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Beatles' Best Kept Secret
Pete Best welcomes fan reaction to Haymans Green
by Andrea Cavalier & Timothy Tilghman
For 24 months, topping 800 performances, Pete Best was the resident drummer for The Beatles. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Best debuted together on stage in Hamburg, Germany, before touring the dance halls of Liverpool, England. The fab lads eagerly earned their reputation as the Number One Rock'n Roll Band.
Beatlemania ignited almost unnoticed one night at the Casbah Coffee Club in December 1960. Their popularity swiftly grew and alongside John, Paul and George, Best played a prominent role in the embryonic Beatles. Best had crafted his 'Atom Beat', empowering the sound of the live Beatles with his driving thrust on percussion.
Liverpool Summer 1962: We want Pete! ... We want Pete! ... Pete forever! ... Pete is BEST! ...
On the excited evening of Saturday, August 19, 1962, The Beatles began performing to a packed house on the intimate Cavern Club stage in Liverpool. Loyal fans were stunned and their protesting grew rowdier and more furious as they continued roaring their thunderous chants for Pete who was missing in action from the line-up.
Harrison received a black eye. Skirmishes broke out later, off stage and throughout the bustling streets of Liverpool. For several weeks, Pete's fans stomped and howled their incessant, unrelenting chants for Best, along with hoisting picket signs reading, "Pete is Best".
The controversial news rocketed across on the headline of the local music newspaper, Mersey Beat, on August 23, 1962: Richard Starkey, aka Ringo Starr, was in as the new drummer and, to his many enraged, bewildered fans, Pete was out.
That story generated hundreds of signatures on signed petitions demanding Pete's reinstatement. Manager Brian Epstein had told Pete, without an exact reason, "The boys want you out and it's already been arranged that Ringo will play on Saturday".
Countless female fans encamped day and night outside the Best's residence. Just a scant three years earlier, the basement had been transformed into the Casbah Coffee Club at Hayman's Green. John, Paul and George had reunited as The Quarrymen with Ken Brown to open the new youth enterprise.
The beautiful and resourceful Mona Best, Pete's mother and proud owner of Hayman's Green, when interviewed, would graciously declare, "It was the way it was done", adding, when asked years later, if Pete had any regrets, "It's like a cut - it bleeds, it heals, but the scar's still there ..."
Why Pete Best was replaced, when the Beatles had finally secured a significant recording contract, has never adequately been answered, remaining, still, an unresolved mystery today.
Lost among the archives of Rock'n Roll antiquity, theories and presumptions offered as to why it happened range from his drumming, unwillingness to change his hairstyle, interpersonal jealousies, Pete wasn't the best choice, he refused Epstein's advances, with all speculations being rebuked.
Questions to contemplate: Why the uproar over Pete's dismissal? Why did Mersey Beat blast the news on their front page? Why the chants and petitions? Why the tears of his distressed fans camping outside his house? Why, when he was already an integral member of the Beatles, and why, after they were embarked on a professional career, was Best replaced? The questions, how plentiful they are!
How Pete Best not only survived in the aftermath of his dismissal but thrived through such immense adversity to build a family, is detailed in the progression of interviews for those who encountered the accessible Best.
"For a certain amount of time, yes, there was heartache and anger, not bitterness", Pete reflects when asked. "Bitterness is too strong of a word ... anger, resentment, yes".
Best maintains, "It's about today and tomorrow, you can laugh about yesterday", including, "It's water under the bridge. I've moved on as there's so much more to life".
When asked why he feels he was dismissed from the Beatles, he reflects, smiling, "There's only two people alive today with the definitive reason and they're not talking". He maintains, always, "There comes a time you have to put it behind you. Life's about today and tomorrow. And move on".
"I'm the lucky one", he smiles, as he shares, "I've been married to my beautiful wife for over 45 years, two beautiful daughters, four wonderful grandchildren; health and happiness. I've got a great band; we travel all over the world. I have no regrets".
The PBB is ready to introduce Haymans Green
The Pete Best Band, all Liverpool lads, are grounded by Best, along with younger brother, Roag Best, who share dual drumming. Phil Melia lead guitar and vocals, Paul Parry bass guitar and vocals, and Tony Flynn rhythm guitar and vocals erupt onto stages across the globe.
