13: The Beatles and Pete Best

January 24, 2015

Podcast, Podcasting

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In this episode, Robert and Richard examine the musicality of Ringo’s predecessor in the band. Songs include: “Love Me Do,” “My Bonnie (Lies Over The Ocean),” “Cry for a Shadow,” “Come Together and “Pete’s Theme.” 

Check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_p_zKrKWFE to see the Pete and Mona interview.

Check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBe-ZfrQ_RA to see the Tony Sheridan interview.

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    18 Responses to “13: The Beatles and Pete Best”

    1. Mickey A. Dressler Says:

      Have really been enjoying your shows since I discovered them a few months ago. Can’t wait to listen to this one (#13). Have you considered doing a show about Beatles’ “Dutch Imports”? I think this has become my favorite Beatles podcast. Keep up the good work, boys!


      • Us Says:

        Hi Mickey,

        Thanks for the kind words about the show! Yes, we will be getting around to that very theme sometime. I don’t know if you’ve seen it or not, but I did a whole chapter on 1970s “Dutch imports” in Solo in the 70s.


    2. Paul Tidey Says:

      The shuffle beat of Pete Best on Come Together is GENIUS – the work of Robert I assume? Superb.


      • BW Says:

        hahaha, oh man, I just heard this and laughed out loud while listening to the “Come Together” thing. Bravo.
        I did pick up Pete Best’s “Hayman’s Green” album a few years back. It was actually a decent album. Not bad at all. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Pete, but that’s what happens with bands- if someone’s not holding up their end, then you gotta do what’s best for the band. Gotta suck for Pete to constantly be asked to perform Beatles tunes that he had nothing to do with. Oy! Anyway, hopefully he made some dough from the Anthology thing but never has a guy that wasn’t part of the band (when they made it famous) been so well known.


    3. Paul Tidey Says:

      LOL – Another gem re drumming on Here Comes The Sun – you need to have an honorary knighthood Mr R!

      Oh, and one of my fave put downs is “4 more cells & he’d need watering” is pretty much along the lines of “pot plant” so if you can send GBP5 copyright infringement fees to England please (Rich knows where I live).

      Another great episode boys!


    4. john Says:

      a bit too much of pete bashing going on here,
      sadly enough…
      take him for what he is/was worth,
      probably he had some importance,
      people are still talking about him now.


    5. john Says:

      pete for president!


