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Pete Best: why was he really kicked out? Was it fair?
3 December 2014
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Oudis
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Ron Nasty said
You're still missing the biggest point I've been making, @Oudis. Pete made his choice about the relationship he wanted with John, Paul and George. You can call it unfair should you want, but it would be equally unfair to expect them to put up with his attitude towards them, that he had no interest in being friends, no interest in being part of the gang. He made that choice, not them.

Oh, @Ron Nasty, you’re assuming one does have control over one’s attitudes, feelings, emotions, or character; but we are not in command of our personality. The poor lad might have been introverted, moody, shy, who knows (maybe he was just a loner, but loners usually suffer because they are loners)… Maybe today he would be taking medication and undergoing psychotherapy. “Choosing” is not the right word I think. He probably couldn’t help being the way he was.

Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit” (“Perhaps one day it will be a pleasure to look back on even this”; Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 1, line 203, where Aeneas says this to his men after the shipwreck that put them on the shores of Africa)

3 December 2014
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@Joe With the letter being from Paul, supports my argument that there was there no way he was going to Hamburg as their drummer. They were grabbing at straws, because no way was Paul doing it.

By the way, Lewisohn has Pete auditioning on the Saturday and not the Friday.

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4 December 2014
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Oudis said

Ron Nasty said
You're still missing the biggest point I've been making, @Oudis. Pete made his choice about the relationship he wanted with John, Paul and George. You can call it unfair should you want, but it would be equally unfair to expect them to put up with his attitude towards them, that he had no interest in being friends, no interest in being part of the gang. He made that choice, not them.

Oh, @Ron Nasty, you’re assuming one does have control over one’s attitudes, feelings, emotions, or character; but we are not in command of our personality. The poor lad might have been introverted, moody, shy, who knows (maybe he was just a loner, but loners usually suffer because they are loners)… Maybe today he would be taking medication and undergoing psychotherapy. “Choosing” is not the right word I think. He probably couldn’t help being the way he was.

That's a cop out. I am sorry if this is going to come off as curt, but damn that is a cop out. You may not control who you are, but you do control how you come off to people, how you express yourself, and how you act towards and with your friends. If it was important to come to that sort of understanding, rapport, genuine friendship with his bandmates, it would have happened. It was his choice to let whatever issues he may have had isolate himself from the others. The argument that someone can't help being that way is just damn false. It's excuse making on a level that astonishes me. That both says that nothing that ever happened to Pete isn't his fault, and also patronizes him, and everyone else who struggles with very serious issues. 

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4 December 2014
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You CAN control who you are, though. If you're always thinking negatively, then you're going to be a drag. If you want to be happy and loved, and you genuinely believe that you are, then you will be. Attitude is everything. 

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4 December 2014
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Ron Nasty said 

Pete's sacking, in the end, was all about his social interaction and friendship, or rather lack of, with the rest of the group. To think that musical ability would trump whether you were friends is to misunderstand what groups were at that time, and see them more as business partnerships.
 

I disagree, and it's not just my personal opinion weighing in here, it had everything to do with "musical ability".  Mark Lewisohn's "facts" don't "trump" what those who were actually there all say and that was "he couldn't play drums very well" (George Martin), or George Harrison (somebody who obviously had a say in the actual decision) remarking on how "it felt really good" whenever Ringo sat in for Pete.  The whole Pete never fit in talk is much blown out of proportion because it makes for a better story, and any moderately accomplished drummer can easily spot the sloppiness of his playing whereas the young fans who adorned the gigs of the day could care less.  Under Brian Epstein, a new declaration of refinement on their professionalism was in place, and it wasn't just about putting on suit and ties but growing as musicians, something that was never gonna happen with Pete behind the kit.

 

Allan Williams was interviewed about Pete's "audition" for the group during 'The Compleat Beatles' documentary and remarked how "he played not to cleverly, but passable", which may have been good enough for The Reeperbahn, but not London.  There's many stories of The Beatles all having "gang-like" moments with Pete, the popular one that comes to mind is when Paul (supposedly the one who was so jealous of Pete) and him set fire to the condom which resulted in arson charges, you don't think young men bond emotionally while spending time in a German prison so far away from home?  Pete was one of the gang for a two year period, during a very evolutionary time as a young man, but not all gangs result in the same members sticking together forever and they also regularly recruit new members as well.

