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#askNat – concerning Pete Best after The Beatles

Welcome to this week’s #askNat. Last week I was able to get to two questions from Ken Weber of New Jersey (see here) and this week I’m addressing his third, where he writes:

Has there ever been any contact between Pete Best and the surviving Beatles?

Another good question, Ken. Pete was drummer for The Beatles between August 1960 and August 1962, just before making their first record for EMI, the “Love Me Do” single. The decision was made to fire Pete after producer George Martin expressed dissatisfaction with his drumming. John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison have agreed that they could have handled firing him more tactfully, since they gave the sacking duties to their manager Brian Epstein instead of confronting Pete themselves.

Pete has acknowledged that while playing drums for Lee Curtis and the All Stars, after being dismissed from The Beatles, that he played on the same bill with his former bandmates on two occasions. One was at the Cavern Club where his group was second on the bill to The Beatles. The other was at the Mersey Beat Pollwinners Concert. On both occasions, the All Stars were on just prior to The Beatles and they had to pass each other face-to-face, yet nothing was said.

 

The Beatles, 1962 (L-R): John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Pete Best

The Beatles, 1962 (L-R): John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Pete Best

 

Pete sued The Beatles for defamation of character after a February 1965 interview with Playboy where John said “Ringo used to fill in sometimes if our drummer was ill – with his periodic illness.” From the same interview Ringo Starr added: “He took little pills to make him ill.” From the lawsuit, Pete won an out-of-court settlement although damages awarded were considerably less than what he sought. In 1965 at the height of the success of The Beatles, Pete tried to commit suicide, but was talked out of it by his mother Mona and his younger brother, Rory.

Pete relocated to America with his later group, The Pete Best Combo and at one point was offered a chance to audition for a new television series that was to be called The Monkees. Can you imagine Pete Best being a Monkee? Eventually with no luck of success in his music career, Pete left the business without any further documented contact with The Beatles.

In 1988, Pete with his half-brother Roag, formed The Pete Best Band and have toured off and on, to include many Beatles conventions up to the present. For further details about the life of Pete Best, I encourage you to check out his autobiography Beatle! The Pete Best Story by himself and Patrick Doncaster (1994) and the book The Beatles: The True Beginnings (2003) by himself, his half-brothers Rory and Roag Best. I’ve included Amazon links for these books below.

In 1995, Pete was awarded an undisclosed seven figure sum for his part in the Beatles Anthology 1 2-CD set (somewhere between £1 and £4 million). His material on this release included a few Hamburg recordings with The Beatles and Tony Sheridan in 1961, as well as material from their Decca audition of New Years Day, 1962.

Ken, thanks for another great question for this week. Thanks also to everyone for reading and as always, if you have something to add, I invite you to let me hear from you in the comments section below.


Thank you to everyone who has sent in their questions! Keep #askNat going by sending your questions to me in any of the following ways:

1) There is a contact form that you fill out right on the website where you can give your name, location, email address and submit your question. The form is right here and is the same form used to submit requests for BROWs (Beatles Rarity Of The Weeks).

2) If you are a Facebook user, you can submit your question right on TheBeatlesRarity FB page at www.facebook.com/beatlesrarity. If you think about it, try to remember to flag your question with “#askNat”.

3) Similarly, if you are a Google+ user, you can submit your question on TheBeatlesRarity Google+ page at www.gplus.to/beatlesrarity. Google+ supports hashtag searchability so it will be helpful if you preface your question with “#askNat” here too.

4) For you Twitter users, www.twitter.com/beatlesrarity gets you to the right place. Post your question and be sure to add “#askNat” somewhere in the tweet.


Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase music or literature related to this post:

1) Beatle!: The Pete Best Story – 1994 autobiographical account of Pete Best in his own words with co-author Patrick Doncaster.

2) Anthology 1 – 1995 2-CD compilation of out-takes and extras from the earliest beginnings of The Beatles up to early 1965. Includes several tracks with Pete Best on drums.

3) Lost Decca Sessions – Compilation CD of the complete Decca Audition of Jan. 1, 1962 where the group was denied a record contract. Pete Best was drummer on these 15 recordings.

4) The Beatles: The True Beginnings – another more recent (2003) account of the earliest days of The Beatles with Pete Best on drums authored by Pete Best himself with his brother Rory Best and half-brother Roag.

5) Beyond the Beatles 1964-1966 – After his 2-year stint with The Beatles from 1960-1962 Pete Best formed the Pete Best Combo and this 1996 import CD contains a generous 28 tracks by the group.

