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Pete Best talks about picking yourself up and getting on with it

Drummer Pete Best is explaining, not for the first time, what it was like for him that late summer’s day in 1962 when he was sacked suddenly from The Beatles, a beat combo from Liverpool who were about to become the biggest band the world had ever seen.

Best recalls an uncomfortable-looking band manager Brian Epstein explaining that other band members John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison didn’t think his drumming was up to scratch, and that they were replacing Best – who’d been with them for two years through those formative, frenetic Hamburg gigging days – with Ringo Starr.

“We were rockers, we were little hardies, we could handle ourselves. But when I got back home and I told my mother what happened, behind the sanctuary of the front door, I cried like a baby,” he recalls.

Anybody over a certain age who hears the name Pete Best will be familiar with the saga of the so-called “fifth Beatle” and the life he lost out on. Rather aptly, we meet in Lost Lane, a music venue off Grafton Street, where he was due to play a gig on March 29th, now cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis. But as soon as we start talking, it’s clear that despite the events of 1962 he doesn’t feel lost, and hasn’t for a very long time. He’s 78 now, and looks back with pride not just on his part in Beatle history, but his resilience too.

‘There came a period in my life when I was like, to hell with what happened yesterday’

At the height of Beatlemania, Best attempted suicide, but he has always denied it was because of depression related to being fired. “You should never ask someone who has tried to take their own life why they did it,” he said. “ I don’t know why I did it. All I know is my mother and my brother Rory found me. My mother gave me such a talking to and I vowed I would never do anything like that again. And I never will.”

How did he cope in a world that never lets anyone forget about The Beatles? “I think if I’d kept reflecting about what happened yesterday, all the time, and it was like a nightmare to me, I would have ended up bitter and twisted. But there came a period in my life when I was like, to hell with what happened yesterday it’s about today and tomorrow.”

In the end being an ex-Beatle, and carrying the weight of the criticism of his former bandmates, gave him purpose, a reason to prove himself. Over the years he had to endure public comments from various band members who critiqued his drumming and aspects of his personality in attempts to justify the sacking.

“You’re the Beatle who got kicked out because you were crap. So there’s always been a point where I’ve had to prove myself. I haven’t talked about it, people make their own impressions about what a drummer is about. So I’ll perform on stage and the audience can make their own mind up. I’m glad to say that the consensus of opinion is yeah, you’re a great drummer, Pete. I’m happy with that.”

He might not be John, Paul, George or even Ringo, but he was still a Beatle, which means it’s still a thrill just to hear him talk about his days in the band, “propping up bars across Hamburg” with “gentle, tender John” – he was closest to Lennon – or having mock fights with the band on stage at The Indra club on The Reeperbahn. Or his enduring fondness for I Saw Her Standing There, one of the first Beatles originals he ever played on drums.

Ireland can lay claim to the former Beatle, which is also a bit fab. His grandfather Major Thomas Shaw, who was stationed in India at the time of the Raj, came from Dublin, while his biological father, a soldier who died when he was a baby, was also Irish.

His half-Irish mother Mona Best has her own place in Beatle history. After she was widowed, Mona married again and travelled to Liverpool, where she set up the Casbah club in the basement of their sprawling home, where The Beatles (as The Quarrymen and later The Silver Beetles) played their first gigs.

Even after her son Pete was sacked from the band, Mona kept in touch with the Beatles. “She was very diplomatic,” says Best. When the cover art was being done for Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Lennon asked Mona if he could borrow her dad’s army medals, and he wore them on the cover of the album.

The medals are one of hundreds of exhibits in the Magical Beatles Museum on Mathew Street in Liverpool, run by Best’s younger brother Roag. (Roag is central to another bit of Beatles lore. His father is Neil Aspinall, the Beatles driver and later the managing director of Apple Corps. Aspinall had an affair with Mona when he was a lodger in the house and her husband was away.)

He had not seen or spoken to him in decades, but Best still cried when he heard of the murder of his old friend John Lennon in 1980. He has never spoken to any of the Beatles since he was forced out of the band. Reparation of sorts came in 1995 when Aspinall called (“Paul McCartney claims he called me but he didn’t,” says Best) to discuss The Beatles Anthology, which was to include some tracks featuring Best’s drumming, for which he would be paid royalties.
It’s another source of pride for Best that seven of the tracks on Anthology 1 feature his drumming: “Seven out of 60 tracks was quite a lot. And I’d like to think with that amount of tracks over a short period of time, it showed the important role I played. Whether that’s the case or not, I don’t know – you’d have to ask them.”
How much money did he get in royalties? “It wasn’t far short of a million,” he says. The money was welcome, even if, as he says, he was “well set” at that stage of his life, having made a good living from being Pete Best of the Beatles and Pete Best, musician in his own right.

