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Pete Best (born 24 November 1941) is a Britishmarker musician, best known as the original drummer in The Beatles 1960-62 before Ringo Starr joined the group.

After moving from India to Liverpoolmarker in 1945, Best's mother, Mona Best (1924–1988) started The Casbah Coffee Clubmarker in the cellar of the Bests' house in Liverpool, which became very popular—the membership list grew to over a thousand—and where The Beatles (then known as The Quarrymen) played some of their first concerts. The club was also known as The Casbah Club, or simply The Casbah. Best played there with his first band, The Black Jacks, and later with The Beatles.

Best joined The Beatles on 12 August 1960, only one day before they were to go to Hamburgmarker to play a season of concerts. He was dismissed from the group two years later, on 16 August 1962, and was replaced by Ringo Starr. He was never given a full explanation as to the reason why. For this reason, he is perhaps the "unluckiest man in the world", as he never shared in the enormous acclaim the Beatles would achieve and enjoy after his departure.

He later worked as a civil servant for 20 years, before starting The Pete Best Band. Best has been married for over 40 years to Kathy Best; they have two daughters and four grandchildren.

Early Life

Best's father, John Best, came from a family of sports promoters in Liverpool, who once owned and ran the Liverpool Stadium. Mona Best was born in Delhimarker, India, and was the daughter of a British army officer. Mona was training to become a doctor in the service of the Red Crossmarker when she met John Best. After their marriage, both Best and his younger brother, Rory Best (b.1944) were born in India. In 1945, the Best family sailed for four weeks to Liverpool on the Georgic, which was the last troop ship to leave India, and carried single and married soldiers who had previously been a part of General Sir William Slim's forces in south-east Asia. The ship docked in Liverpool on 25 December 1945.

The Beatles and Hamburg

In 1960, Allan Williams arranged a season of bookings for The Beatles in Hamburg, starting on 12 August 1960, but said that he was not impressed with them as a musical group, and hoped that he could find a better act to follow them.

Having no permanent drummer, Paul McCartney looked around for someone to fill the Hamburg position. Best had been seen playing with The Black Jacks in The Casbah, and it was noted that he had become a steady drummer, meaning that he played the bass drum on all four beats in the bar, which pushed the rhythm. Best was known in Liverpool as being "mean, moody, and magnificent" by female fans, which convinced McCartney he would be good for the group. After The Black Jacks broke up, McCartney asked Best to go to Hamburg with the group, but lied by saying they would earn £15 per week each. As Best had passed his school exams—unlike Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, who had failed most of them—he had the chance to go to a teacher-training college, but decided that playing in Hamburg would be a better career move. Best had an audition in the Jacaranda club—owned by Williams—and travelled to Hamburg the next day with The Beatles. Williams later admitted that the audition with Best was not needed, as The Beatles hadn't found any other drummer willing to travel to Hamburg, but didn't tell Best in case he asked for more money.
The Beatles first played at the Indra club in Hamburg, but slept in the Bambi Kino (cinema) in small, dirty rooms, which were noisy, cold, and directly behind the screen. Upon first seeing the Indra, Best remembered it as being a depressing place that was filled with a few tourists, and having heavy, old, red curtains that made it seem shabby compared to the larger Kaiserkellermarker. As Best had been the only one to take O-Level German at school, he could communicate with Bruno Koschmider—the club's owner—and the clientele better than the rest of the group. After the closure of the Indra because of complaints about the noise, The Beatles played in the Kaiserkeller. In October 1960, they left Koschmider's club to work at the Top Ten Club, which was run by Peter Eckhorn, as he offered the group more money, and a slightly better place to sleep, though by doing so they broke their contract with Koschmider. When Best and McCartney went back to the Bambi Kino to get their belongings they found it in almost total darkness. As a snub to Koschmider, Best found a condom in his luggage, attached it to a nail on the concrete wall of the room, and set fire to it. There was no real damage done, but Koschmider reported them both for attempted arson. Best and McCartney spent three hours in a local jail and were deported—as was George Harrison, for working under the legal age limit on 30 November 1960.

