Hey folks...the below is reprinted here in full, with full permission from Dave Bedford, the author of the soon-to-be published ":Liddypool: birthplace of the beatles".
I've seen the full book, and it's dynamite..including a 27-person geneology of the
musicians that came and went through the group that eventually morphed into The Beatles.
Below is the chapter on The Sacking of Pete Best. Co-incidentally, Pete wrote the foreward for the book as well. You can see a lot of the info on www.liddypool.com
, including some fun little quizzes for those that thnk they have a real good handle on the history of the early beatles and their liverpool.
So, i'm no expert...and perhaps other members here, including bill harry, would have some keen opinion on the rationale of the author's August '62 dismissal theory. In retrospect, it seems to make a heck of a lot of sense, especially for a young band that wasn't sure if they'd make it or not, after being turned down by everyone, and eppy agreeing to a very small 1p per single contract...
My apologies for the length of the post...however, I thnk this forum will appreciate and enjoy the sneak peak. the only other place this is posted is on petebest.com and another private newsgroup.
Many theories abound regarding the controversial sacking of Pete
Best as The Beatles were on the threshold of stardom. Pete was
never told the reason why by anyone in the group and will probably
never get a straight answer in his lifetime.
Some of the most commonly quoted reasons are his refusal to get
a Beatle haircut or that he was a poor drummer. It’s also been said
that he was anti-social and a non-conformist. There is no definitive
answer, so all that can be done is to narrow down the possibilities.
John, Paul and George all knew Pete from The Casbah and kept
a watchful eye on him, particularly in the weeks prior to leaving for
Hamburg. They had become friends during the previous year before
he joined them. Pete was not unknown.
The Beatles enjoyed moderate success from August 1960 to August
1962. They refined their act and repertoire in Hamburg and Liverpool
before Epstein “cleaned” them up and secured the record deal in June 1962 that would
launch them to stardom. This was all gained with Pete’s help, but he wouldn’t be there
with them when they broke through. Instead, Ringo Starr was drafted in at the last
minute to join their wild roller-coaster ride to fame.
Pete remembered that fateful day he received the life-changing news. “Epstein saw
me the night before and said that he wanted to see me in the morning, which was not
unusual. However, when I arrived there Epstein was agitated and I knew something was
wrong. Finally he came out with it: ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, Pete, but the boys
want you out and Ringo is joining them on Saturday’. Epstein by this time was almost
Pete left Epstein’s office and went home to tell Mo. He just told her, “They kicked me out
of The Beatles”, and broke down.
They had been so close in Hamburg, living, eating, and playing together. Pete shared a
room with Paul, spent the night in the cells with him and they were deported together.
They grew up together in Hamburg, as John once said. However, there were supposedly
rumblings of discontent from John, Paul and George about Pete. When the band was
offered the EMI recording contract as John, Paul, George and Pete, George Martin had
questioned Pete’s drumming, and suddenly, he was out.
Subsequently, Ringo Starr didn’t pass the audition either, and session drummer Andy
White was brought in to drum on three songs. So neither Pete nor Ringo were the ideal
solution at that moment. It doesn’t mean that either of them were bad drummers, but
underscores that Pete’s dismissal wasn’t down to drumming ability alone. Ringo had
the same problem. They were ‘live’ drummers used to playing in big halls and concert
venues. Drumming for a record is a different skill altogether, which Ringo was given the
opportunity to develop with The Beatles. His style was different. “Drummers were asked
to play like me”, Ringo said when talking about his style. “I’m naturally left-handed, but
drum right-handed. I was born left-handed, but my grandmother believed that was a
witch’s spell and she made me write right-handed”. He eventually became one of the
world’s most skilled drummers.
If the EMI recordings from June are the only evidence on which to judge Pete’s drumming,
it is possible to understand the decision to replace him. But then, on that evidence,
would you have signed The Beatles as a group?
However, listen to “My Bonnie” and the recordings that Pete and The Beatles made with
Tony Sheridan as The Beat Brothers. His drumming is steady, much brighter and livelier
than the sessions at Decca or EMI. Does the way it was recorded make a difference?
