Best playing in Maryland in 2006
|Birth name||Randolph Peter Scanland|
24 November 1941 |
Madras, Madras Presidency, British India
|Origin||Liverpool, England, United Kingdom|
|Years active||1959–68, 1988–present|
Randolph Peter Best (born Scanland, 24 November 1941) is an English musician, principally known as an original member and the first drummer of the Beatles, from 1960 to 1962. He is one of several people who have been referred to as the Fifth Beatle.
Best was born in the city of Madras, then part of British India. After Best's mother, Mona Best (1924–1988), moved to Liverpool in 1945, she opened the Casbah Coffee Club in the cellar of the Bests' house in Liverpool. The Beatles (at the time known as the Quarrymen) played some of their first concerts at the club.
The Beatles invited Best to join on 12 August 1960, on the eve of the group's first Hamburg season of club dates. Ringo Starr eventually replaced Best on 16 August 1962 when the group's manager, Brian Epstein, exiled Best under the direction of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, following their first recording session at Abbey Road Studios in London.
After working in a number of commercially unsuccessful groups, Best gave up the music industry to work as a civil servant for 20 years, before starting the Pete Best Band. He has been married for over 50 years to Kathy Best; they have two daughters, Beba and Bonita, and four grandchildren.
Best's mother, Mona Best (born Alice Mona Shaw), was born in Delhi, India, and was the daughter of Thomas (an Irish major)[clarification needed] and Mary Shaw. Randolph Peter Scanland (later surnamed Best), her first child, was born in Madras (now Chennai), Madras Presidency, British India, on 24 November 1941. 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 a smaller semi-detached house, which were 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 and placed 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, 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.
Best passed the eleven plus exam at Blackmoor Park primary school in West Derby, and was studying at the Liverpool Collegiate Grammar School in Shaw Street when he decided he wanted to be in a music group. Mona bought him a drum kit from Blackler's music store and Best formed his own band, the Black Jacks. Chas Newby and Bill Barlow joined the group, as did Ken Brown, but only after he had left the Quarrymen. The Black Jacks later became the resident group at the Casbah, after the Quarrymen cancelled their residency because of an argument about money.
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.
Having no permanent drummer, Paul McCartney looked for someone to fill the Hamburg position. Best had been seen playing in the Casbah with his own group, the Black Jacks, and it was noted that he was a steady drummer, playing the bass drum on all four beats in the bar, which pushed the rhythm. In Liverpool, his female fans knew him as being "mean, moody, and magnificent", which convinced McCartney he would be good for the group. After the Black Jacks broke up, McCartney persuaded Best to go to Hamburg with the group, by saying they would each earn £15 per week (equivalent to £300 in 2018). As Best had passed his school exams (unlike Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, who had failed most of theirs), he had the chance to attend teacher-training college, but he decided that playing in Hamburg would be a better career move. Best had an audition in the Jacaranda Club, which Williams owned, and travelled to Hamburg the next day. Williams later said that the audition with Best was unnecessary, as the group had not found any other drummer willing to travel to Hamburg, but did not tell Best in case he asked for more money.
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.
Chas Newby, the ex-Black Jacks guitarist, was invited to play bass for four concerts, as bassist Stuart Sutcliffe had decided to stay in Hamburg. Newby played with the group at Litherland Town Hall and at the Casbah. He was shocked at the vast improvement in 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 thanks 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). When the group returned to Hamburg, by which time McCartney had switched to bass, Best was asked to sing a speciality number, "Peppermint Twist", while McCartney played drums, but always felt uncomfortable being at the front of the stage.
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. John Lennon later admitted 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 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 Rahlstedtin on 24 May 1962 in Hamburg as a sessions band backing Tony Sheridan. Less than two weeks later the Beatles would be 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 by 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 seeing them play 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 John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Best joined in with jokes and comic wordplay.
