Getting rid of Best was not an easy decision. The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein had asked Cavern DJ Bob Wooler if it was a good idea, but Wooler told him that the handsome Best was too popular with the fans.
Brian Epstein told me that Pete Best was going to be sacked. I could imagine it with someone who was constantly late or giving him problems, but Pete Best was not awkward and he didn’t step out of line. I was most indignant and I said, ‘Why are you doing this?’ but I didn’t get an answer.
Best had been with the group since 12 August 1960. He was never given a reason for his dismissal, which took place at 10am on this day at Epstein’s NEMS record shop. Best was dropped off at 10am by the group’s driver, Neil Aspinall, who was in a relationship with Best’s mother Mona.
Neil drove me into town and dropped me off in Whitechapel. I found Brian in a very uneasy mood when I joined him in his upstairs office. He came out with a lot of pleasantries and talked anything but business, which was unlike him. These were obviously delaying tactics and something important, I knew, was on his mind. Then he mustered enough courage to drop the bombshell.
‘The boys want you out and Ringo in.’
I was stunned and found words difficult. Only one echoed through my mind. Why, why why?
‘They don’t think you’re a good enough drummer, Pete,’ Brian went on. ‘And George Martin doesn’t think you’re a good enough drummer.’
‘I consider myself as good, if not better, than Ringo,’ I could hear myself saying. Then I asked: ‘Does Ringo know about this yet?’
‘He’s joining on Saturday,’ Eppy said.
So everything was all neatly packaged. A conspiracy had clearly been going on for some time behind my back, but not one of the other Beatles could find the courage to tell me. The stab in the back had been left to Brian, and it had been left until almost the last minute. Even Ringo had been a party to it, someone else I had considered to be a pal until this momentous day…
Epstein went on to what for him was simply next business at this shattering meeting. ‘There are still a couple of venues left before Ringo joins – will you play?’
‘Yes,’ I nodded, not really knowing what I was saying, for my mind was in a turmoil. How could this happen to me? Why had it taken two years for John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison to decide that my drumming was not of a high enough standard for them? Dazed, I made my way out of Brian’s office. Downstairs, Neil was waiting for me. ‘What’s happened?’ he asked as soon as he saw me, ‘you look as if you’ve seen a ghost.’
Beatle! The Pete Best Story, by Pete Best and Patrick Doncaster
Also on this day...
- 1968: Recording: While My Guitar Gently Weeps
- 1966: Live: John F Kennedy Stadium, Philadelphia
- 1965: John Lennon’s Mellotron is delivered to Weybridge
- 1965: Day off in New York
- 1964: Live: Opera House, Blackpool
- 1963: Live: Odeon Cinema, Llandudno
- 1962: Live: Riverpark Ballroom, Chester
- 1961: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (evening)
- 1960: Travel: Liverpool to Hamburg
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.