Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Last of Pete

August 15-16, 1962

On the 15th, Pete Best plays, unbeknownst to him, for the last time with the Beatles. After the evening Cavern gig, manager Brian Epstein asks him to come to his office tomorrow for a chat.  It is there on the 16th that he delivers the devastating news. Pete is going to be replaced behind the skins by Ringo Starr.  At first in a state of shock, Pete agrees to play for an important gig in the Riverpark Ballroom in Chester that night, but then he decides, no, he can't face it. And who can blame him?

Pete's friend, Neil Aspinall, offers to quit as road manager for the band, but Pete talks him out of it. A less generous man would, no doubt, have encouraged him.

There is some evidence that the change is instigated by Paul and especially George, and may have been opposed by Epstein.  After all, Pete is the one with the most enthusiastic following, especially of girl fans. Brian would naturally think that the way to handle his unsophisticated technique is to bring in a studio drummer for recording, as George Martin insists.  If they let Pete go now, there's going to be hell to pay in the fan base.

It is a black day in the Beatles history. But taking the long view, it had to be done. There are two reasons why. Probably the most important has to do with the style and spirit of the Beatles. They (with Epstein's encouragement) are working hard to get across to audiences their sense of fun, as well as their new up-to-the-minute "look". Pete seems more like a throw back to the emotionally "cool" vibe of James Dean and the leather and greased hair style of Gene Vincent.

Secondly, Pete's drumming is very high-energy and LOUD, compared to Ringo's more laid back, measured, and polished technique behind the kit. Pete is the last link to be severed with the Beatles rough-and-ready balls-to-the-wall origins.  I'll bet it was especially hard on John Lennon, who never spoke to his friend Pete again, very likely ashamed of the conspiracy he had been part of.

It is my belief that both aspects play a role in the replacement. Still, after all they have been through together as virtual brothers, it has to be hard for Pete to accept. And difficult for the Beatles to go ahead with. But, the big time beacons, and she is a demanding mistress. The Beatles get Johnny Hutchinson from rival band the Big Three to sit in until Ringo can be available on Saturday, next. There is a very great video of a contemporary interview with Pete and his mother Mona here. The course of true love (and true fame) never did run smooth.

For true Beatle fans, it is a very bittersweet moment.  Look back on all of the undeserved criticism, fighting and personal assaults, poor travel arrangements and worse accommodations they endured.  Held together only by an unbreakable bond of musical  brotherhood, in common pursuit of a one-in-a-million rock and roll dream.  But,as George Harrison later was to philosophically observe, "All things must pass."

Peter Randolph Best, the music world thanks you (and your mother) with all of our hearts for all that you have given to make the Beatles possible, and fervently hopes that there is some measure of reward and satisfaction for you!

P.S. Pete's "new" album is called "Hayman's Green".

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