Wednesday, February 5, 2014

HEY! There Are Three Living Ex-Beatles, Not Two

2014 is an all year celebration of all things Beatle because it's the 50th anniversary of the group's conquering of America. Some false or misleading stories are bound to get unfortunate repeats in the coverage, however, it's curious that the media continue to claim (without embarrassment) that there are only two living ex-Beatles. I don't want to spoil the party, but there are actually three living ex-Beatles.

Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, of course, are the people always cited as the "two living ex-Beatles"; but the band's original drummer, who was in the band for over two years is still alive, too, and his name is Pete Best. Probably nowhere in rock and roll history does the mere mention of one name, Pete Best, conjure up a synonym for unlucky. But, like most "reasons" given for Best's firing by The Beatles, thinking of Best as having the worst luck is too simplistic. Like it or not, Best was a member of The Beatles and that deserves his rightful place in history.

(1962, The Beatles (with Pete Best) pose for their first publicity photos wearing suits. Fair Use photo.)

The short story is that in 1960 while casting about (yet again) for a drummer, before an imminent gig in West Germany, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison learned their friend had recently purchased a drum kit. They asked Best to join the group and he agreed. After numerous gigs and apparently on the brink of stardom, The Beatles' new manager, Brian Epstein, fired Best in August, 1962. Epstein was reluctant to do the job, but the others insisted because they had decided to replace Best with Ringo Starr. The other Beatles had played with Starr before on several gigs that Best had missed. Whether or not Best was not as good a drummer as Starr is a moot point because for the sound The Beatles were creating (read: Lennon/McCartney) Starr was the drummer they believed suited it best (if you'll pardon the pun).

"We were cowards when we sacked him", Lennon said later. "We made Brian do it. But if we'd told Pete to his face, that would have been much nastier. It would have probably ended in a fight." Fight or no, out of guilt, Epstein put Best into his own band, which, of course, never gained any traction. By 1965, he was so depressed he attempted suicide, only to be saved by his brother. Although it took time, Best lost his bitterness toward his ex-band mates, and after a career in civil service, he got back behind the drums, where he seems pretty happy today.

(A recent photo of Pete Best. Reprinted under Fair Use.)

When The Beatles released their Anthology Vol. 1 album, many of the songs that Pete Best drummed on, rehearsal tapes, demos and even the EMI audition, were included. Were The Beatles who were still alive in 1995 finally owning up to some guilt? Doubtful, as they obvious made the correct decision in 1962, even though they didn't handle it well. More likely, it was a way of (finally) paying Best back some of his due for the over two years he was their drummer. So, cheers to you, one of the three living ex-Beatles!

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