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. Martin wanted to substitute Best with an experienced studio session drummer for the recordings. This was common practice at the time in British recording studios. 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. Ultimately, Epstein decided that "If the group was to remain happy, Pete Best must go". Epstein summoned Best to his office and dismissed him on Thursday 16 August, ten weeks and one day after the first recording session. Epstein asked Best to continue to play with the band until Ringo joined on Saturday 18 August. Best played his last two gigs with the Beatles on 15 August at the Cavern Club, Liverpool. He was due to play his last show on 16 August at the Riverpark Ballroom, Chester, but never turned up; Johnny Hutchinson of the Big Three was rushed in as a substitute. Best had been with the group for two years and four days.
Best had been good friends with Neil Aspinall since 1961 when he rented a room in the house where Best lived with his parents. Best asked Aspinall to become the band's road manager and personal assistant; accepting the job, he bought an old Commer van for £80 (equivalent to £1,600 in 2018).. Aspinall was waiting for Best downstairs in Epstein's NEMS record shop after the dismissal meeting. The two went to the Grapes pub on Mathew Street, the same street as the Cavern Club where the group had played. Aspinall was furious at the news, insisting to Best that he would also resign from the Beatles. Best strongly advised him to remain with the group. Aspinall's relationship with Mona Best (and their three-week-old baby, Roag) was ended. At the next concert Aspinall asked Lennon why they had fired Best, to which he replied "It's got nothing to do with you, you're only the driver."
George Martin was surprised to learn that Epstein had sacked Best, hearing the news from Mona Best via telephone. Martin denied that he had ever suggested sacking him, telling Mona:
I never suggested that Pete Best must go. All I said was that for the purposes of the Beatles' first record I would rather use a sessions man. I never thought that Brian Epstein would let him go. He seemed to be the most saleable 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.
Mersey Beat magazine's editor, Bill Harry, claimed that Epstein initially offered the vacant drummer position in the group to Hutchinson, whom he also managed. Hutchinson refused the job, saying, "Pete Best is a very good friend of mine. I couldn't do the dirty on him." Starr had previously played with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes – the alternating band in the Kaiserkeller – and had deputised when Best was ill or unable to play in Hamburg and Liverpool. Harry reported Best's dismissal on the front page of Mersey Beat magazine, upsetting many Beatles fans. The group encountered some jeering and heckling in the street and on stage for weeks afterwards, with some fans shouting, "Pete forever, Ringo never!" One agitated fan headbutted Harrison in The Cavern, giving him a black eye.
Best's replacement, Ringo 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, due to the fact that he had no idea who he was at that time, and to avoid any risks of his drumming still not being good enough. On 11 September 1962 at the third EMI recording session Martin used session musician Andy White on the drums for the whole session and not 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 Hunter Davies years later that he had thought, "That's the end. They're pulling a Pete Best on me."
Many years later Martin still expressed regret about his decision and what followed:
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 [Epstein] said, 'Okay, fine.' I felt guilty because I felt maybe I was the catalyst that had changed his [Best's] life…
Paul McCartney remembers it differently:
George Martin was used to drummers being very 'in time', because all the big-band session drummers he used had a great sense of time. Now, our Liverpool drummers had a sense of spirit, emotion, economy even, but not a deadly sense of time. This would bother producers making a record. George took us to one side and said, 'I'm really unhappy with the drummer. Would you consider changing him?' We said, 'No, we can't!' It was one of those terrible things you go through as kids. Can we betray him? No. But our career was on the line. Maybe they were going to cancel our contract…
Paul McCartney finally stated, in his Wingspan documentary in May 2001, that the sacking of Pete Best had nothing to do with his ability as a drummer. Explaining why one particular member of his subsequent band, Wings, "didn't last long" in that group McCartney said: "It's like in the Beatles, we had Pete Best, who was a really good drummer, but there just was something, he wasn't quite like the rest of us, we had like a sense of humour in common and he was nearly in with it all, but it's a fine line, you know, as to what is exactly in and what is nearly in. So he 'left' the band and we were looking for someone who would fit." He told Mark Lewisohn, similarly, that when George Martin suggested "changing their drummer" the Beatles responded: "Well, we're quite happy with him, he works great in the clubs," but also that "Pete had never quite been like the rest of us. We were the wacky trio and Pete was perhaps a little more sensible; he was slightly different from us, he wasn't quite as artsy as we were."