    6. Aaron Says:

      I found this podcast through an Amazon review of the recent book Sacked! by Spencer Leigh. I have been studying this issue for many years.
      Pete Best is (and was) a great drummer. During his time with the Beatles he was considered one of the best drummers in Liverpool. His getting fired had nothing to do with his alleged lack of drumming ability. He was fired because he did not get along well with the others, particularly Paul McCartney. Most likely Pete Best has Asperger’s Syndrome, which would be a big part of this.
      I heard Mark Lewisohn referenced many times. Lewisohn is certainly among the leading authorities on the Beatles. The book Tune In is an extremely interesting book. However the book is significantly hampered by Lewisohn’s clear hatred of Pete Best.
      This hatred shows up all over the place. The title of the chapter dealing with the sacking is called “The undesirable member.” There is a comment “the Beatles did not lose a single fan because they fired Pete Best” which is entirely superfluous. There is even a paragraph or 2 referring to a nameless drummer who it is claimed was supposed to go to Hamburg with the Beatles in August 1960 instead of Pete Best. IMO, if this drummer were real, he would have a name.
      There is supposed to be a quote from Paul McCartney about Pete Best falling a sleep on the drums during concerts. I looked for the source, and I could not find it. IMO, Lewisohn made up this quote. I hear the hosts here refer to quotes John Lennon supposedly made about Pete Best being a Judo expert. There is no source for such quotes. IMO, these are also bogus. Lewisohn also can’t decide how Lennon is supposed to take Best’s claims-at first Lennon thinks they are made up, but later in the book, he expected Best to beat up Sheridan easily! Yeah, right. The truth is that the other Beatles most certainly DID believe Best was strong-in fact Lennon was quoted by Beatles biographer Hunter Davies as saying one of the reasons that they didn’t confront him when they fired him was they were worried about getting beaten up. Why does Lewisohn need to fabricate quotes about Pete Best? Why are there no quotes from musicians who considered Pete Best a great drummer, such as John McNally, Chris Curtis (the Searchers drummer), Gerry Marsden, Freddy Marsden (Pacemakers drummer), Billy J. Kramer, Johnny Guitar, etc. Johnny Hutchinson considered Best to be a great drummer. The hosts here made a joke about how Best’s fan base didn’t follow him after the sacking, which apparently is supposed to prove that Best was a terrible drummer. Where did Hutchinson’s fans go? Do you retract your statement about him being the best drummer in Liverpool.
      The commentators here went into great detail about the Polydor sessions. I’m curious, how many times did you listen to those songs before you realized there was no bass drumming on them? I’m guessing it took quite a few listenings. Also, you are at best misrepresenting the situation. Kaempfert didn’t let any rock drummers play the bass drum. That wasn’t unique to Pete Best. The version of My Bonnie you played did not have drum overdubs because none of the released versions of my Bonnie have drum overdubs. Lennon did not provide the rhythm on My Bonnie if for no other reason but the fact that, according the Bear Family liner notes, he is not even playing guitar on the recording! There was also an allegation from Sheridan that Best only played with brushes with Polydor, which is clearly not correct. As far as having the bass pedal being removed, well that would probably have been a case of OCD, common among those with Asperger’s Syndrome. Generally if you are told not to play the bass drum, you simply would not. However, Best was correct in the sense that Beatles music needed bass drum, and so it made sense that he would try to provide it. Despite what is presented here he provided it well.
      Sheridan’s assertion that Best’s “feet did not match his hands” is complete fiction. Best was well known for having very good coordination. Indeed the criticism is usually that he didn’t vary ENOUGH, and that his feet and hands should have been doing different things. You also didn’t explain why Sheridan would want to continue to play with “the World’s Biggest Loser….”
      Were you trying to criticize Best’s drumming on Money? I don’t see how you could do that, as his playing was flawless there. That was how the song was supposed to sound like. You also didn’t give an accurate description of the first EMI session either. Best’s playing on Besame Mucho was excellent (Lewisohn claims it was weak “lacking attack,” but in reality it was hard and forceful drumming, the clear highlight of the recording). Best’s playing on Ask Me Why was also very good, and that would be released as a B-side in November, and on the Please Please Me in March 1963.
      Decca did not have any problems with Pete Best’s drumming and as you pointed out, they signed him in 1963. The Pete Best Combo recorded many good songs, and Best drummed well for the band. His version of Rock and Roll Music has drumming as good as Ringo. Your notion that Best never varied his style is good for a few laughs, but has no basis in fact.
      Although I agree with you that Pete Best wasn’t (and isn’t) an actor, your assertion that he does not have a sense of humor is incorrect. Indeed Julius Fast described Pete Best as “the comedy man in the group.” Mallory Curley pointed out in her Pete Best biography that Best is a very funny guy. He displayed his humor well in an interview with Alan Colmes. Also, remember that the cover of his Hayman’s Green CD has the missing part of the picture cut off from the Anthology 1 cover. I can easily picture a guy who says little, but when he does it could be quite funny.
      Although I certainly don’t believe the Beatles would have been MORE successful with Pete Best, I also don’t believe they would have been LESS successful either, or certainly only very slightly. As far as the public “accepting them” with a studio drummer, well the public accepted the Kinks, the Byrds, the Monkees, even the Beach Boys with studio musicians, so why not the Beatles? IMO, Best would not have sat out more than maybe the first 2 LPs at most, in any case….


      • Richard Buskin Says:

        Having been privy to Mark Lewisohn’s research approach and writing techniques, and being extremely familiar with his personal and professional ethics, I am qualified to categorically assert that he has fabricated nothing in his any of his books and has no need to do so. He has no personal agenda other than to tell the true story. In all respects and on all topics – including Pete Best – he remains neutral.

