Interview with Pete Best
October 16, 2005
More than 40 years later, Pete Best says he still doesn't know why the Beatles dumped him for Ringo
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sunhttp://jam.canoe.ca/Music/2005/10/16/1264163.html
Was Ringo Starr a better drummer than Pete Best?
"No," the friendly Best said, with a chuckle of resignation, during an exclusive interview with the Toronto Sun.
"Some people might say that's just drummer's pride being the way it is. But being truthful, no. That's my own personal opinion. Others may voice their own opinion, but you've asked me my opinion and I'm giving it."
Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of the history of rock 'n' roll knows the name Pete Best.
He was the drummer for the Beatles but was kicked out of the band and replaced by Ringo mere months before the lads gained international fame.
Amazingly, there still has been no communication between Pete Best and the Beatles since the day he was fired. Not a phone call. Not a card. Not a letter. No chance meetings on the streets of Liverpool.
"That's true," said Best, 64. "A lot of people might say, 'Oh, it's so easy to get in touch with them.' But when you actually put it in black and white, it brings reality home.
"Life goes on and you hold your head high. But I've done that basically on my own. Once the decision was made and the split actually took place, they went their way, I went mine, and there has been no sort of reconciliation since then."
Best continues to tour with his own band, something he has done since 1988, following 20 years in the British civil service. Best will play three shows in this area later this month (Oct. 25 at the Casbah in Hamilton, Oct. 26 at J's Place in Brantford and Oct. 27 at the Drake Hotel in Toronto).
Best recently released a new DVD, Best Of The Beatles, that tells his life story. It includes some shocking tales, such as the time Beatles manager Brian Epstein -- who was as openly gay as you could be in the 1960s -- propositioned Pete.
Did Pete's rejection of Brian's sexual advances have something to do with the ouster?
"It's just something that, yeah, it happened," Best told the Sun. "We were aware of Brian's gayness. The hit on me was made. It was rejected. People who were aware were like, 'You rejected him, you're in trouble.' Well, it's not my cup of tea. You do what you want, but you're not doing it with me."
Best does not recall there being any palpable tension between himself and Epstein afterward.
"Nope, not that anyone was aware of," Best said. "John (Lennon) and Cynthia (Lennon's first wife) killed themselves laughing, saying, 'What?' People around Liverpool said, 'You got (Epstein's) feathers ruffled because you wouldn't drop your (pants).' But look at it from my point of view."
Equally eyebrow-raising was Best's recollection of the night in Hamburg, Germany, in the early 1960s when the four lads from Liverpool tried to mug a sailor.
Paul McCartney and George Harrison chickened out at the last minute. So Pete and John jumped the guy. A scuffle ensued. They grabbed the sailor's wallet. But then they noticed the sailor had a gun in his hand.
"We heard this blast and we didn't wait around to see if it was a gas gun or a real gun," Best said. "We ran off."
Pete and John hurried back to where they were staying and met up with Paul and George again. Pete thought John had the wallet. John thought Pete had it. As it turned out, the wallet had been dropped in the panic and confusion.
"It had seemed so easy," Best said.
Obviously, any discussion with Best eventually drifts back to the same question. Theories have abounded through the years as to why Best got the axe.
"In my heart of hearts, I really don't know," Best said. "That's the enigma, the whole thing that is clouded in subterfuge. That mystery still prevails.
"There's at most only two or three people alive who may know the definitive reason, or would be prepared to say what the definitive reason was. But if that is mentioned as the definitive reason, it still is going to lay itself open to criticism. People would ask, 'Where is he coming from? What's his angle?' "
Best is past the point of bitterness.