The PBB delivers the thumping intensity of the emerging Beatles' raw sound. From sold-out venues and charity shows, audiences applaud approvingly. One need only experience that prominent 'Atom Beat' firsthand, as the music rekindles the repertoire from a bygone era. It's the song arrangements that bring both the stage and dance floor alive.
The anticipation of the 2008 Fall tour continues to build coinciding with the arrival of the new PBB album, due for release in the states on September 16. Now fans will experience several haunting original songs, each portraying a glimpse into episodes from Best's life, performed live for the first time.
Vermont fans have to travel to Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York to experience why Pete Best was dubbed, and introduced, as 'Mean, moody and magnificent', by Cavern Club DJ Bob Wooler. Many make the journey just to meet the man 'who put the Beat in the Beatles'. Regarded as an ageless heartthrob by many females, his everyday demeanor transforms this dynamic drummer on stage into an unassuming, gracious gentleman, always accessible to each and every fan after each performance.
Hunter Davies, author of the 1968 authorized Beatles biography, wrote: "The sacking of Pete Best is one of the few murky incidents in the Beatles history". John Lennon admitted to Davies: "We were cowards when we sacked him". Along with recalling, "We were at our best when we were playing in the dance halls of Liverpool and Hamburg. The world never saw that".
During the taping of "Some Other Guy" on a Granada TV session live at the Cavern Club from 1962, one can discern a Best fan audibly crying, "We Want Pete!", which was rebroadcast on British ITV for New Years Day, 1984.
Best would finally receive the recognition for his role in the quartet, however the cover collage from the biography project depicts an early group photo with Best's face skillfully torn out and replaced with an overlapping photograph of Ringo Starr.
Although America recognizes the British Invasion version of the Beatles, their pre-Fab era is represented with ten tracks that feature the drumming style of Pete Best on the 1995 Beatles Anthology I disc. Billed as the Beat Brothers backing Tony Sheridan on "My Bonnie", this 1961 single showcases Best's first official recording on drums.
The Mother of Mersey Beat
Certain stories not only inspire; some leave lasting impressions on our lives. The extraordinary struggle of a young man embarking on adulthood facing immense adversity deserves to be told. After two years of intercontinental performances, Pete Best was dismissed without warning from The Beatles. His mother Mona Best would comfort and console her son to endure this horrible incident.
Mona Best was an exceptional woman. The Best family departed India by boat bound for Liverpool during the 1945 holiday season. Pete was actually born in Madras November 1941. Mona had daring dreams for herself and her children once establishing her Liverpool roots.
In 1954, Mona sold off her jewelry and placed a secret bet in on a longshot colt named Never Say Die that boasted 33 to 1 odds. Her wild gamble paid off as that horse went on to win the Epsom Derby and generate a surprise windfall for the Best family.
Following in 1957, Mo would move her family into Hayman's Green, an impressive West Derby mansion. John Best, Pete's pop, was a successful boxing promoter in Liverpool, which may have had a subliminal influence on Mo in opening the Casbah Coffee Club in the large basement of their home.
Mo enjoyed and encouraged the emerging youth culture in Liverpool. Her decision to establish the Casbah Coffee Club as a means to stage local talent for teenagers was a pivotal point in the progression of the professional path for three lads toiling about Liverpool as amateur musicians.
George Harrison's outfit was pegged to open the new venue, but were unable to honor the engagement. Harrison turned to John Lennon and Paul McCartney to regroup as The Quarrymen to perform as the premiere act at the Casbah Coffee Club on August 29, 1959. The lads even pitched in to paint the rooms and spruce up the joint for its West Derby debut.
Pete Best had a go behind the drums himself, acquiring his own kit and formed his own group The Black Jacks. After a payment dispute with Mo in October, The Quarrymen relinquished their residency and Pete's group became the new house band.
Having renamed themselves The Beatles in August 1960, they were constantly in need of a drummer. As the pre-Fabs were about to embark on their first tour of duty in Hamburg, Paul McCartney placed a phone call to Pete Best and asked if he would join them as their permanent drummer in Germany.
Mo approved Pete's request to become the Fifth Beatle, and he soon found himself immersed in the seaport red light district of Hamburg. Stu Sutcliffe, persuaded by Lennon to join the group, was the Beatles original bass guitarist during their initial appearances on the Reeperbahn circuit.