He has his Beatles association to thank for another important part of his story – he’s been married to Kathy for 58 years, after first meeting her at a Beatles gig.

Lennon and Harrison are dead now, while Starr had nothing to do with the decision to replace the drummer. So there’s only one Beatle left who was directly involved in the banishing of Pete Best. Does Best forgive McCartney? “I’ve nothing to forgive him about … they made a decision as young men which was safeguarding their future. Okay, it could have been handled better. I was the fall guy for it, I suffered, but I’m not holding them to task over it. If I’d have been in the same situation and I was another member of the band, maybe I’d have been one of the bad guys.”

“I’ve no regrets,” he continues. “I think I’m a lucky guy. I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved as a person, of the examples I’ve set to people to get on with your life, to pick yourself up. I’ve been an inspiration. And I’m proud of that.”




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The Beatles original drummer Pete Best has said that John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison continued to “put the boot in” even after they had dismissed him from the band and replaced him with Ringo Starr.

Best (78) first met the Beatles, who were then called The Quarrymen, in 1959 when they played some of their first gigs at his mother’s club, The Casbah, in suburban Liverpool and later joined the band in August 1960 after a phone call from Paul McCartney.
He went on to perform with them over 220 times, including many shows during their long stint in Hamburg. However, in what is perhaps showbusiness’s biggest bad luck story, the rest of the band kicked him out just as super stardom beckoned.

Speaking on the Late Late Show on Friday night, Best, who has Irish relatives in Limerick and Dublin, said, “They could’ve been nicer, they put a load of boots in,” he said.
“In interviews after I was kicked out, they initially said I wasn’t a good enough drummer, then all of a sudden I was anti-social, didn’t talk, moody, slow-witted… Come on, guys, gimme a break. You’ve already kicked me out of the band. Lay off me, just let me get on with my own life.”

Best also recalled the day Beatles manager Brian Epstein called him into his office in 1962 to tell him he was out of the band just as they were about to rocket to worldwide fame.

“Brian was very much to the point, We’d had business meetings before because I handled the business side of things,” Best said.

“I thought it was going to be a brain-picking session. I walked in and Brian wasn’t his usual cool, calm, placid self, he was very agitated and I looked at him and I said ‘whoa, something smells here…’
“We talked around the subject and then he said, ‘Pete, I don’t know how to tell you this – the boys want you out’ and the key words were it’s ‘already been arranged’. I was devastated. I‘d been with them for two years, known them for three, done everything which was required of me. Done the leathers, the cowboy boots, the hair, you name it…

“I wish I knew why they kicked me out. The reason they gave was that I wasn’t a good enough drummer. That’s never held water with me or the people of Liverpool. At that time I was said to be one of the best drummers in Liverpool.”
Best was left to look on as the band became megastars. “Believe it or not when they hit the top of the charts in England it was something I expected but what happened afterwards… No one in their right minds could have reckoned on that. I was like the rest of the world – dumbfounded at how fast they became the icons of the music industry.”

Asked if he was “sickened” by it all, Best said: “No. By this stage I had sort of got over it. I’ll chase them as hard and fast as I can with my own band but that didn’t work out.”

He added: “I have no regrets. It was a wonderful experience to play with the biggest band in showbiz. I don’t think anything will surpass that. I’m proud of my contribution.”

Best never met any of the band again but eventually earned royalties of between one and six million pounds from his performances with them after the release of The Beatles Anthology in 1995.

The drummer is still touring the world with his own band and recently opened the Magical Beatles Museum on Matthew Street in Liverpool, which features over 1000 pieces of Beatles memorabilia, with his brother.

He will also be back in Ireland on March 27 in Wexford’s Riverbank House Hotel and Lost Lane in Dublin on March 29 for an Evening with Pete Best.

Video .. Here.


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Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and original drummer Pete Best, signed the document on 24 January 1962, before achieving fame.

It gave Brian Epstein responsibility for finding the band work, and managing their schedule and publicity.

The document was the first of two contracts drawn up between Epstein and The Beatles.

Gabriel Heaton, a specialist at Sotheby’s auction house, which was in charge of the auction, said: “Epstein was just blown away by the passion, the energy, the charisma, the raw sexuality on stage.” “The Beatles had the stage energy but he instilled a sense of professionalism in them,” Mr Heaton added. “Epstein stopped them eating on stage, made sure they played the songs properly and coherently, and he got them bowing at the end of a set.”

The contract outlines Epstein’s fee would be 10%, rising to 15% if their earnings should exceed £120 a week. Paul McCartney had negotiated Epstein’s fee down from 20%.Under 21 at the time, McCartney, Harrison and Best had to ask their parents’ consent to sign the contract.After Best left the band, another contract was signed on 1 October 1962 with Ringo Starr as drummer and Epstein taking a bigger percentage of their earnings.

That document has now sold at auction for £275,000, raising money for the Ernest Hecht Charitable Foundation.

