MUSIC WRITER IN JAPAN
Q: Please excuse me if I cover some old ground that you may be tired of answering but your autobiography to my knowledge has never been published in Japanese and even if it was, it doesn’t seem to be available anymore so I’d like to set the record straight on a few points while also trying to ask a few questions that you may not have been asked before. Also, if there is any question you’re not comfortable answering, just pass on it and we’ll delete it from publication.
PB: Well I haven’t come across that up until now but you never know - it depends what you throw at me (laughs).
Q: You sound like a very happy person Pete…
PB: Well why not? Life’s been good to me so why not to be happy?
Q: I couldn’t agree with you more.
Q: Who were your heroes and why did you start playing drums?
PB: I suppose you could say my first influence was Gene Krupa. I saw him on the old black and white movies playing with the big bands and the jazz bands. Like every kid in Liverpool I started off playing the guitar but I never felt comfortable with it to be quite honest and then I saw Gene Krupa, I saw the way he was playing the drums and I wanted to be him. That’s how I got the drumming bug basically.
Q: He had an amazing drumming style by the way he hangs over the kit which Keith Moon copied.
PB: It is and if you’re into it and you start looking at people’s style of drumming you will notice that there are a lot of drummers who have copied styles or evolved styles depending on how they sit behind the kit and it depends on the size of the kit as well but when you consider he played off a basic kit sounds he got out of it were really fantastic.
Q: He had that lovely feel that Buddy Rich does as well where he could play off the edge of the skin and changed the sound as he moved towards the middle.
PB: That takes a lot of practice. A lot of drummers used that technique but it’s something you don’t see very often these days, changing your sound on the snare drum, a tom tom and or a floor tom or whatever. If you did a master class, you used to mention it to some other young drummer as and they used to look at you bewildered when you tell them that you can actually get different sounds out of a drum head. But it all goes back and down to what you have and what you have to work with. Whether it is working off the rim all cross shots as we call them, the Latin-American feel if it seems to be something that you keep abreast of it and incorporate it into your style or you become a neuveu drummer which is basically what a lot of the kids are today.
Q: Yes will you come from a time when people can actually tune a drum head.
PB: (laughs) Yes when I started out we had calf-head skins not the plastic ones of today which tend to keep the tuning down to a minimum but going back to the old days, playing in the clubs, in Hamburg, 6 or 7 hours a night, sweaty atmosphere, by the end of the night they were like damp cloths and you had to let them dry out and hopefully in the next morning you could get them back into tune again.
Q: At school: did you have other ambitions or did you just always want to be a drummer?
PB: I thing like everybody else when the Skiffle boom came out, seeing people on the television, Presley and all that genre it seemed very much a case of ‘OK, I’ll grab a guitar’. Like thousands of other kids in Liverpool we all stormed off to the guitar shops and bought guitars. Whether they be cheap ones or expensive ones it didn’t matter so long as you had an acoustic you were bashing away but as I mentioned before, I never felt comfortable with it. I manage to get off the few basic chords which were required in those days but every now and then when I was listening to stuff, I would be banging on the table with my fingers and people would say ‘you’re not a guitarist you’re a drummer’. Then of course that whole Gene Kruper, Joe Morello, Sonny Payne and all the great rock drummers that came across, Cozy Cole, that was it, for me there that was the way forward.
Q: Your mother (Mona Best) deserves an OBE of her own for her contribution to the British Music industry and in particular, Merseybeat, what was she and your family life like growing up in post WWII Liverpool after leaving India where you were born?
PB: We came over and landed in Liverpool Christmas Eve 1945. It was the last ship to leave India - the Georgic – carrying General Slim’s army. It was a culture shock to be because you have to remember I was four coming up to five years old and Rory was about nine months old and it was the middle of winter in Liverpool and we had never experienced cold like that before. Then when we actually started to settle down in Liverpool and the devastation it had gone through, for a young kid it sticks in your mind, the bombs sites, bombed buildings, desolate churches. When we were looking for property because my father wanted to get us resettled as soon as possible, because of the deprivation in Liverpool at that time and the damage that has been done on a lot of the property in town we initially started off in a flat and my playground was a bomb site outside the flat. Then we moved as people did in those days to what is now called a semi detached property on a new housing estate and that’s how we moved from the town centre. I suppose what you could say now is that the big thing about it was from 1945 to 1960 you saw that there was a new spirit. Whether that was the end of the war and people were ecstatic about it and new things were coming in, the kids had a new outlook on life. That was the way of thinking; that was the way forward. They will not looking backwards they were looking forwards all that time.