Upon returning to Liverpool for the 1960 holiday season, The Beatles delivered a triumphant homecoming concert at the Casbah Coffee Club. Those West Derby members in attendance were the first to witness the musical transformation the lads had undergone from their apprenticeship in the strip clubs of Hamburg.
Their Mach Shau baptism having to play extended hours on stage had given the lads an edge that all other local acts lacked. The skiffle sound of The Quarrymen was replaced by the energetic charisma of The Beatles. Mo recognized their potential, and immediately supported The Beatles with managerial advice and publicized bookings.
Mo was responsible for mentoring the cheeky quartet and interacted on their behalf with other Liverpool promoters. The Beatles embellished their reputation as a live band at the Cavern Club. Brian Epstein made an appointment to check out their stage act during an afternoon Cavern session in November 1961.
Pete Best was a participating Beatle on their 1961 German Polydor single backing Tony Sheridan and at the disappointing January 1962 audition with Decca Records. With Best pounding on the skins, the Fabs were recorded and broadcast over BBC Radio programs.
In June 1962, Epstein had secured another audition with Parlophone Records. Unbeknownst to Best, producer George Martin expressed concerns about Pete's drumming and decided to utilize a studio musician on drums for Beatle records. Recently, Martin admitted this inadvertently became a catalyst as the means to dismiss Pete Best from The Beatles in August 1962.
Mo was determined to speak to both Brian Epstein and George Martin regarding the expulsion of her son from the popular Mersey Beat band. She closed the Casbah Coffee Club doors, actually entombing the venue. Hayman's Green is now on the historic registry and open to the public for tours. Although Mo never received an acceptable response, she supported Pete through his trial to overcome his awful misfortune.
However by 1968, Best abandoned his show business activities and put away his drumkit. Shortly before Mo passed away in September 1988, Pete agreed to stage a concert in Liverpool with his younger brother Roag joining him on drums. Sadly, Mo was not present, but we all know that Mo was there in spirit.
Now two decades later, the Pete Best Band performs in cities around the world. This current line-up is a powerhouse live on stage. Poised to capture the attention of worldwide Beatles fans with a new album, Pete Best is fulfilling his objective to rehabilitate his reputation and allow the fans to judge his band on the musical merits of Haymans Green.
Impulse buying and inspirational tales
One day while shopping for linens, the Best of the Beatles DVD caught my eye. I picked it up, looked it over and put it back on the shelf. While shopping the next day, I decided to purchase the DVD and took it home. Pete Best's personal biography is riveting, and I was touched by the prominence of his mother, Mona, in his life.
Prompted to search online for his website, I found a listing of tour dates for Fall 2005. The closest performance was a charity event on behalf of Habitat for Humanity in Brantford, Ontario. I felt motivated to hit the road and make the drive into Canada, and took advantage of the pre-concert charity dinner with Pete Best to enjoy the presence of his company.
Once the Pete Best Band took the stage, I was pleasantly rewarded for having made the journey to experience this band live. Although this may sound like a cliche, one must really experience this band firsthand to understand the impact they have on an audience. With the imminent release of their new album Haymans Green, the PBB will premier live renditions of these new songs that represent a new direction in their career.
The true beginnings of the Fabs began at the Casbah Coffee Club in the basement of Hayman's Green. One realizes the significance behind Pete Best Band's disc, entitled Haymans Green. Lifelong Beatles fans who were displeased with Best's face being covered over on the Anthology I cover will be thrilled when they discover where the headshot from that long ago pose finally reappears.
Diehard Best fans will be rewarded for their loyalty as Pete prepares to promote his new original material. Together, the group wrote, arranged and recorded a collection of biographical songs at the Casbah Club studio to reveal Pete's life journey through music.
Along with his brothers, Best authored his third book publishing a detailed history on the Casbah Coffee Club in 2003. Best of the Beatles features many eyewitness accounts with leading figures from Hamburg and Liverpool, released as a DVD in 2005.
Creating new music must be personally satisfying for Pete. This new album will most likely be hailed as the achievement of a lifetime. By the way, Pete is presently appearing in the summer comedy movie, The Rocker, playing himself in a brief cameo scene.
RockonTour Issue #84
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