This is where it can get technical, so I enlisted the help of Don Dorsey, a recording
engineer who has worked in Abbey Road.
He discussed with me the differences between drumming
in a live band and in a recording studio.
“A recording studio environment is quite different to a live environment”, Dorsey
explained. “In a live hall all band members are relatively close together and all their sound output mixes in the environment—the drummer hears everything.
In a recording studio it would be customary for the drummer to
be separated from the rest of the band with a large wall-like
“The purpose of baffles is to keep sounds from one player intruding
too much into the microphones of the others. As a result, to hear
other band members well, headphones must be used and the sound
would be nothing like a live appearance. If the large wall baffles were
used, visual clues for the drummer would also be restricted because
the baffles have only small windows. If the drummer could not
hear things as he was used to he might therefore play differently.
For example, he might play more softly to attempt to hear better or
he might lag behind the beat.
“Even if baffles weren’t used, the set-up would be unusual to them.
In a studio you don’t hear things the same way you do in a live
environment—you’re restricted by the technical needs to have some
isolation between microphones.
“I don’t think any of this would be an issue from an engineer’s point
of view because engineers just set up microphones and made
everything that was happening in the room sound as good as
possible. From a producer’s viewpoint though, everything must go
quickly, easily and smoothly. Working with an unknown drummer
would probably cause any producer who knew an experienced
drummer to choose the latter just so the project could be completed
“It’s hard to know what people were thinking forty-five years ago, but
my best guess is a cultural one. Perhaps the most relevant factor at
that time may have been a prevailing attitude that ‘drums all sound
the same in the studio, so why not change drummers if it makes
production easier, quicker or cheaper?’ It wasn’t until years later that
drummers had clearly established that they truly had unique sounds,
playing styles and personalities that made a difference to the sound
of a band. For me it’s easy to imagine how Pete or Ringo were
considered ‘just the drummer’ and not the ‘sound’ of the band, which
would be predominantly from the vocals (and guitars, as far as anyone knew). In those
days it was the song and the singers that were considered the real meat of a record.
“To a producer, the term ‘session drummer’ means ‘I know he can and will do the job
because he’s done it before’. When The Beatles were trying to break into the recording
world, the drummer was probably generally seen as ‘the weakest link’. Goodbye.
After reading Dorsey’s technical insight it is no surprise that EMI, with a limited budget
and studio time available, opted for a session drummer. Ringo was a mate who had
sat in with The Beatles when Pete wasn’t available. That only happened on a couple
of occasions and was not a regular occurrence as some have made out. On one
occasion, Pete had a virus, and so on 5 February 1962 Ringo sat in with The Beatles.
There were no repeated absences on Pete’s part. Local bands routinely swapped and
borrowed players. It was not unusual at all.
Merseybeat drummers are split on who was the better of the two.
I spoke to Mike Rice, who was a drummer with Liverpool band The Senators
in the sixties. I asked him for an impartial view on Pete and Ringo.
“They were both good drummers, and personally I preferred Pete to Ringo, but there
wasn’t much between them. As a drummer, he was all right for The Beatles, but I’ve
seen better drummers.
“I liked Pete’s style of drumming. He does what I believe drummers should do and
that is keeping a good rhythm, a strong beat, without too much fancy work. I always
found that if a drummer is too fancy, it clouds the music. (This too was Ringo’s
stated philosophy on drumming.) Some drummers over the years look for every little
space, and then they’ll throw in some extra drum rolls or something and it spoils it.
Ringo does it well, even if he was tempted at times. Drumming is very much down to
opinion. Some people think I’m good, others don’t. It’s a matter of opinion”.
Rice, like most musicians, watched the drumming styles of all the bands. He could
see and hear things that others couldn’t.