Back in Liverpool, no-one contacted each other for two weeks, but Mona and Best made numerous phone calls to Hamburg to recover the group's equipment, which they eventually managed to do. The ex-Black Jacks guitarist Chas Newby was invited to play bass with them for four concerts, as Stu Sutcliffe had decided to stay on in Hamburg. Newby was shocked at the vast improvement of their playing and singing, and remembered Best's drumming to be very powerful, which pushed the group to play harder and louder. It was probably due to McCartney that Best developed a loud drumming style, as he would often tell Best in Hamburg to "Crank it up" (play as loud as possible). Newby played with the group at Litherland Town Hall and at The Casbah. When the group returned to Hamburg, Best was invited to sing a speciality number called "Peppermint Twist" while McCartney played the drums, but Best always felt uncomfortable being at the front of the stage.

Beatles-Platzmarker in Hamburg includes a hybrid sculpture representing an amalgam of Best and Starr on drums, along with sculptures specifically representing Lennon, Sutcliffe, McCartney, and Harrison.

My Bonnie

The reunited Beatles returned to Hamburg in April 1961. While playing at the Top Ten Club they were recruited by singer Tony Sheridan to act as his backing band on a series of recordings for the German Polydor Records label, produced by bandleader Bert Kaempfert. Kaempfert signed the group to a Polydor contract at the first session on 22 June 1961. On 31 October 1961, Polydor released the recording "My Bonnie" (Mein Herz ist bei dir nur) which appeared on the German charts under the name "Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers"—a generic name used for whoever happened to be in Sheridan's backup band. The song was later released in the UK. There was a second recording session on June 23 and a third session in May 1962.

Parlophone audition

At the instigation of their new manager Brian Epstein, The Beatles played a Parlophone audition at Abbey Road Studiosmarker for George Martin on 6 June 1962. Ron Richards and his engineer Norman Smith recorded four songs, which Martin (who was not present during the recording) listened to at the end of the session. The recording convinced Martin that the group was good enough to be signed to a contract (even though he had already signed a contract with Epstein) but with one exception; Martin and his engineers wanted to use an experienced session drummer in Best's place, as was common practice amongst producers. How much this played into the firing of Best has never been made clear. Martin, himself, has said about the firing: "I decided that the drums, which are really the backbone of a good rock group, didn't give the boys enough support. They needed a good solid beat and I said to Brian, "Look, it doesn't matter what you do with the boys, but on record, nobody need know. I'm gonna use a hot drummer. Brian said, 'Okay, fine.' I felt guilty because I felt maybe, I was the catalyst that had changed his life, so I'm sorry about that, Pete." Martin used session drummer Andy White to replace Starr on some of the initial recordings. A recording with Starr on drums was used for the version of "Love Me Do" that was issued as a single. Later pressings of the single used the same version that appeared on their debut album "Please Please Me", which featured White on drums, with Starr playing a tambourine.

Dismissal

When the group heard that Martin and the engineers preferred a session drummer for their upcoming recording session, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison asked Epstein—who had taken over as manager in January—to fire Best from the band. Before Epstein became The Beatles' manager, Best had arranged all the bookings in Liverpool, after they had parted company with Williams. Epstein agonised about the decision, and asked Bob Wooler if it was a good idea, to which Wooler replied that Best was too popular with the fans to get rid of him. Nevertheless, Epstein dismissed Best on 16 August 1962, which was almost exactly two years after Best had joined the group.

Neil Aspinall was waiting downstairs in Epstein's NEMS record shop after Best's dismissal, and was the first one to talk to the then ex-Beatle in The Grapes pub, across from The Cavern Clubmarker, where The Beatles had often played. During 1961-1962, Aspinall had become good friends with Best and subsequently rented a room in the house where Best lived with his parents. Best asked Aspinall to become the band's roadie, resulting in Aspinall buying an old Commer van for 80 pounds. He had been employed as the band's road manager and personal assistant, and was furious and said that he would stop working for them as well——but Best strongly advised him not to. Aspinall asked Lennon at the next concert why they had fired Best, to which he replied, "It’s got nothing to do with you—you’re only the driver."