Q; As your mother did when she put all her money on a 33-1 racehorse called ‘Never Say Die’.
PB: That’s correct. As you said before, she was the mother of Merseybeat and media happily titled her that but she was such a courageous woman as well. She was very brave, was very courageous and the funny thing about it was that we never knew anything about the bet she put on the horse. So of course the Derby was there, we were all listening and Mona was there and getting excited but we didn’t know what she was getting excited about and it was only afterwards that she turned round and told us what she had done. She had a pawned all of her jewellery and put the money on this horse ridden by Lester Piggot which came in at 33 to 1 and with the winnings from that – god bless her - she managed to buy 8 Haymens Green which she left to the family and we’re making sure that Haymens Green and the Casbah are made a very public these days.
Q: Did you see any great Rock and Roll shows that came through Liverpool in the late fifties?
PB: Oh yeah. All the American greats that came over. I was fortunate enough to see Johnny Ray, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Bill Haley, Bobby Darin it goes on. Whatever American star was in at the Liverpool Empire or in Manchester (but most of them came to the Empire) I was there. I was like every other kid I wanted to see my heroes.
Q: Flicking through your Best Years of the Beatles book, you had the tag of mean, moody and magnificent but from the photos it seems everyone was mean and moody at that time.
PB: I am glad you made that point. Is there I think it got singled out with me because Bob Wooler, the Liverpool DJ, tagged me with it. I think he was talking about the physical menace or something like that but he opened the floodgates for me on that one. You’ve come up with a good point; the way it was on the films, the way it was portrayed and the way the rockers were portrayed was mean and moody and they had the sultry look of the eyes and the kids from Liverpool copied that. If you were going to get a photograph taken it was ‘OK, try and look sexy’.
Q: Was it a deliberate image of the band in that era or encouraged by Astrid?
PB: I think it was a mixture of both to be honest. You would get a certain amount of publicity photographs are where they want you to be cheesy, smiling, beaten over the head with drumsticks, all that corn which never really appealed to the Beatles or any of the other bands I’ve played in but what we did notice with Astrid was that she was brilliant in black and white and shadow work and she had seen this great rock and roll band on stage - the Beatles – and it was something her photographs had to portray, that presence on stage and that is exactly what she did. That charisma, the sultry look, the menace…You have to remember we were a hard edged rock and roll band. We were driving powerhouse unit and I think she was trying to get that over plus the fact The Beatles were from Liverpool, they were quite menacing, they knew how to handle themselves so treat them with care.
Q: Time hasn’t been nice to Stu as it has portrayed him as an incompetent bass player. Is that true?
PB: No, far from it. I’ve been one of Stu’s biggest advocates defending his corner. That was a media thing started by the media some idiot said he couldn’t play bass, the world picked up on it and he got crucified the same as me. I have always said that when you watched Stu onstage he had a stance that looked like he was turning away but that was just the way he wanted to be portrayed, he was comfortable that way. You have to remember that rock and roll was very simple in those days and Stu and myself were the engine room of the Beatles. We locked into one another as he was great to lock into. I’m not saying he was a brilliant bass player but he was a good bass player.
Q: What I say to people on that point is that how come the Beatles became so good if Stu wasn’t a good bass player.
PB: Well in a way that answers itself doesn’t it?
PB: It was his decision that he wanted to leave the band in June 1961 just prior to recording with Tony Sheridan. It was his decision but by goodness me he had done the first trip to Hamburg he had come back to Liverpool being there in the essence of Beatlemania starting in the Casbah, we erupted in Liverpool went back to the Top Ten club in Hamburg and conquered that and everyone was enamoured with the Beatles. So the argument that you correctly turned round and said is that if all of that was bad why were they so good even at that early stage?