“Pete was always one of my favourites. He was dynamic with the sound he was
punching out. People tried to analyse it. It was the bass drum that stood out—the
atom beat—but there was so much more to it than that. He could use his snare and
put a variety in the beat, not just the straight 4/4 atom beat. At a gig we were playing,
Pete was also on the bill, though not with The Beatles. I’d seen him lots of times at
The Cavern and other places. He was on before us, and I liked his drumming”.
Rice shot down the notion that Pete was sacked because he wasn’t
a good enough drummer.
“I’d say it was wrong. I reckon it was jealousy from the other Beatles. He had a good
following from the fans even though he was at the back. He was a fantastic drummer.
I watched drummers all the time. You listened for the sound and knew which drums
and cymbals he was hitting without watching, and he was drumming right. You can
have a drummer who is great on a set of drums, even playing simply, and it sounds
right. Then you can get an average drummer on the same kit and it is completely
different. I can tell. If you get it wrong it is very noticeable.
“Ringo, in my opinion, was the safe option, not as good looking, and would not
dominate the sound like Pete did. Maybe that was the problem. Take John, Paul or
George out of The Beatles and you have no Beatles. Each contribution was significant
to the sound. Take Ringo or Pete out and the music and song writing would not have been much different, especially at the beginning of their recording
career, and you would still have The Beatles. Ringo had such a
great attitude and was a good drummer. He had the least ego and
did a good job, so I’m not knocking him. He was—and still is—
a great drummer”.
Regardless of whom was better, the only fact that mattered was
that George Martin sought to bring in another drummer at the
September 1962 EMI session and Pete’s card was marked.
Another reason given for Pete’s dismissal was that he didn’t fit in with
the rest of the group. This is one that only John, Paul and George
could answer, so we’ll never truly know. If it was a problem, who
would this most affect? John Winston Lennon, whose devil-may-care
attitude made him judge, jury and hangman in one. John could be
ruthless at times. He had learned to fight with his mouth from an
early age and had slayed many a foe with his sharp tongue. Many
crumbled under his tirade of abuse, yet Pete was closer to John than
to any of the others. If there was such a clash or problem with his
background or personality, it never openly surfaced.
The only two of the six Beatles who weren’t Scousers were Stuart—
who was from Edinburgh in Scotland, with Scottish parents—and
Pete who was born in India with a father from Liverpool, but his
mother grew up in India. Did it make a difference? Maybe what he
didn’t know was that unless you had that ingrained working class
“scouse” mentality, you would never survive in The Beatles.
In March 1966, John Lennon gave an interview in which he claimed
that The Beatles were “more popular than Jesus”. By the time the
US press and radio stations had whipped up a furore, Lennon had
received death threats and their US tour was in doubt. The reaction
from fans forced the band to close ranks and brought them closer
together. Ringo, as a Scouser, could understand their mentality and
knew what it took to break into this close-knit group. Once in, the Fab
Four were impenetrable. Even so, he said in The Beatles Anthology
that it took years to feel part of the group. He also said, “I had to
join them as people, as well as a drummer”. His natural Scouse wit
and sense of humour won him many admirers, particularly on the
There was a suggestion that Pete was moody. Bob Wooler
described Pete as “mean, moody and magnificent” and many have
taken this the wrong way. Wooler intimated that Pete reminded him
of a film star, with those “bedroom eyes” and film-star good looks.
Girls swooned when they saw him, while men conceded Pete was
a good-looking guy.
Because of his effect on the opposite sex, many have said that Pete’s
natural good looks made the other Beatles jealous. This feeling also
wasn’t helped when Bob Wooler introduced The Beatles at The
Cavern with: “It’s time for John, Paul, George and... Pete”, at which
point the screams reached an unbelievable crescendo. Ray Ennis
of the Swinging Blue Jeans recalled on one occasion when Pete
was singing “Matchbox” in The Cavern, that John, Paul and George
were asked to sit down on the edge of the stage by the female fans
so that they could see Pete.
For their gig at Litherland Town Hall on 7 August 1961, the newspaper advertisement
proclaimed “Hear Pete Best sing tonight”. When Mersey Beat announced the recording
contract had been secured, the congratulatory ad was accompanied by a photo of
Pete on his own, not of the four Beatles.