During one of the extended business trips of Best's father, the 19-year-old Aspinall became romantically involved with Best's mother, Mona Best, who was 17 years his senior. During this period, Aspinall fathered a child by Mona: Vincent "Roag" Best. Roag Best was born in late July 1962, and just three weeks later, on 16 August 1962, Best was dismissed. Despite his initial sympathy for Best, Aspinall ended his relationship with Mona (and their three-week-old baby, Roag) once Best's dismissal had occurred.

Starr took Best's place in the band. Starr had previously played with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, the alternate band in the Kaiserkeller, and had stepped in to drum with The Beatles in Hamburg and Liverpool when Best was ill or unable to play. Best's dismissal was reported on the front-page of the Mersey Beat magazine, upsetting many Beatles fans. The Beatles had to suffer jeers and heckling in the street and on stage for weeks afterwards, with fans shouting, "Pete forever, Ringo [Starr] never!" One agitated fan headbutted Harrison in The Cavern, giving him a black eye. Lennon would later comment about Best's dismissal by saying, "We were cowards, we got Epstein to do the dirty work for us."

Reasons for Best's dismissal

Best has never been told why he was dismissed from The Beatles, as the only reason Epstein gave was, "The lads don't want you in the group anymore". It has been documented (notably in Cynthia Lennon's book John) that while Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison usually spent their offstage time together in Hamburg and Liverpool, writing songs or socializing, Best generally went off alone. This left Best on the outside, as he was not privy to many of the group's experiences, references, and in-jokes.

On their first trip to Hamburg, The Beatles realized that the stage suits they wore could not stand up to the hours of sweating and jumping about on stage every night, so they all bought leather jackets, jeans and cowboy boots, which were much tougher. Best preferred to play in short sleeves, so did not follow the style of the group, even though he was later photographed wearing a leather jacket and jeans. Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Sutcliffe were introduced to drugs in Hamburg. As they had to play for hours every night, they often took Preludin to keep themselves awake, which were given to them by German customers or by Astrid Kirchherr, whose mother bought them. Lennon would often take four or five, but Best always refused to join in.

Kirchherr asked The Beatles if they would mind letting her take photographs of them in a photo session, which impressed them, as other groups only had snapshots that were taken by friends. The next morning Kirchherr took photographs in a municipal park called "der Dom" which was close to the Reeperbahn, and in the afternoon she took them all—minus Best who decided not to go—to her mother's house in Altona. Best was described by Dot Rhone—McCartney's girlfriend at the time, who later visited Hamburg—as being very quiet, and never taking part in conversations with the group.

Best's popularity with fans was a source of friction, as many female fans considered Best to be the band's best-looking member. It's been said that Epstein became exasperated with Best's refusal to adopt the mop-top-style Beatle haircut as part of their unified look, although Best later claimed that he was never asked to change his hairstyle. In a 1995 BBC Radio Merseyside interview, Kirchherr, who was former bassist Sutcliffe's girlfriend at the time, explained: "My boyfriend, Klaus Voorman, had this hairstyle, and Stuart liked it very, very much. He was the first one who really got the nerve to get the Brylcreem out of his hair, and asking me to cut his hair for him. Pete Best has really curly hair, and it wouldn't work."

Radio Merseyside presenter, Spencer Leigh, wrote a book chronicling Best's firing, suggesting that the other members, McCartney in particular, were jealous. During the Teenagers' Turn showcase in Manchestermarker, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison walked on stage to applause, but when Best walked on, the girls screamed. Best was surrounded at the stage door afterwards by attentive females while the other members were ignored after signing a few autographs. McCartney's father, Jim McCartney, was present at the time and admonished Best by saying: "Why did you have to attract all the attention? Why didn't you call the other lads back? I think that was very selfish of you". McCartney's father later encountered the dismissed Best in The Cavern Club when a Beatles' gig was being recorded for the ITV series Know the North, and said: "Great, isn't it? They're on TV!" Observers reported that Best said nothing, and quietly left. Martin was shocked that Epstein had sacked Best: "He seemed to be the most salable commodity as far as looks went. It was a surprise when I learned that they had dropped Pete. The drums were important to me for a record, but they didn’t matter much otherwise. Fans don’t pay particular attention to the quality of the drumming". Martin used session musician Andy White on the third session for "Love Me Do" on 11 September, and not Starr, who was Best's replacement.

