Stuart Sutcliffe was Beatles’ first bassist. In 1960, the group had Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon, Pete Best (Drums) and Stuart (Bass). Before joining the band, the young man showed great talent in the fine arts at Liverpool College of Art, where he met Lennon. When he joined the group, he participated in the decision of the group’s name, The Beetles, later adapted for Beatles.
The band started to gain public and attention. Sutcliffe drew attention for performing in sunglasses and tight pants. When he performed with the Beatles in Hamburg, he met photographer Astrid Kirchherr. Whom he ended up getting engaged to shortly after.
On the Beatles Anthology documentary George Harrison talked about Stuart:
“Paul and I got to know Stuart Sutcliffe through going into the art college. Stuart was a thin, arty guy with glasses and a little Van Gogh beard; a good painter. John really liked Stuart as an artist.”
Although Sutcliffe is often described in the Beatles’ biographies as appearing very uncomfortable on stage. Often playing with his back to the audience, the drummer at the time, Pete Best, denies this, reminding Sutcliffe as generally good-natured and “excited” in front of the audience .
The artist remained with the group until 1961, when he completed a graduate degree in arts and left the band to focus on his career as a painter. Sutcliffe moved to Germany and had a promising future.
He lent McCartney his bass until he earned enough to buy a left-handed Höfner 500/1 bass made especially for him in June 1961. But specifically asked McCartney (who is left-handed) not to change the strings around or restrict the instrument, so McCartney had to play the bass in reverse.
Stuart Sutcliffe tragic death
In February 1962, the Stuart had severe headaches and photosensitivity. He passed out in an art class and returned to England in search of a more detailed diagnosis. In April, he became ill again and died on the way to the hospital, at the age of 21, victim of a cerebral hemorrhage caused by an aneurysm.
Sutcliffe was honored by the Beatles on the cover of the album Sgt Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). He appears on the left, the second person from top to bottom. Although Lennon did not go or send flowers for Sutcliffe’s funeral, his second wife, Yoko Ono, remembers that Lennon mentioned Sutcliffe’s name very often. Saying that he was “my alter ego … a spirit in his world … guiding force “.
Paul McCartney tribute
Paul McCartney recently celebrated Stuart’s birthday paying tribute to the late bassist: “Our original bass player Stuart would have been 80 today! So many great memories of our time together. Happy birthday Stu! Love Paul”