That their female admirers loved Pete, there is no doubt. But it wasn’t as if the others
didn’t have their fair share of girls—there were more than enough to go round, so this
too is unlikely as a reason on its own. Pete was an asset to the group; even George
Martin commented that he didn’t see a need to change the physical line-up of the
group. However, when you are dealing with young men, egos are involved and so
many believe, as do I, that this would have been a factor.
There are so many reasons but it comes down to John, Paul and George as the band
members who were responsible for Pete getting the axe. George Harrison stated he
felt most responsible for Pete’s sacking as he had campaigned hard for Ringo, who
was his friend. Paul had been involved in some arguments with Pete over his drumming
and had taken to sometimes showing him how he wanted them played. Ironically, that
was the very reason George left The Beatles when Paul tried to show him how to play
his guitar during the Let It Be sessions, and why Ringo walked out while recording
The White Album.
It wasn’t just Ringo who was approached to replace Pete as some have claimed.
According to Spencer Leigh’s book, Drummed Out, John met former Quarrymen banjo
player Rod Davis in March 1962. Davis told him that he had made a record and played
guitar, banjo, fiddle and other string instruments. John said, “You don’t play drums,
do you? We need a drummer to head back to Hamburg”. Davis admitted it was his
second bad career move! Dakota’s drummer Tony Mansfield recalled that Epstein also
approached the band’s manager, Rick Dixon, to ask about his availability.
Then there’s the matter of musician Johnny “Hutch” Hutchinson. He was regarded
as the best drummer in Liverpool and sat in for Pete before Ringo arrived, and surely
would have been the favourite. Bob Wooler told Epstein that Hutchinson would
suit The Beatles perfectly. Epstein asked Hutchinson, “What do you think, John?”
Hutchinson responded without hesitation. “I wouldn’t join The Beatles for a gold clock.
There’s only one group as far as I’m concerned and that’s The Big Three. The Beatles
couldn’t make a better sound than that and anyway, Pete was a very good friend of
mine and I couldn’t do the dirty on him like that, but why don’t you get Ringo? Ringo’s
a bum—Ringo will join anybody for a few bob”. Hutchinson sat in with The Beatles between Pete’s departure and
Ringo joining. Bob Wooler noted that there was considerable friction
on stage between Hutchinson and Lennon. “The Beatles didn’t want
a drummer who would be a force to be reckoned with”, observed
Wooler, “hence, Johnny Hutch didn’t stand a chance”. Not only
did Ringo have a different drumming style, he had a different, more
affable personality than Pete, and has been described as being
more charismatic. He wasn’t chosen for his looks but received sackfulls
of mail from female fans anyway.
In time Ringo became an integral member of The Beatles and
in hindsight not many could say the decision was a wrong one.
When they landed on the shores of America, he came into his
own and his quick wit and funny personality made him stand out.
He has worked with some of the leading musicians in the industry
who rate him as one of the top drummers of all time. Ringo wasn’t
an also-ran, a second-class drummer who they put up with. He
had a great reputation and was there on merit. Those that know
about the events of Pete’s sacking have either died or refuse to talk.
Bob Wooler at one time supposedly threatened Epstein that he
would go to the press with the truth, but was talked out of it at the
last minute. We will probably never know exactly what happened,
but as Spencer Leigh concludes, it was most likely a combination
of many elements.
I am often asked for my opinion on Pete Best’s dismissal, so this is
Many authors create their theories from hindsight. They start at
Ringo and begin to make comparisons between him and Pete Best.
Who was the better drummer? Who was the better looking? Who
had the better personality? Who fitted in best?
However, I would like to start at a point before Ringo appears on
the scene. When Pete signed the recording contract as a member
of The Beatles, he was entitled to his equal cut of the profits. Yet, if
George Martin was going to use a session drummer for the records,
why should John, Paul and George give their drummer a quarter
share of the proceeds when he wouldn’t even be playing?