Though sometimes overshadowed by the "handsome debate", musically Best appears to have had a limited rhythmic vocabulary that was seen as holding the other three band members back from their collective musical growth. As stated in Bob Spitz's 2005 biography, "All Pete could do was play 'Fours'..." a style of drumming that uses kick drum notes on every quarter note to hold down the beat. Spitz's book also contains engineer Ron Richards' account of his failed attempts to teach Best somewhat more complicated beats for different songs. On January 14, 2009, McCartney was interviewed on The Howard Stern Show. Stern asked McCartney if Best was asked to leave because Best was too handsome. McCartney replied no, and explained how he, Harrison and Lennon were impressed with Starr's drumming.

After The Beatles

Soon after Best was dismissed, Epstein tried to console him by offering to build another group around him, but Best turned him down. Feeling let-down and depressed, he sat at home for two weeks—not wanting to face anybody or answer the inevitable questions about why he had been sacked. Best joined Lee Curtis & the All Stars, which then broke off from Curtis and became Pete Best & the All Stars. They signed to Decca Records, and released the single "I'm Gonna Knock On Your Door", which was not a hit. Best later relocated to the United Statesmarker along with songwriters Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington. As The Pete Best Four, and later as The Pete Best Combo (increasing their number to five) they toured America with a combination of 1950s songs and original tunes, recording for small labels, but had little success. They ultimately released an album on Savage Records, titled Best Of The Beatles; a play on Best's name, leading to disappointment for record buyers who expected a Beatles' compilation. The group disbanded shortly afterwards. Bickerton and Waddington were to find greater success as songwriters in the 1970s, writing a series of hits for the American female group, The Flirtations and Rubettes.

In 1965 Best appeared on American television as the mystery guest on I've Got A Secret, stating that he hailed from "West Derby, England". After his secret was revealed, he said simply that he had his own group now.

Later years

Best decided to leave show business, and by the time of Hunter Davies' 1968 authorised Beatles' biography, he was not willing to talk about his Beatles' association. He once tried to commit suicide, but was talked out of it by his mother, Mona, and his brother, Rory. Best did shift work loading bread into the back of delivery vans, earning £8 a week, and in 1968 married Kathy, who worked behind the biscuit counter at a Woolworth's store. He later became a civil servant working at Garston Jobcentre in Liverpool. Best's marriage to Kathy has lasted for more than 40 years, and they have two daughters (Babs and Bonita) and four grandchildren.

In time, Best began giving interviews to the media, wrote about his time with The Beatles, and served as a technical advisor for the television movie Birth of the Beatles. Best found a modicum of independent fame, and has admitted to being a fan of his former band's music, and owning their records. In 1995, the surviving Beatles released Anthology, which featured a number of tracks with Best as drummer, and Best received a substantial windfall—between £1 million and £4 million—from the sales, although he was not interviewed for the book or the documentaries. Best's head on an early group photo on the Anthology DVD cover (Episodes 1 & 2) was ripped out, and a picture of Starr was put in the background, although Best can be seen to the left of the ripped photo standing in front of Aspinall's van outside The Cavern. The ripped piece of Best's head appears on the cover of the album Haymans Green.

Best appeared in an advert for Carlsberg lager, which was broadcast during the first commercial break of the first episode of the Anthology TV series on ITV in November 1995. The tag line was "Probably the Pete Best lager in the world", a variation of Carlsberg's well known slogan.

The Pete Best Band

Best performing in Maryland in 2006
Pete Best regularly tours the U.S. with The Pete Best Band, sharing the drumming with his younger brother Roag.On 6 July 2007, Best was inducted into the All You Need Is Liverpool Music Hall of Fame as the debut Charter Member. Best was presented with a framed certificate before his band performed.Their new album Haymans Green, made from entirely original material, was released on 16 September 2008 in the USA, 24 October 2008 worldwide (excluding the UK) and 27 October 2008 in the UK.

