He was hardly what you would deem a sage, but out of the mouths of mediocrity spark sporadic flashes of brilliance: Sven Goran Ericson once said "to wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are". It’s true, we should never wish to be another as, given the choice between our problems or our neighbour's, we would generally take our own.

Maybe it was through a childhood penchant as I listened to the Fab Four on my old fella’s prehistoric cart tape machine, or after I became fully engrossed in the Beatles anthology, I can truly say that the only ‘person’ I wish I could have been, not counting King Kenny Dalglish, and despite my complete absence of any musical talent, was a member of the greatest band of all time.

At a loose end the other night, as I attempted to swerve the doomsayers on terrestrial TV, I thought I’d spend the time constructively by googling bit part players in the well-trodden history of the world’s premier pop rock combo. I vaguely remembered a story about a guitarist who, after his dalliance with super stardom, became a science teacher up north. If true, I always pitied the man: Now, I know, from stories I ‘regale’ my students with, that a number believe me to be a bit of a fantasist, that is unless they see evidence of my, to them, outlandish claims. I imagine this teacher, with his reputation amongst his students hitting the lying stratosphere, after recounting to a group of Year 10s as to how he, John and Paul rocked it around Hamburg ‘back in the day’, as the kids keep their distance and wonder how this old codger passed his DBS check in the first place.

The Beatles

The Beatles

Now we are no doubt aware of drummer Pete Best, or bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, yet few would have heard of Chas Newby, who filled in for Sutcliffe four times in 1960 before they hit the big time, as can be seen by the less than glamorous venues he frequented including Litherland Town Hall and the Wallasey Grosvenor ballroom. Despite rumours that Lennon wanted Chas to remain in situ, he ended up teaching maths at Droitwich High School until his retirement.

Continuing the theme of bit part members whose names sound like potential mass murderers: Tommy Moore left the Silver Beetles in 1960 to be replaced by the extremely unfortunate Norman Chapman. Chappers played three shows with the band, after they enlisted him after hearing drumming from down the street and walked to the source of the sound, above the National Cash Register Company. Yet two weeks before they were due to step on the road to history by going to Germany, he was called up for national service where, away for two years, he was jettisoned in favour of Best, despite the other members thinking him an awesome drummer and terrific fella.

The real outlier in this stream of bit part Beatles is the story of Jimmie Nicol. His experience was unique as he was the only stand in to experience the full force of Beatlemania, after replacing the tonsillitis ridden Ringo for two weeks in 1964. Within 24 hours of the invite, he had a mop top and was wearing one of Starr’s suits in Copenhagen. He was quoted as saying "the day before I was a Beatle, girls weren’t interested in me at all. Now they are dying to try to touch me, It’s very strange and quite scary". Eight shows later it was all over, and with a £500 cheque and a watch inscribed ‘from the Beatles and Brian Epstein to Jimmy-with appreciation and gratitude’, he was on his way to declaring himself bankrupt nine months later.

Now renouncing his past, he is thought to live as a recluse in Mexico after a career in housing renovations, although he is seen as the inspiration for ‘getting better’ after he responded to Lennon and McCartney’s question regarding how he was handling the sudden fame with those very words.

So no, taking that on board, a life of obscurity after a brief dalliance in the eye of the storm does not seem too appealing and would mark you out as a Reggie Perrin of the highest order. To wish you were someone else would waste the person you are, it’s true, and a number, who became someone else for a short while, seemed like they lost their way and, after the high of fame, came the low of lifelong obscurity, reclusiveness or teaching quadratic equations to a gaggle of Year 7s.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher