|Birth Day:||November 24, 1941|
|Birth Place:||Chennai, India|
English musician best known as the drummer for The Beatles. He was fired in 1962 and replaced by Ringo Starr, one year before the band dropped their first studio album.
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He sailed with his family to Liverpool in 1945 after living in India during his childhood. He became part of The Beatles in 1960 and left within two years.
Best's mother, Mona, was born in Delhi, India, the daughter of Thomas (an Irish major) and Mary Shaw. Best, her first child, was born on 24 November 1941 in Madras, then part of British India. Best's biological father was marine engineer Donald Peter Scanland, who subsequently died during World War II. Best's mother was training to become a doctor in the service of the Red Cross when she met Johnny Best, who came from a family of sports promoters in Liverpool who ran Liverpool Stadium. During World War II, Johnny Best was a commissioned officer serving as a Physical Training Instructor in India, and was the Army's middleweight boxing champion. After their marriage on 7 March 1944 at St Thomas's Cathedral, Bombay, Rory Best was born. In 1945, the Best family sailed for four weeks to Liverpool on the Georgic, the last troop ship to leave India, carrying 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.
Best's family lived for a short time at the family home, "Ellerslie" in West Derby, until Best's mother fell out with her sister-in-law, Edna, who resented her brother's choice of wife. The family then moved to a small flat on Cases Street, Liverpool, but Mona Best was always looking for a large house—as she had been used to in India—instead of one of the smaller semi-detached houses prevalent in the area. After moving to 17 Queenscourt Road in 1948 where the Bests lived for nine years, Rory Best saw a large Victorian house for sale at 8 Hayman's Green in 1957 and told Mona about it. The Best family claim that Mona then pawned all her jewellery to place a bet on Never Say Die, a horse that was ridden by Lester Piggott in the 1954 Epsom Derby; it won at 33–1 and she used her winnings to buy the house in 1957. The house had previously been owned by the West Derby Conservative Club and was unlike many other family houses in Liverpool as the house (built around 1860) was set back from the road and had 15 bedrooms and an acre of land. All the rooms were painted dark green or brown and the garden was totally overgrown. Mona later opened The Casbah Coffee Club in its large cellar. The idea for the club first came from Best, as he asked his mother for somewhere his friends could meet and listen to the popular music of the day. As The Quarrymen, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ken Brown played at the club after helping Mona to finish painting the walls.
During 1960, Neil Aspinall became good friends with the young Best and subsequently rented a room in the Bests' house. During one of the extended business trips of Best's stepfather, Aspinall became romantically involved with Mona. Aspinall fathered a child by Mona—Vincent "Roag" Best, Mona's third son—who is Best's half-brother. Aspinall later became the Beatles' road manager, and denied the story for years before publicly admitting that Roag was indeed his son.
In 1960, Allan Williams, the Beatles' manager, arranged a season of bookings in Hamburg, starting on 17 August 1960, but complained that they did not impress him, and hoped that he could find a better act.
The Beatles first played a full show with Best on 17 August 1960 at the Indra Club in Hamburg, and the group slept in the Bambi Kino cinema in a small, dirty room with bunk beds, a cold and noisy former storeroom directly behind the screen. Upon first seeing the Indra, where they were booked to play, Best remembered it as a depressing place patronised by a few tourists, and having heavy, old, red curtains that made it seem shabby compared to the larger Kaiserkeller. As Best had been the only group member to study O-Level German at school, he could converse with the club's owner, Bruno Koschmider, and the clientele. After the Indra closed following complaints about the noise, the group started a residency in the Kaiserkeller.
In October 1960, the group left Koschmider's club to work at the Top Ten Club, which Peter Eckhorn ran, as he offered the group more money and a slightly better place to sleep. In doing so they broke their contract with Koschmider. When Best and McCartney went back to the Bambi Kino to retrieve their belongings they found it in almost total darkness. As a snub to Koschmider, McCartney found a condom, attached it to a nail on the concrete wall of the room, and set it alight. There was no real damage done, but Koschmider reported them both for attempted arson. Best and McCartney spent three hours in a local prison and were subsequently deported, as was George Harrison, for working under the legal age limit, on 30 November 1960.
Back in Liverpool, the group members had no contact with each other for two weeks, but Best and his mother made numerous phone calls to Hamburg to recover the group's equipment. Mona arranged all the bookings for the group in Liverpool, after parting company with Williams in late 1961.
The reunited Beatles returned to Hamburg in April 1961. While they played at the Top Ten Club, singer Tony Sheridan recruited them to act as his backing band on a recording for the German Polydor label, produced by bandleader Bert Kaempfert, who 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/My heart is only for you) 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 23 June that year, and a third in May 1962.
Brian Epstein, who had been unofficially managing the Beatles for less than a month, arranged a recording audition at Decca Records in London on New Year's Day, 1962. The group recorded 15 songs, mostly cover versions with three Lennon–McCartney songs. According to Lennon, they were "terrified and nervous." A month later, Decca informed Epstein the group had been rejected. The band members were informed of the rejection except for Best. Epstein officially became the manager of the Beatles on 24 January 1962 with the contract signed in Pete's house.
Epstein negotiated ownership of the Decca audition tape, which was then transferred to an acetate disc, to promote the band to other record companies in London. In the meantime, Epstein negotiated the release of the Beatles from their recording contract with Bert Kaempfert and Polydor Records in Germany, which expired on 22 June 1962. As a part of this contract, the Beatles recorded at Polydor's Studio Rahlstedt on 24 May 1962 in Hamburg as a sessions band, backing Tony Sheridan. Less than two weeks later the Beatles were recording again at Abbey Road studios in London for EMI.
The record producer at EMI, George Martin, met with Epstein on 9 May 1962 at the Abbey Road studios, and was impressed with his enthusiasm. He agreed to sign the Beatles on a recording contract, based on listening to the Decca audition tape, without having met them or having seen them perform live.
Soon after the recording contract was signed, the Beatles performed a "commercial test" (i.e. an evaluation of a signed artist) on 6 June 1962 in Studio Two at the Abbey Road studios. Assistant producer Ron Richards and his engineer Norman Smith (later to have hits himself, as Hurricane Smith) recorded four songs: "Bésame Mucho", "P.S. I Love You", "Ask Me Why" and "Love Me Do". The last three songs were the Beatles' own compositions, which was very unusual for bands new to recording. Martin was in the building but not in the studio. Martin was called into the studio by Norman Smith when he heard the band play "Love Me Do". At the end of the session Martin asked the individual Beatles if there was anything they personally did not like, to which George Harrison replied, "Well, there's your tie, for a start." That was the turning point, according to Smith, as Lennon, McCartney, and Best joined in with jokes and comic wordplay.
When Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison learned that Martin and the engineers preferred replacing Best with a session drummer for their upcoming recording session on 4 September 1962, they considered using it as a pretext to permanently dismiss Best from the group. Eventually, after a very long delay, they asked Epstein to dismiss Best from the band. Epstein agonised over the decision. As he wrote in his autobiography, A Cellarful of Noise, he "wasn't sure" about Martin's assessment of Best's drumming and "was not anxious to change the membership of the Beatles at a time when they were developing as personalities … I asked the Beatles to leave the group as it was". Epstein also asked Liverpool DJ Bob Wooler, who knew the Beatles intimately, for advice, to which Wooler replied that it was not a good idea, as Best was very popular with the fans. Part of the dilemma for Epstein that arose at that time (when the band had not yet achieved national success, but rather local status as a good band with limited income), was that Best was an asset at gigs, popular with the girl fans, and put on a good show, ensuring venues would have a solid audience. The counter-argument, however, was the larger consideration of the band's having the best music producible for record sales. John, Paul and George ultimately decided that record production was more important than having a drummer for live stage performances who was more image than substance. In the meantime, Epstein refrained from telling Best that EMI had made a recording contract with the band (orally since June and in writing at the end of July 1962), which meant that a new drummer was now inevitable. There might have been legal issues had Pete known.
