Thursday, August 18, 2005

Forgotten Hero II - Pete Best

Randolph Peter Best (born November 24, 1941 in Madras, India) was an early drummer for The Beatles. The son of Mona Best, the owner of Liverpool's Casbah Club, where the Beatles played occasionally, Best was first invited to join the band in 1959, later rejoining for their 1960–1961 residency in Hamburg. He stayed until shortly after their first audition for EMI in 1962, being fired on August 16 of that year to be replaced by Ringo Starr, then of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.

Best got the news that he was being booted from the band from the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein. The reason given was that George Martin, who was to become the Beatles' producer, had been dissatisfied with Best's drumming (which was steady, but lacked "chops" or flair of any kind) and intended to replace him on their recordings. Besides this, Best had never completely fitted in with Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, spending his offstage time alone, and refusing to change his ducktail hairstyle when the band adopted the Beatle haircut. Starr, on the other hand, readily joined in the others' doings—and had an appealing, unique playing style.

Best tried to put together a couple of bands after the Beatles evicted him, but he had little success in those ventures, aside from the release of an album questionably titled Best of the Beatles. (The title was meant to refer to his former band, but led to confusion and disappointment for record buyers.) He tried to commit suicide in 1965 by locking himself in a room and inhaling fumes from a gas fire. Best filed a libel suit against the Beatles in October 1965 because Starr implied in an interview with Playboy magazine that the band had fired Best because he was a drug user. A subsequent libel suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

After a series of jobs outside music (including work as a baker, and a civil servant), Best eventually found a modicum of independent fame, writing about his time with the Beatles, giving interviews to the media, and touring as leader of the Pete Best Band. When the surviving Beatles released Anthology in 1995, which featured a number of tracks with Best as drummer, Best received a substantial windfall from the sales. Some claim it was at least £2 million.

In the Anthology book, Lennon succinctly summed up his opinion of Best's role in the band: "The myth built up over the years that . . . Paul was jealous of Best because he was pretty and all that crap. They didn't get on that much together, but it was partly because Pete was a bit slow. He was a harmless guy but was not quick. All of us had quick minds, but he never picked that up."


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