Q: You cited Gene Krupa as a great drummer and there is no doubt he was an innovator that influenced many rock drummers but it was you who invented the Atom Beat that took rock drumming to a different level. How did that happen?
PB: Yeah… You know we were talking before about people adapting styles and I found when we were out in Germany, you know we weren’t going through sound desks like we do these days, the equipment you had on stage was all you had and that’s how what you cranked the sound out of. Now what I found what was lacking was I needed to make a bigger sound, a wall of sound behind great vocalists and great guitarists. So that’s why I started doing a lot more tom tom work and emphasizing the bass drum with the four bar beat. People have nicknamed it now the atom beat but I think it was probably the forerunner of the techno beat but in those days it made such a wall of sound but I could project the beat and I could hold everything together. It led to a stage show where we started stamping our feet and jumping around like lunatics and it caused all the excitement. Then of course I brought this style back to Liverpool and a lot of the drummers in Liverpool were still playing what I call lightweight, was very tappy, not a lot of bass drum work, playing light, sitting behind the kit and people were amazed at this wall of sound that started coming out and I think it was Bill Harry who called it the atom beat and that the name stood and a lot of Liverpool drummers copied that style afterwards.
Q: Not only Liverpool, many other places as well.
PB: That’s true yeah. I think that’s fair to say because once the Merseybeat sound went out around the UK and then the world, a lot of people then started to play what they called Merseybeat but which to us was just Rock and Roll but played the way Liverpool lads played it, a lot of people started to pick up on drumming styles, the harshness and the coarseness and the heart. I think that’s the key word: you played it with a lot of heart – heart and feeling.
Q: You performed Peppermint Twist and Matchbox as a vocalist.
PB: That’s right. I started singing it, Ringo started singing it and I think every drummer in Liverpool after that. (laughs) It was a great Carl Perkins number. The Peppermint Twist came out of a Beatle Fan Club night; something different for the fans. Paul got behind the drums and I got up and sang and danced the Twist and I’m glad to say it worked. It’s one of those things, I’ve had so many requests during my time in show business to do that again and I’ve said no. I said that when I decide to do my farewell show I will do that particular number (laughs).
Q: Make sure you email me about that final farewell show, I’ll be on a plane coming over!
Q: Did you do any other songs besides those two?
PB: (Roses Grow) Wild In The Country – the old Elvis number. I had a bash at that for a little while but I suppose you could say my main two of the repertoire if I could put it that way were Matchbox and Peppermint Twist.
Q: You and the guys used to go down to NEMS and listen to the new records and George would say ‘I’m going to cover this’ and John would say ‘I’m going to cover that’ etc, were there any songs in the repertoire that you picked other than the ones you sang?
PB: No. To be quite honest, I wasn’t really into singing. I’d pick music. You’ve got to remember that there were three great vocalists there: John, Paul and George. I was happy to play drums, the wall of sound coming out behind them. That was my job and that’s what I was there for. As regards to choice of material, yes it was pretty diplomatic. We’d all be there listening to stuff and say ‘We like that’ or come up with an idea about a particular song.
Q: This is a long shot as tape recorders were not very common back then but do you have any unreleased tapes of you playing with the group?
PB: I wish I could turn round and say yes, I really do but not as far as I know. I’m not saying there isn’t because God knows what went on. There’s stuff emerging which we didn’t realise was even being recorded but what you’ve got to remember in those days is that recorders were pretty primitive. It’s not like now where you can hold a cell phone up and record or film a show. To record something, you either had to make arrangements or it was on a portable recorder which was such a lot of trouble to get into places. I know it had been done but the short answer is no, I haven’t got any but I’m not turning round and saying there isn’t stuff out there.
Q: In September 1958, Cliff Richard’s manager went to London to find Tony Sheridan to ask him to join The Shadows. Tony didn’t show up but Hank Marvin did and we all know what happened then but if Tony had shown up and taken the gig, he wouldn’t have ended up in Hamburg and My Bonnie wouldn’t have been recorded. Do you think The Beatles would the phenomenon they did via another chain of events?