Then a record shop owner and music writer, Epstein discovered the Beatles performing at Liverpool’s Cavern Club in November 1961, remarking on their “star quality”. He extricated them from a German recording arrangement and a label deal with Polydor, and signed them to EMI label Parlophone.


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Pete Best turns up in this new caper about collectors of Fab Four memorabilia 

In 1956 Julia Lennon showed her son John how she played the banjo and he copied her fingering on his cheap guitar. Julia Lennon was killed in a car accident in July 1958 and nobody, it would seem, knows where her banjo is now. Its value to a collector would be immense, but surely not the £5m suggested in this production.
The fate of Julia’s banjo is the premise for a new play written by Rob Fennah and staged at the Epstein Theatre, the former Neptune Theatre renamed after the Beatles’ manager. The experienced cast have been in some of our favourite TV series, the best-known being Mark Moraghan of Holby City.

A Beatles tour guide and ardent fan, Barry Seddon (Eric Potts), finds a letter written by John Lennon in 1962, cryptically describing where he has hidden the banjo. With two friends (Moraghan and Jake Abraham) who run a souvenir store, they attempt to solve the puzzle. But they need to get into the mind of John Lennon to do that, and “he wrote ‘I Am The Walrus’, for fuck’s sake.” The clever solution depends on information that the audience cannot know: it would have been better if we stood a chance of solving it too.

To complicate matters, there is a deceitful Texas dealer Travis (Danny O’Brien) who is determined to steal the banjo. Hampered by his accent, O’Brien’s diction was not too good, which was unfortunate as he had to explain plot points.His wife Cheryl, played by Stephanie Dooley, is assigned to seduce the nerdy Barry, and considering Lennon’s Banjo is marketed as a comedy, the director Mark Heller should have made it more foolish. The night-time digging around Eleanor Rigby’s grave also needed to be more ghoulish, but Richard Foxton is to be commended for his set which mimics the pop art of Peter Blake.

The quest to find the banjo takes in many Beatle locations including the Casbah club, which is now a tourist attraction still belonging to the Best family. Pete Best, the Beatles’ first drummer, now 76, is playing himself at some performances and came on stage to rapturous applause. He looked uncomfortable when questioned by the three sleuths and he drew the biggest laugh of the evening by saying to the audience, “What a gang of knobheads”.

Fennah’s previous play, Twopence To Cross The Mersey, was a massive success in the north-west and undertook a national tour. If the production team could crank up the comedy, Lennon’s Banjo could enjoy similar enduring success.



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BACK in 2004, Rob Fennah of Pulse Records Limited, Alternative Radio and Buster talked about his then new project of turning Helen Forrester’s Twopence To Cross The Mersey into the acclaimed musical it went on to become.
Later, Rob mentioned he was working on another project involving John Lennon’s mum, Julia, teaching The Beatles legend how to play rock’n’roll on her banjo; an instrument now lost but highly sought after by Beatles buffs the world over.
A ‘Holy Grail’ of rock memorabilia if ever there was one.
Now following the publication of a novel both Rob and Helen A. Jones wrote in 2013 called Julia’s Banjo, the book’s stage adaptation Lennon’s Banjo is set to open – somewhat ironically, at The Epstein Theatre – on April 24, featuring a stellar cast of familiar Liverpool faces and (for some performances) a real-life Beatle!
“It’s a relief to get it on stage, yes, but if we take it all the way back, the original idea was for it to be a screenplay for either film or television,” the former Buster rhythm guitarist explained.”There were a lot of filmy people interested too, but then came the big recession of 2009 and all the cash dried up.”That’s when Helen and I decided to write the novel, as a sort of stop gap.”The book got some really good reviews and kept the idea of a film adaptation of Julia’s Banjo very much alive.”The tale tells of how a Beatles tour guide finds a clue to the possible whereabouts of the said banjo … and its estimated monetary worth: £5,000,000.”However, a Texan dealer has got wind of this information and is hell bent on grabbing the instrument by the fretboard and making a dash for the cash.”Over the years since its publication lots of people were asking: ‘whatever happened to that film idea?’
“So a couple of years ago, I decided to adapt the novel myself into a stage play, another stepping stone if you like towards the making of a feature film.”I changed the name to Lennon’s Banjo to appeal to a wider audience, but otherwise kept the structure of the story the same. “In this stage production, we have eight actors playing twenty odd parts, so it’s a pretty big deal.”And with it also being a brand new play, myself and co-producer, Bill Elms, have put our heads on the block in order to get it on.”But because the story is such a fascinating one and weaved around real historical events, we feel it’s a risk well worth taking.”We’re confident people are going to leave the theatre intrigued by the very real possibility that somewhere out there, probably in Liverpool, perhaps in their own attic, is a banjo worth five million quid!”
So, it may have been a long and winding road to get there, something of a mystery tour in its own right, but perseverance very often pays off and there’s a huge cast joining the bus too.

