Drummer Pete Best, Un-Beatled But Unbowed

Friday, August 4, 2006

Pete Best may well be the biggest loser in musical history. As his story goes: The Beatles were essentially born in the basement of his family's home in Liverpool, and by Best's count, he drummed 1,000 shows with the band. But in the summer of 1962, Best was fired just as the other three Fabs picked up Ringo Starr and set off to change the world. Best never heard from any of his former mates again. He says he still doesn't know exactly why he was drummed out, though he thinks it might be because he was too good-looking.

Yet, the Pete Best who sat in with a quintet of fellow Liverpudlians at Jammin' Java on Wednesday has a few things to teach the world.

At 64, he makes for an amazing role model for anybody whining about any of life's woulda-shoulda-couldas. While his current band mates went through a set of songs that his transcendent childhood chums had played with him and then made famous without him -- "P.S. I Love You," "Twist and Shout" and "Slow Down," among others -- Best smiled as though he's the luckiest man alive. Obsessive Beatles fans, which the full house was loaded with, view him that way.

The crowd gave a Trekkie vibe to the proceedings. Several folks yelled "Cry for a Shadow!" long before emcee and singer Chris Cavanaugh had even finished asking if anybody could name the only George Harrison-John Lennon composition in the Beatles' canon.

As a drummer, alas, Best doesn't have much to impart. Though billed as "the man who put the beat in the Beatles," he has so little faith in his own chops that he brings his halfbrother Roag (fathered scandalously by the Beatles' then-roadie and current Apple Corps managing director, Neil Aspinall) on tour to sit beside him and handle the more complicated drum parts. That left Pete to tap on cymbals and a snare and, on "I Saw Her Standing There," to rock his head from side to side on the beat, as a Beatle would.

-- Dave McKenna

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