TIFF Docs

The Sixth Beatle

Tony Guma, John Rose

Liverpool concert promoter and rock 'n' roll true believer Sam Leach offers a rollicking account of his role in raising the profile of The Beatles during their hardscrabble early years on the club circuit.

Every Fab Four devotee knows of the various claims to the title of "Fifth Beatle," from producer George Martin to bassist Stuart Sutcliffe to drummer Pete Best to manager Brian Epstein. This fresh take on music history, from directors Tony Guma and John Rose, argues for a sixth position in The Beatles' legacy — one granted exclusively to a humble promoter and rock 'n' roll true believer named Sam Leach.

"My story is the last untold story of the Beatles," declares Leach, and what a story it is. Now in his eighties, Leach remains a gifted, easygoing raconteur. He offers a rollicking chronicle of those exhilarating early years when Liverpool was little-known and rock 'n' roll was a nascent business. John, Paul, and George were still putting in club hours at home and in Hamburg, still trying out different bandmates, still searching for a strategy that might lead to stardom. Leach played a key role in getting The Beatles' name known, their shows attended, and their records heard. Alongside his recollections of the era, Guma and Rose give us insightful interviews with Pete Best and veterans of Liverpool groups like The Merseybeats, Kingsize Taylor and The Dominoes, and Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.

The 6th Beatle is ultimately a very English story: the plot turns on questions of class. The Beatles parted ways with Leach — like them, a working-class Liverpudlian — only after they were scooped by the nattily attired, posh-accented, RADA-educated Epstein. Conflicted feelings toward Epstein still run high amongst those who remember the early years, but Leach, ever the gentleman, gives Epstein credit for opening doors that he could not. Nonetheless, Leach deserves credit too, for his years of hard work and inspiration. He even helmed a memorial for Lennon after his death.

This is the last untold story of The Beatles, indeed — and it's crying out to be heard.

THOM POWERS

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location_on Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema

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