The Forgotten Beatle – Jimmie Nicol with the Fab Three
Almost everyone who has a passing interest in The Beatles will know the story of how Ringo Starr replaced drummer Pete Best.
More knowledgeable Beatles fans will also tell you about Stuart Sutcliffe, the original bass guitarist for The Beatles, who was one of several people sometimes referred to as the “Fifth Beatle” along with Pete Best, Brian Epstein and George Martin.
Some may even surprise you with their thoughts on Chas Newby and other worthy contenders when considering The Quarrymen and Silver Beatles, but I shall save that story for another day!
So what about Jimmie Nicol, the former member of The Beatles?
The fifth Beatle – Jimmie Nicol
This Jimmie Nicol sat in on the drum kit for Ringo Starr during the height of Beatlemania in 1964? Ringo was laid low with tonsillitis and pharyngitis and was taken to hospital on the eve of their first world tour.
Rather than cancel the tour and other commitments, which could have been damaging in many ways, it was felt a temporary replacement was needed and despite some initial opposition from George Harrison, manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin started looking for another drummer.
Martin suggested Jimmie Nicol as he had recently heard him on a recording session. Nicol also knew several of The Beatles songs having covered several cover versions for a budget album label and had recently toured with Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, so he was a well-respected performing drummer.
Martin rang Nicol on the 3rd June 1964 and after completing a hastily arranged audition by playing six of the bands songs, in under an hour, Nicoll became a Beatle and was whisked off to Denmark and Holland the very next day for a concert and television appearance. In a few short hours, Nicol had gone from obscurity to a member of the Fab Four on their first world tour. Could it have got any better?
John, Paul, George and Jimmie
Nicol was given a Beatles haircut and dressed in one of Starr`s suits, which apparently was far too short in the legs! Having himself replaced Pete Best in the band some years before, Ringo must have also been slightly uncomfortable with the situation himself and eager to return to the band.
Nicol played a total of ten gigs in five venues, one television appearance in Holland, attended press conferences and public appearances during the thirteen days he was a Beatle, before Ringo Starr returned to the band in Melbourne on 14th June. Nicoll was paid, presented with a silver watch and without saying goodbye to the three Beatles, who were asleep in their hotel rooms, was dropped off at the airport in Melbourne for his flight back home to England. It was all over as quickly as it had begun. Nicoll had been a Beatle for less than two weeks!
Nicol later stood in for another drummer due to illness, Dave Clark of The Dave Clark Five, replacing him in the band for a summer season of concerts in Blackpool and he was briefly reunited with The Beatles when his own band, The Shubdubs were on the same bill as John, Paul, George and Ringo for a show in Brighton that summer. Later that year he briefly joined a successful Swedish group The Spotnicks, recording with them and toured the world.
The Beatles before their first World Tour 1964
The Beatles, of course, went on to become four of the most recognised faces of the last century yet Jimmie Nicol appears to have almost disappeared from Beatles history for many fans of the band. Surprisingly, it might seem, Nicoll never cashed in on his short period as a Beatle. He did turn up at a Beatles Convention on one occasion, an appearance he seemingly regretted instantly.
Jimmie Nicol could soon be set for another fifteen minutes of fame as there are plans for a Hollywood movie to be made about his life and times with The Beatles and the intervening fifty four years, based on a biography of Nicol called “The Beatle Who Vanished” by Jim Berkenstadt.
The film is said to be a collaboration between Alex Orbison, son of the great Roy Orbison, who toured with The Beatles in the sixties and with George Harrison in The Travelling Wilburys and Ashley Hamilton, son of the Hollywood actor George Hamilton.
In August 2019 Nicoll celebrated his eigthtieth birthday and it appears, even now, very little is known about his whereabouts.
I find the story of Jimmie Nicol and his brief spell with The Beatles fascinating. I am about to start reading the book “The Beatle Who Vanished” and I shall look forward to seeing the film, should it ever get made!
Homeward Bound at Essendon Arport, Melbourne
Should I have any of this story incorrect please let me know as I only know as much as I can source! I am happy to be corrected.
Visit: The Beatles Story, Albert Dock, Liverpool
Visit: The Magical Beatles Museum, Mathew Street, Liverpool
The Book: The Beatle Who Vanished by Jim Berkenstadt
Credit: None of the photographs are mine – they are copyright free images from the internet.
Great article Jim.
Nicol flew to Melbourne with the three Beatles. It seems unlikely that he would have been ‘dropped off at the airport in Adelaide’ to fly back to England.
Thanks for your comment Bert. You are correct. The Beatles had performed in Adelaide then flew to Melbourne where Ringo was reunited with the rest of the boys. Jimmie flew back to England from what was then known as Essendon Airport. Thanks for pointing out my error which has now been corrected.