PB: Yeah I think they would have. That all adds to the great charisma of The Beatles story and Tony’s story as well but I think what you’ve got to remember is that before we ever met up with Sheridan on our first trip out to Hamburg, we had established ourselves as an act on its own – The Beatles. What Peter Eckhorn, the manager of the Top Ten saw was putting Tony who was a top name for his club, and taking the competition away from Bruno Koschmider which was The Beatles and housing them at the Top Ten as Tony Sheridan with The Beatles. At that moment in time, that was the biggest bill in Hamburg; they were the two biggest crowd pullers and you had them under one roof but we had already established ourselves and I think that regardless of whether we had gone with Tony, whether we played the Kaiserkeller, transferred over to the Top Ten, I think we were making that much impact in Germany that (Bert) Kaempfert would have still been interested. There may have been other recordings that what the world knows now which is My Bonnie and Cry For A Shadow and the others.
Q: What was Tony like? There are stories that he was unreliable and forgetful.
PB: When we first met him, he was a household name. We had seen him on ‘Oh Boy!’ so to us he was a rock star and to see him performing in a club round the corner and to be actually able to touch him was ‘My goodness! Let’s go back and see him!’ and that’s why we all went to the Top Ten club – to see him – an English rock star on stage in the same vicinity as we are. Right from an early age – I think this is the best way to explain – he was a teacher to a lot of people. People looked up to him, the admired what he was doing. His stance, his vocal ability, his guitar playing, people just stood there mesmerised with his chords and solos and everything. That idolism was around there for him while the Liverpool bands were in Liverpool and he frequented Liverpool and I think Tony went his own way after that. Initially he was a rocker, then he went his own way and tried so many different things. He went from Blues to Jazz, stuff that he wanted to do but the real Tony that I knew when I played with him on several occasions was going back to his roots: that for me was Tony Sheridan. Yes it was great that he moved with the times but when he went back to his roots and played ‘My Bonnie’ and the early days in Germany, that was Tony Sheridan. When the Star Club expanded and they started bringing in bands from all over the world, I’m sure they all looked at Tony and said ‘Wow, what a performer!’
Q: How many takes of My Bonnie and The Saints were recorded?
PB: There weren’t all that many off the top of my head. I remember we were set up on stage and we were surprised actually because it was in a school hall on a school stage and we surmised afterwards that this is where Kaempfert had recorded his orchestras. So we set up on stage and because of the fact that they were numbers that we had done day in and day out in the club, it was very much a case of there just being a couple of run-throughs but actually laying it down, I think it was only one or two takes; I can’t remember more than that. There may have been a couple of run-throughs for the balance but the actual takes themselves, I think they were down to quite minimal.
Q: Are you on any of the other tracks on the Tony Sheridan album?
PB: My Bonnie, Cry For A Shadow, The Saints, Take Out Some Insurance, Why?, Nobody’s Child…there’s about eight or nine numbers.
Q: Brian issued a lot of instructions with regards to no drinking, smoking, eating and swearing onstage. Given John’s lack of respect for authority, how did he take that?
PB: Well the pair of us didn’t take it too well to be quite honest.
Q: You and John were roommates weren’t you?
PB: Yeah so what he felt, I felt: we were the troublemakers so to speak (laughs) but troublemakers in a sense that if anything went down, fine, we wouldn’t back off anything we didn’t go out causing trouble deliberately. I think a lot of people are under the impression Brian, came in, became the manager and basically overnight we changed. It wasn’t like that. It took quite a long time to convince us. Yes he put us into suits but it was a gradual progression. John and I managed to get an agreement from him that we’d wear suits but still wear leathers at shows; possibly leathers in the first half and suits in the second half. So there was a compromise until basically we had fallen into the way he wanted us, roughened the diamond up and smoothed some of the edges out and we were quite happy with what we were doing then but it took a period of time; it wasn’t overnight.
Q: When people hear the name ‘Liverpool’ they think of either The Beatles, Titanic or football, the latter of which has never really been documented. Where you football fans?
