The Thing: The Beatles’ Disgusting Honorary Member You’ve Likely Never Heard Of (And Probably Wished You Hadn’t)

The Beatles might’ve been superstars, but offstage, they were average (and gross) human beings like anyone else—an unavoidable, all-natural quality exemplified in stomach-twisting detail by their disgusting honorary Beatles member, whom they nicknamed “The Thing.” The fifth Beatle gave all new meaning to rock and rollers trashing a hotel room.

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The legend of “The Thing” dates back to the earliest years of the Beatles. Pre-Ringo Starr, the quartet was still using their original drummer, Pete Best. Pre-Beatlesmania, the band was performing in rather racy venues across Europe while they worked toward their first big break.

George Harrison Introduced “The Thing” To The Beatles

When the Beatles weren’t playing hours-long sets at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany, they were crashing in a modest hostel that the club’s owner, Manfred Weissleder, provided for them. One night, George Harrison vomited in a corner of their hostel after a particularly long drinking session. As the story goes, neither Harrison nor the woman hired to clean the hostel was willing to clean up the mess.

Weissleder tried to get Harrison to tend to the puke pile on several occasions, and each time, he refused—perhaps a revealing glimpse into his future celebrity status or maybe a protest against the band’s less-than-ideal living situation. In any case, Pete Best wrote in his memoir that the vomit corner became a running joke amongst the group.

Eventually, cigarette butts and food scraps made their way into the unsightly corner, creating an even bigger stench and eyesore than the first one Harrison created. The band lovingly (or disgustingly?) dubbed the mess in the corner “The Thing” and called it an honorary Beatle.

The Band’s Hilarious Reaction To Their Fifth Member’s End

After two weeks of living next to a pile of puke and trash, the hostel owner finally cleaned up the mess. The Beatles reportedly protested when the time came to say goodbye to The Thing and even held a mock funeral for their “honorary bandmate.” Best later said of the biohazard, “Now you could probably flog it for thousands on eBay” (via ANI).

As stomach-turning as the thought might be, Best is probably right about that. The Fab Four’s Hamburg years are a superfan goldmine, offering an intimate, warts-and-all glimpse into the quartet’s earliest stages. The Beatles’ time playing as a house band in Europe was a formative experience professionally, musically, and personally. As John Lennon would later say in Anthology, “I grew up in Hamburg, not Liverpool.”

George Harrison offered similar sentiments in Anthology, describing Hamburg as “brilliant” and the Reeperbahn and Gross Freiheit, two of the main entertainment districts where they played, as “the best thing we’d ever seen, clubs and neon lights everywhere and lots of restaurants and entertainment. It looked really good. There were seedy things about it, obviously, including some of the conditions we had to live in when we first got there.” Gross conditions indeed—thanks in no small part to Harrison and the band’s honorary fifth member, “The Thing.”

Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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