Pete Best discography

Singles

  • "I'm Gonna Knock on Your Door" b/w "Why Did I Fall in Love with You" (Decca F 11929, Released: 1964)
  • "(I'll Try) Anyway" b/w "I Wanna Be There" (Original Beatles Drummer 800, Released: 1964)
  • "Kansas City" b/w "Boys" (Cameo 391, Released: 1965)
  • "I Can't Do Without You Now" b/w "Keys to My Heart" (Mr. Maestro Records 711, Released: 1965)


Another "Peter Best" single, "Carousel Of Love"/"Want You" (Capitol 2092) is not by the Beatles drummer but an Australian performer with the same name.

LPs

  • Best of the Beatles (Savage BM 71, Released: 1966)
    • Includes: I Need Your Lovin'; Just Wait and See; Casting My Spell; Keys to My Heart; Why Did You Leave Me Baby?; Like My Sister Kate; I Can't Do Without You Now; I'm Blue; Some Other Guy; She's Alright; Nobody But You; Last Night
  • The Beatle That Time Forgot [Original Version] (Phoenix PB-22, Released: 1981)
    • Includes: I'm Checking Out Now Baby; I'll Try Any Way; I Don't Know Why (I Just Do); How'd You Get to Know Her Name; She's Not the Only Girl in Town; If You Can't Get Her; More Than I Need My Self; I'll Have Everything Too; The Way I feel About You; Don't Play With Me (Little Girl); Rock and Roll Music; All Aboard
  • Rebirth (Phoenix PB-44, Released: 1981)
    • Includes: I Can't Do Without You Now; Off the Hook; She's Alright; I Need Your Lovin'; Why Did You Leave Me Baby; High School Shimmy; I Wanna Be There; Everybody; Pete's Theme; Keys to My Heart
  • The Beatle That Time Forgot [Reissue] (Phoenix PHX 340, Released: 1982)
    • Includes: I'll Try Anyway; I Don't Know Why I Do (I Just Do); She's Not the Only Girl in Town; More Than I Need My Self; I'll Have Everything Too; I'm Checking Out Now Baby; How'd You Get to Know Her Name; If You Can't Get Her; Rock and Roll Music


CDs

  • Live at the Adelphi Liverpool 1988 - 1992 CD
  • "Heaven" b/w "Fool In Love" - 1990 British Vinyl 45 + Picture Sleeve
  • Back to the Beat - 1995 CD (live)
  • Bestiality! - 1995 8-Track
  • Once a Beatle, Always a Beatle - 1996 CD
  • Casbah Coffee Club 40th Anniversary Limited Edition - 1999 CD
  • CCC 4 Track Sampler - 2000 CD single (3 bonus tracks)
  • Best of The Beatles - 2005 DVD Tour Manager is Teri Rousseau (features 3 exclusive Pete Best Band studio recordings)
  • Haymans Green - Released 16 September 2008 (USA), August 2008 (UK) (The Pete Best Band)


Filmography

Full length films

  • "The Rocker", a 2008 film in which the opening scenes parallel the circumstances under which Best was dismissed from The Beatles.
    • Best is credited with playing himself during the end credits.


