Who was the fifth Beatle? Brian Epstein, Derek Taylor, George Martin, Pete Best? Neil Aspinall, a childhood friend of Paul McCartney and George Harrison, has as much of a claim as anyone. He became the Beatles' road manager, personal assistant and manager of the Apple Corps company. In this one-man play Aspinall is played with verve by Ian Sexon.
At the age of 12, Aspinall gained a place at the Liverpool Institute, studying English and art alongside Paul McCartney. After leaving school in 1959 he went on to accountancy and by the age of 18 he was driving the Beatles’ van and ironing their trousers very much in the role of general dogsbody.
He drove hundreds of miles through the night living, singing and talking with four guys who were to become the most famous men on the planet. ‘She Loves You’ was written while on the road. The first tour as the Silver Beetles began in Alloa in 1960 with gigs in Inverness, Fraserburgh, Keith, Forres, Nairn and Peterhead. Their first tour as the Beatles in Scotland was in 1963 where they travelled to Elgin, Dingwall, Bridge of Allan and Aberdeen.
The show captures well the ambition tinged with fear of making mistakes that troubled the young men who were still in their 20s by the time they split up. The show is a great reminder of the revolution the Beatles were part of and how they influenced a generation of young people: the security cordons, fan riots, death threats…
There is much athletic capering across the stage from Sexon and he is a great mimic catching the different voices of the Fab Four, the diffidence of manager Brian Epstein and the plummy tones of producer George Martin. Aspinall must have known a lot of the band’s secrets but, maddeningly, took them to the grave with him when he died in 2008.
The lovable mop tops were famous for their irreverent sense of humour but there are precious few laughs in this show. When there is a mention of Abbey Road, Sexon leaps over the suitcase props with a clear reference to the famous zebra crossing on the album cover. It’s a pity there weren’t more of these in-jokes.
Fans of the Beatles are unlikely to be surprised by many of the facts here. Sexon is a lively storyteller but with a subject like the Beatles (who owned the 1960s and defined it, politically and culturally) there’s a lot that’s not in the show.
For details on the tour visit www.siegeperilous.co.uk