As Best's replacement, Starr accompanied the band on their second recording session with EMI at Abbey Road studios on 4 September 1962. George Martin initially refused to let Starr play, in that he was unfamiliar with Starr, and wanted to avoid any risk of his drumming not being up to par. On 11 September 1962, at the third EMI recording session, Martin used session musician Andy White on the drums for the whole session instead of Starr, as Martin had already booked White after the first session with Best. Starr played tambourine on some songs, while White played drums. Starr told biographer Hunter Davies years later that he had thought, "That's the end. They're pulling a Pete Best on me."
In 1963, Best married Kathy, a Woolworth's sales clerk whom he met at an early Beatles show; they have remained married and have two daughters, as well as four grandchildren. Best did shift work loading bread into the back of delivery vans, earning £8 a week (equivalent to £200 in 2020). His education qualifications subsequently helped him become a civil servant working at the Garston Jobcentre in Liverpool, where he rose from employment officer to training manager for the Northwest of England, and, ironically, remembered "a steady stream of real-life Yosser Hughes types" imploring him to give them jobs. The most he could do, he recalls, was to offer to retrain them in other fields, "which was an emotional issue for people who had done one kind of work all their lives."
Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison all later stated that they regretted the manner in which Best was sacked. Lennon admitted that 'we were cowards when we sacked him. We made Brian do it.' McCartney stated: 'I do feel sorry for him, because of what he could have been on to.' Harrison said: 'We weren't very good at telling Pete he had to go', and 'historically, it may look like we did something nasty to Pete and it may have been that we could have handled it better.' Starr, on the other hand, feels he has no apology to make: 'I never felt sorry … I was not involved.' In 1968, authorised Beatles biographer Hunter Davies opined that the firing of Best was "one of the few murky incidents in the Beatles' history. There was something sneaky about the way it was done.' Over twenty years later, Mark Lewisohn concluded that "Despite his alleged shortcomings, it was still shabby treatment for Pete... The Beatles had had two years in which to dismiss him but hadn't done so, and now – as they were beginning to reap the rewards for their long, hard slog, with money rolling in and an EMI contract secured – he was out. It was the most underhand, unfortunate and unforgivable chapter in the Beatles' rise to monumental power."
Best decided to leave show business, and by the time of Hunter Davies' authorised Beatles biography in 1968, he was not willing to talk about his Beatles association. Years later he stated in his autobiography, "the Beatles themselves certainly never held out a helping hand and only contributed to the destruction with their readily printed gossip that I had never really been a Beatle, that I didn't smile, that I was unsociable and definitely not a good mixer. There was not a single friendly word from any one of them". This culminated in a Beatles' interview published in Playboy magazine in February 1965 in which Lennon stated that "Ringo used to fill in sometimes if our drummer was ill. With his periodic illness." Starr added: "He took little pills to make him ill." Best sued the Beatles for defamation of character, eventually winning an out-of-court settlement for much less than the $18 million he had sought.
Davies recalled that while working with the Beatles on their authorised biography in 1968, "when the subject of Pete Best came up they seemed to cut off, as if he had never touched their lives. They showed little reaction ... I suppose it reminded them not just that they had been rather sneaky in the handling of Pete Best's sacking, never telling him to his face, but that for the grace of God, or Brian Epstein, circumstances might have been different and they could have ended up [like Pete]." During the height of Beatlemania, Best attempted suicide, but his mother, Mona, and his brother, Rory, prevented him from completing it.
Best is portrayed in several films about the Beatles. In the 1979 biopic Birth of the Beatles, for which Best was a technical advisor, he is played by Ryan Michael. In both the 1994 film Backbeat and in the 2000 television biopic In His Life: The John Lennon Story, Best is played by Liverpool native Scot Williams. The 2008 Rainn Wilson film The Rocker, about a drummer kicked out of a glam metal band through no fault of his own, was inspired by Best's termination. Best had a cameo in the movie.