 

I think that it was Joe who remarked earlier on how low in the mix Pete's drums were on the 'Decca Tape', you'd think that the supposed 'Best Drummer in Liverpool' would've been showcased a little more than that if he was so good.  Burying Pete's drums in the mix wasn't much different than Stuart turning his back to the audience, or inciting thousands of young girls to scream during the 1966 concerts to "hide a multitude of sins", as Neil Aspinall so eloquently put it.  A lot of people who weren't there, some even have excellent research skills, like to paint a very different picture than what those who were really there recount, whether it's George Harrison , George Martin or Allan Williams, and that is that Pete's playing wasn't good enough to take them out of the dank cellars of Liverpool and Hamburg and what music there is recorded by the group with Pete playing on absolutely backs this up, the "attitude" or "personality" added to this the reason "why he (was) really kicked out"...:-)

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4 December 2014
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@Ron Nasty said
@Joe With the letter being from Paul, supports my argument that there was there no way he was going to Hamburg as their drummer. They were grabbing at straws, because no way was Paul doing it.

By the way, Lewisohn has Pete auditioning on the Saturday and not the Friday.

Is that in Tune In (ESE)? Chronicle (page 22) has it on the Friday. I need to go through the ESE properly at some point and update this site.

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4 December 2014
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Joe said

Ron Nasty said
Joe With the letter being from Paul, supports my argument that there was there no way he was going to Hamburg as their drummer. They were grabbing at straws, because no way was Paul doing it.

By the way, Lewisohn has Pete auditioning on the Saturday and not the Friday.

Is that in Tune In (ESE)? Chronicle (page 22) has it on the Friday. I need to go through the ESE properly at some point and update this site.

@Joe Bottom of page 680:

Pete Best's 'audition' took place on the Saturday evening, 13 August, at one of Allan Williams' clubs...

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4 December 2014
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@Billy Rhythm, some thoughts of mine on some thoughts of yours.

I would never argue that Pete was a great drummer, but the logic of your argument is that, had he been the "Best Drummer in Liverpool" (which I clearly state in my first post on the topic - post 36 - he wasn't), The Beatles would have kept him despite their personal issues with him. And there we part ways.

While there are plenty of accounts about the inadequacy of his drumming from many who were there, there are also many examples of those who were there who disagreed.

It is difficult though, to find any evidence that Pete was part of the gang, including those you would cite as sources.

George Harrison during the 1988 High Court case over the Star Club recordings said this, under oath:

...after the shows we were all friends with Ringo and we liked him a lot and hung out with him, whereas Pete - he was like a loner. He would finish the gig and then he would go.

George Martin would comment in an August 1965 legal letter:

Pete Best did seem to be 'an odd man out' and while the other three there were very unified in their performance and enthusiasm, he did not seem to be a true part of the group.

Brian Epstein notes in the raw transcript of A Cellarful of Noise:

Friendly with John, but Paul and George didn't like him.

Astrid Kirchherr said:

...he was so very, very shy that you tended to forget about him. He was on his own really.

Astrid's photos. He's only in one of them.

481_photogallery@6@testflickr@testflickr.jpgImage Enlarger

Then he left after twelve exposures.

Yes, there were moments. There will always be moments when you spend that much time together. But moments don't mean he was "in the gang". A lot of the people who were there say the relationship was distant.

It is that distance between him and the others would have done for him in the end, in my opinion, even if he was the best drummer on Merseyside (which he wasn't).

That he wasn't gave them something to blame rather than themselves.

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4 December 2014
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Being that shy and not being close to the other 3, there is reasonable doubt that he would have been able to handle being in the center of the hurricane called Beatlemania. Maybe someone (or more than one person).in the group recognized that.

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4 December 2014
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I’d like to add an observation to what has been said about Peter’s personality and his inability to march to the beat of the same drum as the others (awful pun; I know. Forgive me). Watch his body language. The way he never faces the camera when they take a snapshot. His movements, monosyllabic answers and low voice in the interview posted by Ron Nasty in the “what’s-your-opinion-on-pete-bests-solo-material” thread (watch it here). No, I don’t think he was capable of overcoming his shyness and lack of social skills and become extroverted, witty, cheeky like the others. And Brian Epstein, who was polishing The Beatles’ future personas, must have realized that.

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5 December 2014
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Yeah, but it seems like Pete has overcome that shyness.  Today, he's a pretty vocal character, when interviewed.