Notes

  1. Roag and Pete Best (2003) p1
  2. Liverpool Stadium and Johnny Best lmu.livjm.ac.uk – Retrieved 1 December 2007
  3. Pest Best biog iol.ie/~beatlesireland – Retrieved 7 November 2007
  4. Mona Best biog iol.ie/~beatlesireland – Retrieved 7 November 2007
  5. Roag and Pete Best "The Beatles: The True Beginnings" 2003 p17
  6. General Sir William Slim and the Georgic red-duster.co.uk – Retrieved 26 November 2007
  7. Spitz (2005) p203
  8. Spitz (2005) p204
  9. ”The Beatles Anthology” DVD 2003 (Episode 1 – 0:39:26) McCartney talking Best’s reputation in Liverpool
  10. Lennon (2006) pp69-70
  11. Spitz (2005) p6
  12. ”The Beatles Anthology” DVD 2003 (Episode 1 - 0:39:49) Harrison talking about the audition with Best
  13. My Beatle Days, by Pete Best triumphpc.com - Retrieved 26 November 2007
  14. Goldsmith (2004) p46
  15. Spitz 2005 p208
  16. Lennon (2006) p77
  17. Miles (1997) pp57-8
  18. Cynthia Lennon “John” 2006 p76
  19. Lennon (2006) p93
  20. Miles (1997) pp71-72
  21. Spitz 2005 p230
  22. ”The Beatles Anthology” DVD 2003 (Episode 1 - 0:49:56) Notice telling Harrison to leave Hamburg.
  23. Miles (1997) pp72-73
  24. Lewisohn (1990) p24
  25. Spitz (2005) p231
  26. Photo of Chas Newby beatlesource.com - Retrieved 5 November 2007
  27. Spitz (2005) p5
  28. Spitz (2005) p214
  29. Spitz (2005) p234
  30. Best and "Peppermint Twist" eskimo.com - Retrieved 26 November 2007
  31. Lennon (2006) p97
  32. LewisohnChronicles
  33. Spitz (2005) p250
  34. “My Bonnie“ / “The Saints“ 23 April 1962. Polydor NH 66833 (Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers)
  35. Martin (1994) pp120-123
  36. ”The Beatles Anthology” DVD 2003 (Episode 1 - 1:02:54) Martin talking about Best’s drumming.
  37. Miles (1997) p90
  38. Spitz (2005) p318
  39. Lennon (2006) p119
  40. Lennon (2006) p106
  41. Spitz (2005) p330
  42. Spitz (2005) p329
  43. Miles (1997) p57
  44. Spitz (2005) p330
  45. Spitz (2005) p331
  46. Aspinall, The Beatles and money - Mersey Beat triumphpc.com - Retrieved 11 February 2007
  47. Williams, Richard. "Obituary - Neil Aspinall", The Guardian, 25 March 2008]
  48. Lennon (2006) p44.
  49. Review of “Drummed Out” – The sacking of Pete Best iol.ie/~beatlesireland - Retrieved 11 February 2007
  50. Spitz (2005) p331
  51. Miles (1997) p90
  52. Best and Bill Harry on Rory Storm triumphpc.com - Retrieved 5 November 2007
  53. ”The Beatles Anthology” DVD 2003 (Episode 1 - 1:04:24) Harrison talking about “Pete forever, Ringo never!”.
  54. Lennon (2006) p120
  55. Spitz (2005) p330
  56. The Sacking Of Pete Best iol.ie/~beatlesireland - Retrieved 31 May 2007
  57. Spitz 2005 pp213-214
  58. ”The Beatles Anthology” DVD 2003 (Episode 1 - 0:44:28) Starr and Harrison talking about Preludins in Hamburg
  59. Miles (1997) pp66-67
  60. Spitz (2005) p219
  61. ”The Beatles Anthology” DVD 2003 (Episode 1 - 0:47:16) Harrison talking about their friends: Kircherr, Voormann and Volmer.
  62. Spitz (2005) p223
  63. Spitz (2005) p246
  64. Spitz (2005) p322
  65. Kirchherr's interview on BBC Radio Merseyside's 500th "On The Beat" programme - Saturday 26 August 1995 members.aol.com - Retrieved 21 May 2007
  66. Leigh Drummed Out!: The Sacking of Pete Best (1998)
  67. Spitz (2005) p322
  68. Spitz (2005) p322
  69. Clayson (2004)
  70. Harry 2001 - The Beatles’ Encyclopedia
  71. Spitz (2005) p353
  72. After The Beatles petebest.com/1963 - Retrieved 4 December 2007
  73. Pete Best is a happy man - 7 April 2007 dailymail.co.uk - Retrieved 5 November 2007
  74. Till there was Ringo – 13 June 2004 theage.com.au - Retrieved 26 November 2007
  75. Pete Best interview retrosellers.com - Retrieved 21 May 2007
  76. Money from sales liverpoolecho.co.uk - Retrieved 5 November 2007
  77. Money from Anthology lakeconews.com - Retrieved 5 November 2007
  78. ”The Beatles Anthology” DVD 2003 (Episodes 1 & 2 cover)
  79. Pete best homepage petebest.com - Retrieved 21 November 2007
  80. Best being inducted to the Hall Of Fame mccaffreysworld.com - Retrieved 5 November 2007


References

  • Krasker, Eric (2009), The Beatles - Fact and Fiction 1960-1962, Paris, Séguier, ISBN 978-2840495239


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