In 1988, after twenty years of turning down all requests to play drums in public, Best finally relented, appearing at a Beatles convention in Liverpool. He and his brother Roag performed, and afterwards his wife and mother both told him, "You don't know it, but you're going to go back into show business." Best now regularly tours the world with the Pete Best Band, sharing the drumming with his younger brother Roag. The Pete Best Band's album Haymans Green, made entirely from original material, was released on 16 September 2008 in the US, 24 October 2008 worldwide, excluding the UK, and 27 October 2008 in the UK.
Eventually, Best began giving interviews to the media, writing about his time with the group and serving as a technical advisor for the television film Birth of the Beatles. He 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 1, which featured a number of tracks with Best as drummer, including songs from the Decca and Parlophone auditions. 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. According to writer Philip Norman, the first time Best knew about the royalties due him for the use of those tracks "was a phone call" from Paul McCartney himself, "the one who'd been so keen to get rid of him – the first time they'd spoken since it happened. "Some wrongs need to be righted," Paul told him. "There's some money here that's owing to you and you can take it or leave it." Best took it." However, Best asserts that it was Neil Aspinall and not McCartney who phoned him. “Paul McCartney claims he called me but he didn’t,” Best told the Irish Times.
The collage of torn photographs on the Anthology 1 album cover includes an early group photo that featured Best, but Best's head was removed, revealing a photo of Starr's head, taken from the Please Please Me cover photo (the missing section of the photograph appears on the cover of the album Haymans Green). A small photograph of Best can be seen on the left side of the Anthology cover. Best appeared in an advertisement for Carlsberg lager that 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.
BEST!, a comedy play written by Liverpool playwright Fred Lawless, was staged at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre and the Dublin Theatre Festival in 1995 and 1996. The play, which was mainly fiction, showed a scenario where after Pete Best's sacking, he went on to become a world-famous rock superstar while his ex-group struggled as one hit wonders. The play was critically acclaimed in both the Liverpool Echo and also in Spencer Leigh's 1998 book Drummed Out: The Sacking of Pete Best. Pete Best is a main character in David Harrower's 2001 play Presence, premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, London, dramatising The Beatles' time in Hamburg.
Best later moved to the United States along with songwriters Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington. As the Pete Best Four, and later as the Pete Best Combo (a quintet), they toured the United States with a combination of 1950s songs and original tunes, recording for small labels, but they had little success. They ultimately released an album on Savage Records, Best of the Beatles; a play on Best's name, leading to disappointment for record buyers who neglected to read the song titles on the front cover and expected a Beatles compilation. The group disbanded shortly afterwards. Bickerton and Waddington were to find greater success as songwriters in the 1960s and 1970s, writing a series of hits for the American female group the Flirtations and the British group the Rubettes. In 2000, the record label Cherry Red reissued the Pete Best Combo's recordings as a compact disc compilation. Richie Unterberger, reviewing the CD, stated that the music's "energy level is reasonably high," that Bickerton and Waddington's songwriting is "kind of catchy," and that Best's drumming is "ordinary."
Musically, Best has been judged 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 a 2005 biography written by Bob Spitz: '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 an account by engineer Ron Richards of his failed attempts to teach Best somewhat more complicated beats for different songs.
The Beatles were not new to studio recording, and Best's drumming had been found acceptable by Polydor in Hamburg, but Richards had alerted Martin to Best's unsuitability for British studio work. EMI engineer Norman Smith stated in a 2006 video interview that "it was mainly down to what he was playing and not how he was playing," when "Love Me Do" was first recorded, referring to the head arrangement. Martin however found Best's timing inadequate and wanted to replace Best with an experienced studio session drummer for the recordings, a common practice at the time. Martin stated years later:
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. Liverpool has further honoured Best with the announcement, on 25 July 2011, that two new streets in the city would be named Pete Best Drive and Casbah Close.
Currently, Pete Best is 81 years, 0 months and 13 days old. Pete Best will celebrate 82nd birthday on a Friday 24th of November 2023.
Find out about Pete Best birthday activities in timeline view here.