An Evening With Pete Best
Part I: The Interview

Review by Peter McCormack




Rickenbacker Forum

"From Casbah to Playhouse"
Pete Best at Fredericton Playhouse (September 12, 2000)
Photo 2000 Peter McCormack





Overiew of "Best of The Beatles" Show and Format

On Tuesday September 12, 2000 Pete Best visited Fredericton, N. B as part of the "Best of The Beatles" Tour. The concert was held at The Fredericton Playhouse. The evening, which began at 8:00 PM and carried on to 11:30 PM, was a show filled with the very early history of The Beatles and gave fans the opportunity to hear Pete's comments about "The Fab Four", Hamburg and Liverpool. Throughtout the engagement, fans were treated to: Best's memories of the early days at the Casbah Coffee House in Liverpool; The Beatles' first two tours of Hamburg; an interview hosted by a local radio announcer from Captial FM, Mark Philips, about how the group began and early recordings; the opportunity to ask questions of Pete; the chance to see him drum with an excellent backup group to a many Beatle classics; and a meeting with him at the end of the show. Best's affable manner, the outstanding efforts of his group and great sound engineering and lighting made this show a truly memorable one.




Rickenbacker Forum

"Meet The Beatles' First Drummer"
Mark Philips and Pete Best
Photo 2000 Peter McCormack





Casbah Coffee Club: "The Birth of The Beatles"

Pete began with some early history of the Casbah Coffee Club in Liverpool which, as it turns out, was created in the basement of his family home by his mother Mona "Mo" Best. An enterprising business person, Ms. Best seized the opportunity afford by the rock and roll fervor that was developing with regard to the popularity of beat clubs emerging all over Liverpool in the late 1950s. The family began to make restorations of their basement and Peter related that only moments after a sign was placed on the door that customers began to frequent the Casbah. Apparently the first group booked by the Club was comprised of George Harrison and Ken Brown. In a surprise turn of events, Pete received a call from George saying that the group had recently broken up and that they would be unable to appear. George did, however, bring along a couple of friends in the days before the Casbah opening and Pete was introduced to John Lennon and Paul McCartney who joined Harrison for the first gig. After some discussion, the group called themselves "The Quarry Men." Of particular interest is the fact that John, Paul and George used their artistic talents to decorate the club. The ceiling artwork consisting of a rainbow painted by Paul and stars created by George can still be seen on the ceiling of the Casbah today, 41 years later. The first perfomance at the Casbah was also to become the "Birthplace of The Beatles" on August 29, 1959. Although the group was without a drummer at the time, Pete explained that it was evident then that they had talent. The Quarry Men were paid three pounds a night. Not long thereafter, Best was to join them as a drummer.





Off To Hamburg: Smuggled In and Kicked Out

Alan Williams made the arrangements to get The Beatles into Germany for the first time and the group travelled by van under the guise that they were "students." As young adults, Pete recalls that "we got into a lot of trouble because there was too much beer and snaps and too many women." He recalled playing venues including the Kaiserkeller at a terrible pace with performances lasting six hours a night and for six to seven days a week. The Beatles negotiation with the "Top Ten Club" would eventually anger the proprietor of the Kaiserkeller who eventually had them deported from Germany because of a prank pulled by Pete and Paul that was alleged to have been "setting a fire in the Kaiserkeller." The prank consisted of the two Beatles attaching condoms to the concrete wall of the establishment and then setting them ablaze. The Beatles were five in those days, Pete Best, George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Stu Sutcliffe. In response to a question from the audience, Pete Best made a point of mentioning that there was some folklore that had characterized Stu Sutcliffe as a shy individual who was a poor bass player. It was his view, however, that Sutcliffe was an adequate bass player who was animated during performances and not withdrawn as story has it. In response to questions surrounding the death of Stu, Best mentioned that while he and Lennon had rescued Sutcliffe from a fight, it was his view that this altercation was not responsible for Sutcliffe's death. In commenting on the importance of the Hamburg visits, Best acknowledged that it was a valuable experience as the group gained popularity and also made contacts with people such as Klaus Voorman, Astrid Kirschner and Tony Sheridan who played a role in their success.




Rickenbacker Forum

"Reliving The History"
Mark Philips and Pete Best
Photo 2000 Peter McCormack





Guitars and Amplifiers: "Lennon's Famous Rickenbacker"

In response to several questions with regard to John Lennon and his Rickenbacker guitar, Best had several comments. He recalled that Lennon was playing a Hofner Club 40 model at the time. Hamburg, offered John the opportunity to purchase instruments that were not available in Liverpool. In referring to John Lennon, Best recalled "He tried out a short-arm Rickenbacker at a shop in Hamburg. He loved the sound and the ease with which he could move up and down the neck. He didn't like the pickup arrangement though or the "vibrator arm." So he changed the arm to a Bigsby which was popular at the time. He didn't like the resonance of the guitar so he tinkered with the pickups." Best said that he did not know why Lennon had his instrument painted black or who did the work as this was after his time. He made several comments about the amplifiers used by The Beatles in the early days noting that Lennon had a small Fender, Paul a True Voice bass amplifier and Harrison a Gibson.





Early Recording: Kampfert to Martin

The Beatles were approached by Bert Kampfert (of "Wonderland By Night" fame) at the Top Ten Club and asked if they would be willing to record with Tony Sheridan. The Beatles were soon signed to a Polydor recording contract and recorded "My Bonnie", "In the School Hall", "Cry for A Shadow" and "Ain't She Sweet." The group was billed as Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers apparently because Kampfert felt that Tony Sheridan would be the act that would last and other groups who backed him could always be called the Beat Borthers. Additionally, according to Best, the name Beatle in German closely resembles the name for "the human appendage" and they didn't fancy being known as "Tony Sheridan and the Pricks." While the Polydor record was not a lucrative one, "My Bonnie" would eventually be the impetus for Brian Epstein's curiosity. Epstein made them an offer that seemed reasonable and so over a few pints at the "Grapes" The Beatles agreed. Although there were struggles with Epstein with regard to the groups appearance and manners, in the balance, Best felt that the group did very well by his guidance. It was apparently Epstein's guidance that had The Beatles writing original material during their second trip to Hamburg in preparation for a recording contract that Epstein was exploring with EMI and George Martin. Best apparently saw The Beatles briefly at concerts where they played with his band "Lee Curtis and The All Stars." But from the early 1960s until the present day, Best has had no contact with them. Of particular interest, was Pete's comments that "P.S. I Love You" was a song written by Paul to remember Stu Sutcliffe. Epstein's headsup was successful for The Beatles who had enough original material ready for George Martin who eventually chose "Love Me Do."



Pete Best Part II: The Performance




Rickenbacker Forum


Rickenbacker Forum

Rickenbacker Resource