        All of the quotes about Pete in ‘Tune-In’ have been properly attributed. Bert Kaempfert limited his playing in the studio, Decca wouldn’t have used him, George Martin wouldn’t have used him, and our ears – at least, Robert’s and mine among many others – have heard Pete’s limitations loud and clear. Ringo was in a completely different class. Ditto his personality as a fit with the other band members. It’s your prerogative to hear and feel otherwise, but your Lewisohn-related aspersions are wide of the mark.


        • Aaron Says:

          Spencer Leigh’s book is called Best of the Beatles The Sacking of Pete Best which is basically just a reprint of his earlier book Drummed Out. There is no doubt that Lewisohn dislikes Pete Best a great deal. Please provide a source for John Lennon’s quote about Pete Best faking Judo ability. Listen to the Tony Sheridan recording of “Swanee River.” Please note how similar the drumming there is to the style of Pete Best. Decca’s Mike Smith was quoted in the Beatles magazine The Beatles Book that Pete Best was a good drummer and “better than Ringo Starr.” The notion that Decca wouldn’t use Best is an absurd suggestion-Decca signed Best’s group in 1963 and Best did the drumming on those recordings. Decca’s Mike Smith was in the Pete Best Anthology video. In the same video Norman Smith claimed he saw no need for Pete Best to be replaced by a studio drummer.
          Astrid Kirchherr was quoted as saying Pete Best “could be very funny.”
          I have no doubt that Mark Lewisohn has a tremendous amount of knowledge about the Beatles. This doesn’t change the fact that he clearly hates Pete Best. I have heard rumors that Lewisohn is going to follow Pete Best’s life in later volumes of Tune In. Judging by what was written about Best in the first volume, I sincerely hope that this is NOT the case. Lewisohn is not interested in teaching the reader about Best, instead Lewisohn wishes to discredit Best.


        • Tony S. Says:

          “George Martin wouldn’t have used him…”

          This alone ends the argument. Martin did say that and the Beatles wanted to work up their music organically, not with a 40-year-old session drummer. When the producer says you can’t play, it’s game over.

          Nice episode. I only discovered this podcast recently and I’m binge-listening.


      • Marty Robinson Says:

        Aaron – when was Pete interviewed by Alan Colmes? I would love to hear that interview … can’t find it with a google search or on youtube. Thanks!


        • Astrid Jamison Says:

          Pete was on Alan Colmes’s WNBC radio show on Nov. 25, 1987, and displayed his wit that day admirably. I’m not aware of any online availability of that interview; I heard it on a CD obtained via eBay.


      • Marty Robinson Says:

        Aaron – one more thing … it is so interesting that you make the assertion that Best may have Asperger’s … I was thinking this very thing just a week or so ago. I’ve never heard anyone else suggest that. My son is “high-functioning” autistic … which is extremely similar to Asperger’s … so that’s where I came up with that opinion. I really appreciated your overall analysis and cogent debunking of so much anti-Pete baloney that’s out there. Bravo!


    7. Chris Says:

      A point about the Pete Best version of “Love Me Do”. This has been stated a number of times: this was not a polished take! It was another situation where the band was nervous, trying out in front of the guys in the suits. The objective was to go back and polish it up (get the harmonies straight, etc.) In terms of Pete’s drumming verses Ringo Starr’s: one is not better than the other. One is different from the other. I don’t listen to the Hamburg recordings with the thought of, “He’s better than Ringo”, or, “I can see the reason for the replacement”.


    8. Jeff Says:

      Hi, I’m really enjoying these podcasts, but to be honest this particular episode has left a bitter aftertaste. I don’t really think it’s necessary to be quite so disparaging of a musician who played his part in helping get the Beatles to “the toppermost of the poppermost”.

      Looking forward to your hour long takedown on why Dick Rowe was such an asshole. (Etc.)


    9. Sully Says:

      Pete didn’t have a sense of humor?….Listen to him tell this story from their Hamburg days during an interview. Hilarious! Start at the :29 mark. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxlIrZM5r1w


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