Best was never directly told by anybody involved in his sacking exactly why he was dismissed; the only reason Epstein stated to him was, "The lads don't want you in the group anymore". Epstein subsequently claimed in his autobiography that Lennon, McCartney and Harrison thought that Best was "too conventional to be a Beatle" and added that "though he was friendly with John, he was not liked by George and Paul". 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 socialising, 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.
A German photographer, Astrid Kirchherr, asked if they wouldn't mind letting her take photographs of them in a photo session, which impressed them, as other groups only had snapshots taken by friends. The next morning Kirchherr took photographs on the Heiligengeistfeld, a municipal event area close to the Reeperbahn. In the afternoon Kirchherr took them to her mother's house in Altona, minus Best, who decided not to attend. Dot Rhone, McCartney's girlfriend at the time who later visited Hamburg, described Best as being very quiet and never taking part in conversations with the group.
On their first trip to Hamburg, the group soon realised 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 initially preferred to play in cooler short sleeves on stage, and so did not match the sartorial style of the group, even though he was later photographed wearing a leather jacket and jeans. Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Sutcliffe were introduced to recreational drugs in Hamburg. As they played for hours every night, they often took Preludin to keep themselves awake, which they received from German customers or Astrid Kirchherr, whose mother bought them. Lennon would often take four or five, but Best always refused.
It has been claimed that Epstein became exasperated with Best's refusal to adopt the mop-top-style Beatle haircut as part of their unified look keeping his quiffed hairstyle, although Best later stated that he was never asked to change his hairstyle. In a 1995 BBC Radio Merseyside interview, Kirchherr explained: "My boyfriend, Klaus Voormann, had this hairstyle, and Stuart [Sutcliffe] 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".
Best's popularity with fans was a source of friction, as many female fans considered him to be the band's best-looking member. Radio Merseyside presenter Spencer Leigh wrote a book chronicling Best's firing, suggesting that the other members, McCartney in particular, were jealous. In the 31 August 1961 issue of Bill Harry's Mersey Beat music publication in Liverpool, Bob Wooler reported on the Beatles' local musical impact and singled out Best for special praise, calling the group "musically authoritative and physically magnetic, example the mean, moody magnificence of drummer Pete Best – a sort of teenage Jeff Chandler." During the Teenagers' Turn showcase in Manchester, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison walked on stage to applause, but when Best walked on, the girls screamed. Afterwards, attentive females surrounded Best at the stage door, while the other members were ignored after signing a few autographs. McCartney's father, Jim McCartney, was present at the time and admonished Best: "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". Lennon called the accusations of jealousy a "myth," and claimed that Best was recruited only because they needed a drummer to go to Hamburg, saying, "We were always going to dump him when we found a decent drummer."
In 1963 on British television, Mona Best, with her son present, said of his dismissal: "From the point of clash of personalities, well, probably that may be it because Peter did have a terrific fan club, you know, compared to the others. [Interviewer: Too good looking perhaps?] I'll leave that for other people to say but from my point of view we haven't come here to sort of throw sticks and stones at the boys because there is no really hard feeling. There was at first, but it's just the way that it was done that has annoyed us. If it had been done a bit more straightforward it would have been more to the mark." Hunter Davies, in his authorised Beatles biography published in 1968, agreed: "There is some justification for a little of Mrs. Best's anger. The sacking of Pete Best is one of the few murky incidents in the Beatles' history. There was something sneaky about the way it was done."
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. Martin (see above) deemed Best's drumming to be inadequate for a recording. 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. Critic and Beatles historian Richie Unterberger described Best's drumming at the Decca session as "thinly textured and rather unimaginative," adding that Best "pushes the beat a little too fast for comfort." Unterberger thought Starr to be "more talented." Beatles' critic Alan W. Pollack compared the Best, Starr, and Andy White versions of "Love Me Do", and concluded that Best was "an incredibly unsteady and tasteless drummer" on his version. Beatles' historian Ian MacDonald, recounting the Decca audition, said that "Best's limitations as a drummer are nakedly apparent." MacDonald notes of the 6 June EMI recording session that "...this audition version [of "Love Me Do"] shows one of the reasons why Pete Best was sacked: in moving to the ride cymbal for the first middle eight, he slows down and the group falters." (MacDonald incorrectly notes that the session was an audition; it actually was the first recording for a single release.)