I'm drawn toward the 'tribal' Beatles (as Lennon liked to refer to the early days), back when they were a flat-out rock and roll band, so I'm interested in this subject of why Best didn't last.  I've already reached my conclusions, and they mirror what @Ron Nasty has been saying, especially the answer to the question.

It also has to do with what @Billy Rhythm has been saying, in that Best wasn't that great of a drummer.  But was he expected to be?

I think we get caught up in the musicianship too much sometimes.  We overlay modern expectations and concepts on top of the things being examined.  So just to say it for my own good, as a reminder, these were not only the very earliest days of The Beatles, but also the earliest days of Rock and Roll.  I don't know if Best had any influences; it's never been said that he showed the same leve of interest in music as his bandmates (even though they were on a whole other level).  Lewisohn doesn't say if Best ever had a formal lesson (that I recall) and I think the only band he was in prior to The Beatles was The Blackjacks, and that was just another group of buddies who could play.

The difference is, of course, the crash course that followed after joining them.  I wish I had my copy handy, but I read of people (who where there) who were shocked by the marked improvement the band displayed after just a few months in Hamburg... and this was just on the first trip!  You would think that after all the rest of the trips, the tours and the residency at The Cavern, that Best would have improved his skill.  But aren't many who say he did, although I personally have to believe he had to have improved.  Maybe not on a level as the rest of them, but still... Hell, even Sutcliffe was capable of holding his own by the time he decided to return to art.

I dare say there has been far less said about those early days in Hamburg and on the road in England than we've heard.  We're almost intimately familiar with the proper version of The Beatles, but it's those tempestuous early days that are still shrouded in mystery.  I'm still looking for more on those days.

I've learned some things from this thread, especially the level of naivete demonstrated by Best.  He appeared on an American TV show not longer after The Beatles broke big and my first thought was that he was acting, because he appeared to be somewhat clueless.  Maybe he was.

As for the sacking being unfair... I'm an old military dog, and one of the things that stays with you after a stint in the service is the partnership you build with mates, especially during times of adversity.  Imagine it like being on a sports team, only you're not playing a game.  Unless you've experienced that, it's hard to express what I'm talking about.

If you have experienced it, you absolutely know what I'm talking about.

When someone isn't working as a member of a that small circle, a gang as Mr. Nasty called, it can become a volitile situation and when you don't act, it'll festers until it bursts in resentment, animosity and perpetual bad blood.  Y'know... like in 1970.

So not only was it fair, it would probably have been unfair to have kept him.  People would not only soon learn that he didn't fit in... they'd know that he wasn't very good.

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5 December 2014
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C.R.A. said

 Imagine it like being on a sports team...

When someone isn't working as a member of a that small circle...it can become a volitile situation and when you don't act, it'll festers until it bursts in resentment, animosity and perpetual bad blood.  

I enjoyed your post - well written. I singled out these quotes because this morning I was thinking about the analogy you cited. We've seen many examples of the best of athletes being released or traded away by a team because they did not fit in with the team and/or its philosophy. As much as I dislike the term, they refer to such a player as being a "cancer" in the locker room. I'm sure there are those in this Forum that can cite exapmles of great musicians who were cut loose from bands because their actions were detrimental. Brian Jones leaps to mind. If it can happen to the best of them, it can certainly happen to a mediocre drummer.

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I've been thinking about this thread. I can't fathom Pete in Ringo's place during the "Portrait of a Woman " painting session.

images-of-a-woman.jpgImage Enlarger

The four Beatles had to be close to one another because that's who they had to cling to during those crazy years.

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Ahhh Girl said
I've been thinking about this thread. I can't fathom Pete in Ringo's place during the "Portrait of a Woman " painting session.

Not to say that you're wrong (I do agree with you), but would Pete have become closer to them in the almost 4 years between his dismissal and the Japan tour? I feel like they would have become tight with anyone in that 4th spot in those years.

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This is where we sometimes get it wrong. @mr. Sun king coming together. Me, myself and I, too. Pete might have improved as a drummer, we'll never know what John and Paul might have drawn out of him. But friendship-wise, that wouldn't have changed.

If it was going to, it would have happened in Hamburg. It didn't, and Pete seemed happy with that. I've said it before, he could have been the best drummer in Liverpool and would still have been doomed, his personality didn't fit, and Ringo's did.

