Pete Best says he still doesn’t know why he was fired by the Beatles. As his new cleverly titled DVD Best of the Beatles chronicles, the reasons run the gamut from producer George Martin’s negative assessment of Best’s drumming skills to his good looks, which were thought to eclipse those of his mates, and even that his ousting was a way to get rid of Mona, Best’s managerial mother.
The documentary begins with various people from those early days firing back, calling it “a load of bollocks” that he wasn’t a good drummer, rather that Best’s playing is “brilliant.” But then the meat of this human what-if story gets started. Featuring archival film footage and photographic stills from the drummer’s two years with the band, Best of the Beatles documents everything from the then Fab Five’s gigs at the Indra in Hamburg, Germany, to the earliest known live clips of their 1962 Liverpool performances and up to the recording of Abbey Road. During that time, Best got a taste of Beatlemania with his old mates John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, as they rose to the cusp of stardom with such destined hits as “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You,” already in the can. Best, of course, never got to enjoy the ride, as he would be fired by the group in’62 and replaced by Ringo Starr.
“It happens all the time,” Best, now sixty-three says. “It’s just my lot in life that it happened to be the Beatles, who went on to be the biggest band in the music industry.”
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A bonus portion of the DVD shows Best’s new band — the Pete Best Band (founded in 1988) — writing and recording songs for a new studio album, tentatively titled Original, due in April. Like the film, Original features a number of songs that tell the story of the Beatles early incarnation — from their Liverpool start (“Beatiful Boys Turned Bad,” “Come With Me to the Casbah”) to their seedy stint in Hamburg (“Red Light District”). And the Beatles-esque closer, “Everything I Want (Is Here),” which attempts to put a cap on the question of whether Best resents his former bandmates for kicking him out.
“It’s basically turning ’round and telling people, ‘Yep, I got everything. Fond memories,'” Best says. “But as the documentary progressed, we wanted people to get a taste of what the original [Beatles] music was gonna be. Then we came up with the idea of making the music very autobiographical — [a track for each] period in my life.”
Original — recorded in Best’s Liverpool Casbah Recording Studio, named after Mona’s infamous Casbah Coffee Club where the Beatles played some of their earliest gigs — also recalls the drummer’s familial past. “Never Say Die” tells of the racehorse of the same name that won Mona enough money to move her family to a mansion, while an as-yet-untitled song pays sole tribute to his mother. “She was such a great woman and such a character,” Best says of his mother who died in 1988, and didn’t see her son return to the music business after twenty years as a civil servant. “We want to put something down in music that would be synonymous with her.”
Best plans to tour the U.S. this spring and admits that though the lineup of the Pete Best Band has indeed changed over the years, unlike the Beatles, he’s never had to fire a member. “It’s been natural replacement,” he says. “People have stopped touring because wives or girlfriends won’t let them go, or they’ve turned around and said, ‘Enough’s enough.'”