All the other Beatles went on record about the dismissal of Best. McCartney stated that Best was "good, but a bit limited." Harrison said that "Pete kept being sick and not showing up for gigs" and admitted, "I was quite responsible for stirring things up. I conspired to get Ringo in for good; I talked to Paul and John until they came round to the idea." For his part, Starr said: "I felt I was a much better drummer than he [Best] was."
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 wrote: "But for the sake of Pete's career, whatever happened to the Beatles afterward, the handling and especially the announcing of the sacking might have been done more neatly and cleanly. He could have been fixed up with a job in another group before the news was announced." Over twenty years later Mark Lewisohn concluded that "Despite his alleged shortcomings, it was still shabby treatment for Pete, who had served the group unstintingly from their hapless, drummerless Silver Beatles days through three lengthy Hamburg seasons and over 200 Cavern Club performances. He had shared in the heartaches and the headaches, had controlled the Beatles' bookings before Epstein took over, and had made his home – the Casbah – their home. 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."
Before Brian Epstein took the Beatles on, Mona Best had been handling most of the management and promotional work. According to promoter and manager Joe Flannery, Mona had done a great deal for the band by arranging a number of important early gigs and lending them a badly needed helping hand when they returned from Hamburg the first time, but this came at the cost of having to contend with her overbearing nature. At this crucial time in the history of the Beatles, John Lennon confided to Flannery that he considered Mona "bossy like [his aunt] Mimi" and believed that she was using the Beatles only for the sake of her son, though this should be weighed against the fact that the Beatles' cordial relations with Mona would soon resume. She often met them while visiting Neil Aspinall at his London home. On these occasions, the Beatles often had small gifts for her which they had acquired on their travels. For her part, Mona allowed them to use her father's military medals in the photo shoot for the Sgt. Pepper album cover.
Although Brian Epstein's publicly stated reluctance to fire Best quickly became a matter of record in the early biographies, he had found Mona Best to be the cause of mounting aggravation. Epstein's distaste for her interference in the Beatles' management, including her "aggressive opinions about his handling of her son's career", was obvious to everyone, and he also reportedly considered Mona Best a loose cannon who must not be allowed to interfere in his operations. Moreover, the very recent birth of Roag further complicated matters. Although Best himself was not personally responsible for this development, it would still have caused a grave scandal had it become generally known, and Epstein may have been horrified at the prospect.
Soon after Best was dismissed, Epstein attempted to console him by offering to build another group around him, but Best refused. 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. Epstein secretly arranged with his booking agent partner, Joe Flannery, for Best to join Lee Curtis & the All Stars, which then broke off from Curtis to become Pete Best & the All Stars. They signed to Decca Records, releasing the single "I'm Gonna Knock On Your Door", which was not successful.
In 1968, Best settled a libel lawsuit he had initiated against the Beatles, Ringo Starr and Playboy magazine that centred on comments Starr made to the magazine about Best's alleged drug use. The conditions of the settlement prevented disclosure of the amount.
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."
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.
Hunter 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 to commit suicide, but his mother, Mona, and his brother, Rory, talked him out of it.
In 1963, he married Kathy, who worked behind the biscuit counter at a Woolworth's store. Their marriage has lasted for 50 years: they have two daughters (Beba and Bonita) and four grandchildren. Best did shift work loading bread into the back of delivery vans, earning £8 a week (equivalent to £200 in 2018).. 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."
In time, 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, premièred at the Royal Court Theatre, London, dramatising The Beatles' time in Hamburg.
Another "Peter Best" single, "Carousel Of Love"/"Want You" (Capitol 2092) is not by Best, but an Australian performer with the same name.
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