It was a hot day in the summer of 1994 when I was talking with a
director at FM North Wave about what we should do in my morning show to
celebrate the radio station's first anniversary. There was a ten-minute
feature section in the show called "Glocalian Eyes" where I would
interview various people around the world every morning - from the owner
of a local guitar shop to celebrities whom you might recognize if I name
them. I thought I should feature someone special for the "anniversary"
broadcast. Who should it be? At the time a movie called "Back Beat"
was on and people were talking about the guy who had been let out of the
Beatles just before they made their debut. I decided to interview the
man who didn't get around to become a Beatle - Pete Best.
I called him at his home in Liverpool. He was relaxed and the first
thing we talked about was a thing we had in common - Sapporo Beer. He
said, "Oh, you're living in a beer town!" Yes, Sapporo is the
birthplace of Sapporo Beer. Following a good icebreaker we dived into
How He Became a Beatle
Pete said he had known the Beatles before he joined the band because
they would often play at the Casbah Club that his mother owned. He
would listen to the boys perform onstage, chat with the boys after the
show but he never got to play together. One day he got a call from a
guy who introduced himself as Paul. The voice over the phone said, "You
wanna join us?" Pete simply said yes and the next day he was rehearsing
six songs with John, Paul, George and Stuart. Then they gigged at the
Jacaranda and the following day they were on their way to Hamburg. He
said he was very excited to go abroad for the first time in his life.
He says he looks back on the two years with affection that he spent with
the Beatles. Every night the five of them did their best to entertain
people - every moment has left him with good memories. In spite of the
fact that he was kicked out of the band soon after that, he still
considers the two years as the most precious time of his life. He was
nineteen years old when he joined the Beatles. Yes, it was with the Fab
Four (or should I say Fab Five) that he spent the energetic time of his youth.
Love Me Tender
You might remember a couple of footages from the movie Back Beat. In
the middle of the movie, Stuart sings "Love Me Tender", and at the end
John sings that song for the late Stuart straight into "Twist And
Shout". Did that actually happen? I asked him if the footages were
based on a real story. "Yes, Stu would often sing Love Me Tender. He
used to do that song even before he met Astrid," said Pete. What about
John? Did he ever sing that song, too? "Well, that was one of the
songs on their regular setlist, so I would say he might have done that
tune." Did he or did he not? He didn't remember. At least it was
before Pete joined the band that John sang the song, if ever.
What did they have in mind when the Beatles went to Abbey Road Studios
on June 6, 1962? He said confidently - "We are the Beatles!" The band
was very tight and every member strongly believed that they would make
it if they showed George Martin what they did every night onstage.
"Yes, we were a little nervous but we all thought we were going to be
the #1 in England," said Pete, "but I never thought that they would be
I had to ask him a question - what happened on August 16, 1962. The day
he was told to get out of the group. What did Brian Epstein tell him?
"We did a gig at the Cavern Club the night before. We had a great time
as usual. Nothing seemed strange. In fact we said to each other 'See
ya tomorrow'. Then Brian came up to me and asked me if I could come to
his office tomorrow morning. I was doing the business side of the band
and I thought he was going to talk to me about the schedule or
something. I went to his office at 10:00 A.M. the following day. He
treated me a little strange. He seemed nervous. Then he looked at me
and said 'The boys want you out. We already have another drummer.' I
was shocked. I was totally at a loss what to do."
He went right home where he found his mother and Neil Aspinall waiting
for him. "What happened?", they asked but he couldn't say a word. "I
wasn't angry or furious. I was just sad that I was no longer on the
team. I was sad knowing that I would never share the fun that I had
with them the night before. That they didn't think of me as a friend."
He happened to see them a few time but never talked to each other, and
has never to this day. He started to talk fast and sounded a little
uneasy. I changed the subject.
What is the most important thing for him now? "My family", he answered
without hesitation. "I walked out of the show business in 1968 because
I thought that would be good for the family. It took me some time to
decide but I wanted to spend more time with my wife and two daughters
who were always beside me. I wanted to do everything I could for them."
He looked for a "steady" job but everywhere he went he was told, "Well,
I think you are a very good man, but you would quit the job if you found
another chance to be a musician, wouldn't you?" Then he got a job at a
bakery where he worked for one year, proving that he was "steady", and
he was finally employed at the Liverpool City Hall. He continued his
story. "One day my daughter came home and said, 'My classmate asked me
if you were a Beatle. Were you?' I said, 'Yes, I was. I was let out
of the band before they became rich and famous. I wasn't able to have
the luck. But I have you. I have my family. I'm happy with you, your
sister and your Mom. I'm happier than I would have been with the Beatles.'"
Now and Forever
He was living with his wife and two daughters, 29 and 25, in Liverpool
when I interviewed him in 1994. He got a new job and his colleagues
understand what he wants to do as a musician. He formed a band and is
now enjoying making records and touring around the world. A few days
after the interview he was off to Canada for concerts, and one of his
daughters got married when he came back home to Liverpool . He started
to sound like a happy father. I thought I could see him smiling. He
said he was going to tour Italy, Germany and Sweden with his new band.
He is living a happy life surrounded by all his good buddies - and his family.
To end the interview, I asked the question again. Why did they let you
out? He answered slowly and confidently, "Many things have been said
about what happened, but I don't know either. Maybe someday. One thing
I'm sure of is that all the things that have happened to me, good and
bad, happy and sad, have made me what I am today."
His daughters might have had children by now and probably there will
come a day when he tells the story of his youth to his grandchildren
just like he did to his daughter.