Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Artifact: 1959 letter written by Stu Sutcliffe

Via Heritage Auctions:
Stuart Sutcliffe was a gifted painter more interested in art than music, though he is best remembered as the "Fifth Beatle," as he was the original bassist for the Beatles, and is credited along with John Lennon in naming the band. Sutcliffe quit the Beatles in July 1961 to focus on art full time. He tragically passed less than a year later from an aneurysm, leaving his former bandmates - as well as then girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr - devastated.

Here is a sprawling nine-page letter written in black ink by Sutcliffe, dated October 1959, while attending the Liverpool College of Art. Writing to his friend Sheila, he responds to a previous letter she sent, writing of the nature of excitement, and our need for it. In part: "As you said earlier in your letter nothing exciting ever happens. Things come and go in a very artificial way, we seem constantly to need excitement (that's why I am getting a motor-bike, not a car). I felt I was slowly being suffocated by my work, and I just had to do something about it...Last Saturday there was this party at Brenda's...I must admit it was the most exciting party I have ever been to...It was absolutely packed. Rod went berserk on two different occasions when he tried to strangle Ducky, the police intervened the second time...At one point when about 6 policemen were taking names, half a dozen bright boys pinched one of their cars." Sutcliffe goes on to write about how college life is warming up "mostly due to the efforts of Elvis Presley and co., on records at lunch time rock meetings." The remaining pages are filled with talk of drinking, art, school, and of Sheila, offering a candid, warm glimpse into the mind and world of the "Fifth Beatle."


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