“We’ve got a lot of familiar faces like Mark Moraghan, Eric Potts and Jake Abraham.
“Then there’s Lynn Francis, Stephanie Dooley, Danny O’Brien, Roy Carruthers and Alan Stocks.
“And the icing on the cake has been to get Pete Best involved.
“How that happened was by virtue of the fact he really liked the book.
“When the idea for the play came about, I took it upon myself to ask him whether he could do something and he said yes, wow!
“What Pete particularly liked was the accuracy of the historical facts within the novel.”We didn’t stint on the research for the book and it paid off, now having a real-life Beatle giving it the thumbs up.”Set in present day Liverpool, Pete Best will be playing himself; but for only three performances due to other commitments.”Alan Stocks will be playing the part on other occasions.”I have to say though, the rest of the cast are getting a real kick out of being on stage with an original Beatle! “Pete’s such an integral part of the group’s history, with thirteen of the songs he played on, such as Love Me Do and PS: I Love You, all featuring on the Beatles Anthology.
“He’s very much a part of the band’s story and it’s a real pleasure to have Pete involved.
“I’m sure audiences will be very excited about it too.”


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Now in its 16th edition, San Diego Beatles Fair is a true grass roots event, put together by fans of the Fab Four, the two-day show features numerous bands performing Beatles and related music, a photo exhibit, dealer’s room and much more, with this year’s special guest set to be original Beatles drummer, Pete Best.
“The Beatles music appeals to just about everyone, from everywhere,” explained Beatles Fair organizer, Alma Rodriguez. “It’s universal, their songs transcend genres and age groups. You can see it in the performers taking part at the show this year, from young kids to scene veterans, people from all over the city, almost everybody likes the Beatles.”
Besides Best, other performers set to take part include main stage artists The Rollers (the Ed Sullivan shows), The Baja Bugs (Rubber Soul era), Ringer Starr (solo era hits) and the Dave Humphries Band (Wings/Harrison songs). “We try hard to mix things up and include music from all phases of their careers,” Rodriguez says. “You won’t just hear “Day Tripper” or some of the big hits over and over.” Meanwhile a second, outdoor patio stage will feature acoustic performers, including blues favorites John January & Linda Berry and The Fire Brothers, featuring guitarists Tim and Manny Cien, as well as saxophonist Ed Croft, all three formerly part of ’80s favorites, NE1.

Best played with the band from 1960–1962, performing in Hamburg, recording with Tony Sheridan and at the BBC, taping early versions at EMI Studios of “Love Me Do” and others. He was most recently heard with the band on their No. 1, 1995 album, “Anthology.”
Speaking from his home in Liverpool, England, Best notes having performed in the area several times since the 1980s, with fond memories. “I played in San Diego many years ago and had a wonderful time,” he recalled. “On one occasion, apart from playing, I had a great day out on the bay, where myself and (Paul McCartney & Wings guitarist) Denny Laine, raced around on wave runners all afternoon. It was great fun, and that is what San Diego means to me, great fun. That is what Beatles Fair is all about, so it makes sense to return.”
Why does he think the music he made all those decades ago still resonates with young music fans? “I feel that anything creative, if filled with passion, resonates,” he mused. “We poured everything we had into our music from the very beginning, and the other lads without me, to the end. Having two great songwriters in the one band obviously helped,” Best continued. “Great music, great anything will last because it shines brighter and better.”

Best will be backed for his Beatles Fair appearance by local musicians, including longtime Ocean Beach residents, Mike Dorsey and Chris Leyva of Falling Doves. “Getting to play with a legend like this is almost unbelievable,” Leyva said. “The Beatles have been such a huge influence on my musical life. The younger me would never have thought something like this would be possible.”
Best remains active in Liverpool, with the iconic Casbah Coffee Club and the new Magical History Museum amongst his projects. “The latter is a Fab Four Experience on Mathew Street in Liverpool,” he said. “And housed in the museum building is ‘Lennon’s Bar,’ our venue. What sort of music will we have? Why only ‘The Best’ of course,” he quipped.

For Rodriguez, Best’s appearance is the culmination of years of hard work. “To have an actual former Beatle be a part of the event is pretty special,” she said. “But even beyond that, people coming together like this, over a band that represents peace and love, art and culture, feels good,” she continued.
“This event is a huge labor of love for everyone involved, it’s lots of hard work for the dozens of people that come together on the day to make this happen. However the reward is in the smiling faces and the sing-alongs.”
For his part, Best is happy to be heading back to San Diego and Beatles Fair. “I love the fact that we are all together under one roof sharing in something we all love,” he said.

Beatles Fair: Friday and Saturday, March 30 -31, at Queen Bee, 3925 Ohio St. All ages.