The money from the record sales would therefore be better cut three
ways instead of four. That way, they could hire a session drummer
on a fixed weekly rate instead of sharing a chunk of the profits,
which weren’t expected to be great at this stage. Their royalty rate
at the time was only one penny per record.
When Ringo joined the group, he signed for £25 per week on a
probationary basis, not a quarter–share, full member of The Beatles.
Peter Brown, who had worked closely with Brian Epstein since their
days in NEMS in Liverpool was quoted as saying, “The terms were
that Ringo would be paid £25 per week for a probationary period,
and if things worked out he would be made a member”.
At that stage, the other three Beatles were taking £50 per week,
plus they were due a share of the proceeds from their records and
Consider what happened to Nigel Walley, The Quarrymen tea-chest bass player who
became their first manager. It was Nigel, a childhood friend of John’s, who booked
their first proper gig at the local golf club and then got them into The Cavern for
the first time. He also made other bookings. However, once The Quarrymen had
built up a following, it was Paul who suggested that Nigel’s managerial fee be cut off
because he didn’t contribute. Likewise, Ken Brown was eased out of The Quarrymen
at The Casbah over fifteen shillings (75 pence), because Ken didn’t play and so
John, Paul and George demanded Ken’s share, to split it three ways instead of four.
Allan Williams was the recipient of similar treatment. Williams procured bookings,
drove the group personally to Hamburg and set them up. On The Beatles’ second
visit to Hamburg, when they moved to another club, they dropped Williams and did
not pay him his usual commission because they arranged the booking themselves.
In all three situations, it was a financial decision, with the non-contributing person
eased out of the picture.
Only on 20 June 1963—nearly a year after he joined them—when Beatles Ltd. was
set up did Ringo Starr become an equal member of the band. Even then he was on a
lesser share of The Beatles performances from concerts. Ringo eventually became a
fully-fledged Beatle and his performances as a drummer and a personality ultimately
made him a very popular member. However, he spent nearly twelve months as a
session drummer with The Beatles trying to earn his place in the band permanently.
In my theory, Ringo doesn’t feature in the plan yet, because this was all about getting
rid of Pete from the band,as the other members didn’t feel that Pete should share
the profits, because he wasn’t going to appear on the records. Once that decision
was made, thoughts then turned to a replacement, who would be happy to join
them on a fixed rate. The incentive for the replacement drummer was the record deal.
Enter Ringo, a drummer they knew well, who happily signed up to the deal on offer.
So my theory is that The Beatles got rid of Pete because they wanted to split the profits
from the records three ways instead of four, with the non-contributing person eased
out. Pete was dismissed, like Ken Brown, Nigel Walley and Allan Williams, over money.
The Beatles had played together for two years, with Pete as drummer. It was only
when George Martin told Brian that Pete wasn’t going to be playing on the records that
John, Paul and George acted, swiftly.
It could be surmised that they weren’t sure how long fame would last, and they were
determined to grab every penny while they could. History shows they had no problem
sticking it to friends and associates with little or no remorse. If they were going to enjoy
maybe six months of fame and fortune, they could split the profits three ways instead
of four, then pay Ringo a flat rate. If they became successful Ringo could join them
permanently. If fame eluded them, then John, Paul and George could at least split their
meagre earnings three ways, instead of four.
Whatever the main reason was, clearly several factors were taken into account and
that between them, John, Paul, George and Brian decided Pete had to go. When
there were suggestions from George Martin to bring in a session drummer, they didn’t
think twice about dropping Pete. As Allan Williams commented, “All groups are
users. They are ruthless”. Alistair Taylor once said that Pete was simply not a Beatle.
John was even quoted as saying the same: “Pete Best was a great drummer but
Ringo was a Beatle”.
Pete was a Beatle for two years and played an important role in the formation of
the band until August 1962. He was a vital cog of the band that took Hamburg and
Liverpool by storm and secured a recording contract. What brought it to an end will
probably never be revealed, but his contribution nonetheless cannot be ignored.