6) Beatles/Beatles-related Music: The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

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14 Comments

  • Roger Tomlin says:

    Attempting suicide seems about right, don’t it? You have to go through the rest of your life knowing you were that close to becoming….well, a famous Beatle and all that meant. Not just a Liverpool Beatle and all that meant. I wasn’t aware of the lawsuit in 1963 or the suicide try. BeatlesRarity.com strikes again with new and interesting information for many Beatle fans. I’ve often thought if Pete had remained would The Beatles have turned out the way they did? It seems to me that Ringo brought several dynamics and qualities to the table that Pete didn’t have. Of course I’m sure Pete had some things Ringo was lacking. You just never know what constitutes intangible strengths and weaknesses. It’s a thought provoking question. How would Pete have fit in during the drug period? The flower power psychedelic era? The Beatle movies? Meditation and the Maharishi? Songwriting? Or, would these things have even happened at all? It’s all theoretical now. But, there’s a part of me (and many fans feel this way I’m sure) that feels bad for Pete Best. However, there’s a larger part of me that is glad The Beatles became who they were. Otherwise, I think, my life could have been different. They mean so much to me. Great article Nat.

  • Elliott Marx says:

    Pete Best and his band recently released an excellent McCartney-sound-alike tune called “Gone.” It is an excellent little piece of power pop and is worth a Youtube search for sure.

  • trawicki says:

    two corrections to your reply: the interview was published in the Feb 1965 issue of Playboy (not 1963–think about it–the Beatles were largely unknown in Feb 63 in the US), and both of Pete’s brothers Rory and Roag are his half brothers–all three had the same mother and different fathers.

    • Happy Nat says:

      No need to think about it at all traw, you are absolutely correct. It was just a typo but I have it fixed now and filled in the detail about the half-brothers. Thanks…

  • Michael Whelan says:

    Nat,

    Great insight. Didn’t know about ’65 Playboy interview fall out. Sure glad Pete didn’t commit suicide. How John, Paul and George handled Pete’s firing wasn’t any of their finest moments. But in deciding who was in or out, aside from their respective drumming skills, they knew Ringo was, as George once put it, “a better Beatle” than Pete.

  • Michael M. says:

    Better late than never…

    I’m glad Pete finally got some pay from his early work.

  • Bada Bing Crosby says:

    Strangely, the Beatles borrowed military metals from Mona Best for the Sgt. Pepper’s photos in 1967. Mona came from a UK military family and, as she had a relationship (and child) with Beatles assistant Neil Aspinall, lent them to the fabs. Afterwards, they returned them and John (I think) wrote her a thank you note. I imagine, at this time, the Beatles could have obtained metals from anyone yet they asked Mona. Clearly, their relationship was more complicated and nuanced than we assume.

  • Stacia says:

    I was just listening to The Beatles Story album (for the first time!), and I was surprised that Pete was never mentioned. I wonder if that was Brian’s idea.

    I saw him in St Paul, Minnesota in 2004-ish. Great show. And I was really impressed with Hayman’s Green.

  • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

    For all the peace and love they talk about, they didn’t seem to have much for Pete. Mona, of course, got plenty of love from Neil. lol I wonder if that relationship was what kept Paul & Ringo away from Neil’s funeral? I wonder if Neil’s attitude a year or so before he died had anything to do with it? He didn’t like all the merchandising they apparently wanted to do at the time (and we are currently seeing). He wanted to keep the mystique alive surrounding their legacy/recordings etc. He felt he helped keep their brand pure. I think they decided they should cash in while at least the two of them are alive. (All speculation as to what they think).

    It’s a very odd and complicated thing. I am glad he got some recognition for his participation on the band, but maybe an interview about the early days in Hamburg would have been nice for Anthology? If they didn’t like what he had to say, they didn’t have to use it.

    As for how Pete may have been had they gone through drugs and flower power etc periods together… I would bet they’d have had a falling out before then. Ringo may have had to break into the band mid-career and THAT would have been harder than mid-career while still playing the Cavern Club! So ultimately, they probably did the right thing. And who is to say he wasn’t popping pills back then? They wouldn’t be ready for that for a few more years! (Dr. Robert!)

  • Stephen Kennedy says:

    Hi Nat

    How are things? According to your answer above… after being dismissed from The Beatles Pete played on the same bill as his former band-mates on two occasions. I think it was actually three times –

    October 12th
    October 22nd
    December 15th

    Regards

    Stephen

    • Happy Nat says:

      Thanks Stephen and good catch. While my reference stated that Pete acknowledged at least two such run-ins – all three of the ones you list above have been confirmed – so you are correct. The first one on Oct. 12, 1962 was at the Cavern, the second on Oct. 22, 1962 was at Queens Hall in Widnes and the third on Dec. 15, 1962 was at the Majestic Ballroom in Birkenhead. On all three of these, Pete was playing with Lee Curtis and the All Stars.

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