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The four Beatles only became inseparable when their fame skyrocketed to the point where they were trapped together with no escape inside the eye of a massive hurricane, so to speak.  Before that their lives "together" were much different, outside of playing the gigs, they probably spent more time away from each other in social scenarios than not.  True, they all shared a small living space away from home in Hamburg, but there's many examples of each having lives away from "the gang".  John wrote letters to Cynthia daily while in Hamburg, yet he wasn't singled out for not hanging with the boys.  There are stories of Paul being jealous of Stu's relationship with Astrid, which also is something likely blown way out of proportion to sell more books, but the gang was generally receptive to their deep bond by most accounts.  John & Paul hitchhiking to Paris without the others, the list goes on.

 

Brian Epstein wasn't exactly one of "the gang" when he first appeared on the scene, but had some business clout which was desperately needed if they were to ever rise above the redundant Liverpool to Hamburg and back again life that had grown weary on them.  The Beatles weren't ones to allow for differences in personality/lifestyle to get in the way of their ambitions of stardom, had Pete possessed the necessary tools to craft their musical blueprints, as Ringo indeed did, I don't see any reason why they wouldn't have accepted him into the fold as they did Brian.  If there was any other factor which weighed as heavily in favour of sacking Pete other than his musical abilities, it was the stories of him not turning up for gigs, whether or not he was hanging out with his girlfriend instead is moot, you don't not show up for work on more than one occasion and expect to hold that particular job for very long.  Again, it was about professionalism, not his "shyness" or differences in personality.  Pete was no more different than John than George or Paul was, he just wasn't as good at his job as them when he did show up.

 

Ron Nasty said 

George Martin would comment in an August 1965 legal letter:

Pete Best did seem to be 'an odd man out' and while the other three there were very unified in their performance and enthusiasm, he did not seem to be a true part of the group.

 

I think that you're reading too much into this quote by George Martin, who has been very consistent in the many comments that he's made on the subject over the years.  George Martin never got a chance to know Pete at all, in fact, he knew John, Paul and George about as well at the time of EMI's initial interest in the group.  George Martin is talking about John, Paul & George being "very unified in their performance and enthusiasm" while playing music, not about their extracurricular activities.  Pete was the "odd man out" musically which was all George Martin was assessing here for he had only just met ALL of them.

 

I think that the infamous "getting Brian to do the dirty work" while delivering the news to Pete says a lot about their relationship with him.  Pete had been through a lot with them since first joining them in Liverpool, and just when they were about to take the next big step together they'd decided to make this change, they couldn't face him because they knew that it would cut him deeply.  If Paul was supposedly so jealous of Pete's good looks then you would think that he would've eagerly volunteered to deliver the message himself, but none of them were so shallow.  I don't believe that any one of them didn't feel bad for Pete during this time, the excitement and anticipation of landing a significant upgrade on the drums in Ringo helped ease this transition for them, but they were saying goodbye to a brother, and as you know brothers don't always hang out together and have the same interests...:-)  

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Billy Rhythm said
I think that the infamous "getting Brian to do the dirty work" while delivering the news to Pete says a lot about their relationship with him.  Pete had been through a lot with them since first joining them in Liverpool, and just when they were about to take the next big step together they'd decided to make this change, they couldn't face him because they knew that it would cut him deeply.  If Paul was supposedly so jealous of Pete's good looks then you would think that he would've eagerly volunteered to deliver the message himself, but none of them were so shallow.  I don't believe that any one of them didn't feel bad for Pete during this time, the excitement and anticipation of landing a significant upgrade on the drums in Ringo helped ease this transition for them, but they were saying goodbye to a brother, and as you know brothers don't always hang out together and have the same interests...:-)  

I can imagine the many irate replies what I’m going to say will get me, but I just see their decision as a cowardly act.

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I can see how some would interpret it "as a cowardly act", but the manner in which it was handled underscores the fact that this was a Business Decision and it was dealt with accordingly.  The Beatles were THE Best Band in Liverpool on the verge of a Recording Contract, but they didn't have THE Best Drummer in Liverpool.  This final detail was then taken care of swiftly and in a very business-like manner, there was nothing personal going on here...:-)

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I don't think the act of firing him was cowardly, but when you have to let somebody go because they are not good enough or just don't fit in, you should man up and tell him yourself.  It is the honorable thing to do and helps both parties reconcile themselves to the separation. 

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The sacking itself was correct, how they did it was where they got it wrong; instead of doing it themselves they bottled it by getting Brian to do it as the timing was dreadful, especially now they had the recording contract. There is the other side of it all in which you could argue they bottled out of sacking him earlier as it had been coming for a while even if Pete (supposedly) didnt have a clue.

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