not get "discovered" until after Stu had left the group and Paul took over on bass. To me, this makes the use of session musicians on any studio album a moot point. apple01

OK, Zig, I'll grant you that Stu had to go! But dammit, they got that recording contract with Pete and I still think they could've been equally successful, commercially, with him as drummer. Instead of the nice symmetry of four moptops with the same attitude and sense of humour, there'd be three of them plus one aloof weirdo. Maybe they'd be a less attractive proposition that way. Or maybe Pete's oddness would've made him some kind of focal point, the way Ringo was singled out later on (possibly as a result of he being the emotional focal point of the two movies?) This is all very interesting to contemplate.

On the other hand, maybe Pete's presence might have antagonized them all so much that they'd break up in 1965! I wouldn't want that. Fair enough, bye bye Pete!

One day, a tape-op got a tape on backwards, he went to play it, and it was all "Neeeradno-undowarrroom" and it was "Wow! Sounds Indian!" -- Paul McCartney
9 May 2014
10.05pm
IveJustSeenAFaceo
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Commercially perhaps, but musically they wouldn't have been nearly as good (doubled if Stu and Pete stay). Like to see Pete play A Day In The Life

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9 May 2014
10.17pm
Von Bontee
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Oh no question: WAY weaker musically as a working bonafide band, unless Pete Best developed some kind of unsuspected songwriting genius along the way! I was mostly taking issue with the idea that commercially they'd have gone nowhere without Ringo.

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IveJustSeenAFaceo
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10 May 2014
2.05pm
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Zig said

MrMoonlight said
what would it be like had Pete Best stayed in the Beatles and Stuart Sutcliffe never to have died and stayed part of them?

They would have struggled mightily because they would have been terrible. The band would feature a one trick pony on drums and a bass player who just couldn't get the hang of the bass. I don't think Stu would ever have played much better than average. They would have become passe' even in Hamburg and been forced into the workplace with very little talent for anything. Not even songwriting. From what I've read, their early compositions were not very good. If the band had gone nowhere, they would not have had the opportunity to hone their songwriting skills. Nobody would remember them and we certainly would not be expressing our opinions of them in this forum. I shudder to think what would have happened to them.

Yes, I believe it would have been that bad.

Took the words right out of my mouth.

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12 June 2014
4.30pm
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@MrMoonlight is right. Stuart was never a good bass player. When he sold that painting, he was reluctant to buy a Hofner with the money. John, Paul, and George really didn't want to get stuck on bass; they wanted 3 guitars. Stuart wasn't a good bass player; he had to turn his back to the crowd so they wouldn't see that he wasn't playing good. Stuart just wanted to forget about it and stay with Astrid. Pete wasn't really a good drum player either; he was very sluggish and wasn't crisp. George Martin noticed; he suggested that they kick him out. They really didn't want to do it, but that was just because of friendship. You would have done the same. But really, they knew that he wasn't good. They agreed, but they wanted Brian to tell him so he wouldn't kick their rear ends. He actually took it well. To replace him, they wanted someone more professional. The two professional bands were the Big Three and Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Richard was in the Hurricanes; they already knew him; they played in the Star-Club with the Hurricanes and Richard sat down and watched their gigs. He actually performed with them a couple times when Pete was out. He was professional enough and they knew him very well. Ringo became famous, and Pete and Stuart weren't well known.

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12 June 2014
5.42pm
vonbontee
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I don't think Mr. Moonlight even voiced an opionion on this thread! He just invited speculation. What's he right about?

(lol I'm the mood for an argument here, is it obvious? A friendly argument. :) )

[EDIT: OK, now I see - it was Necko quoting Zig answering Mr. Moonlight who you were agreeing with there. Misattribution!]

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12 June 2014
5.54pm
thisbirdhasflown
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vonbontee said
I don't think Mr. Moonlight even voiced an opionion on this thread! He just invited speculation. What's he right about?

(lol I'm the mood for an argument here, is it obvious? A friendly argument. :) )

[EDIT: OK, now I see - it was Necko quoting Zig answering Mr. Moonlight who you were agreeing with there. Misattribution!]

Hey. I've got plenty of time for a debate so go ahead!

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