PB: I don’t think we went to games simply because of the circuit we were in. You know, on Saturdays we were performing and most of the games in our teenage years were played on a Saturday. It’s not like now where every day of the week there is a game going on, Saturday afternoon was the big game day: we were normally playing. I’ve been asked this before and we had a kickabout and a laugh when we were board as everyone does, we’d kick a ball around like the rest of the kids in Liverpool but as regards to actually supporting a team and being either a blue or a red, I didn’t see anything at that time. I might be wrong but if they did, they kept it very quite. I never heard them talking about football saying ‘We’ve just won’ or ‘What game’s on next?’…they were just far too much into music and records.
16 Aug 1962 – 1970
What was the reaction from visitors to the Casbah in the following few weeks after you were sacked?
PB: Well you’ve got to remember that the Casbah closed in June ’62. My Mother made the monumental decision to close it because of various things going on but when it closed we still had this fantastic support which still travelled around and saw us playing so we took the Casbah crowd to other venues as well but the reaction from them, as I’ve always said, my fans in Liverpool at that time, the reaction from them was absolutely heart-warming. I suppose you could say that because of what happened and the way it happened, the bombshell that happened, I was quite down but seeing the support that they gave me, when word got out – and there were a lot of false rumours that went around but when I actually told them what had happened, the dismissal – the support was fantastic! From people calling at the house, a multitude of letters, the phone ringing…
Q: How did Gerry Marsden, Tony Crane (Merseybeats), Mike Pender (The Searchers), etc react?
PB: A load of people were completely baffled.
Q: Not a lot of people Pete; everyone except John, Paul and George.
PB: Yeah I suppose you could say that. That’s one way of putting it but it was such a shock. I mean, I’d been playing with them, we had a recording contract, we were going to go back and put the finishing touches to ‘Love Me Do’…boom! I’d been with them for two years, done it all and on the edge of success and the other bands turned around and said ‘We don’t understand. The other drummers have copied your style in Liverpool, you’re a great looking band, everyone had their own individual characteristics, girls went for the band and the music we were playing. It was all going and no one could turn round and say ‘Oh we could see it coming’. It was ‘My God! What happened? What made them do a stupid thing like that?’ but as you say, that’s the enigma, the million dollar question.
Q: You did a couple of shows on the same bill and you’ve said that you never talked to them, was that a mutual thing or was it one sided? Where did the hate come from? I hope you don’t mind answering.
PB: No no no. Far from it – I’ve covered that ground before. Hate is too strong a word. There was no hate from my side, just this anger. I had tried to be in touch with them, I couldn’t reach them. We talked to George Martin, we know all that, that’s bygone history. Actually onstage, I think there was embarrassment, not so much from my part but from their part because they were – for want of a better expression – the evildoers. Hey were the ones who ditched me, I was the innocent party. Other people have turned around and said ‘You could have talked to them.’ either before or afterwards but it was like ‘My goodness me. Have you ever played in a rock band when there is a (stage) changeover happening?’ You’ve got very little time and to be quite honest, to try and resolve something of that magnitude onstage in front of an audience is the wrong place, wrong time. Something like that would have to be done behind closed doors.
Q: There was a very dark time for a while during Beatlemania when you attempted suicide and thankfully your mother talked you out of it. Did it ever occur to you the guilt and media repercussions you would have laid on John, Paul, George and possibly Ringo if you had succeeded?
PB: I’ve never thought about it that way. People have always said I must have had some thoughts about it but no. I survived the suicide attempt. Don’t ask me why I wanted to take my own life: I didn’t write a note, it wasn’t premeditated, it was something stupid that when you look back in hindsight, I’ve always said ‘Thank God for me Mother and Rory.’ The talking they gave me afterwards when they said ‘Pete, what the hell are you doing? You’re a young man, you’ve got your future to live for, you’ve got a wife and you’ve got a child. You’re taking their livelihood away from them, get a grip on yourself.’ Those words haunted me and I made a vow that nothing like that would ever happen again and it never has.
Q: I have a couple of video clips of you from 1964; the first is when you went on ‘I’ve Got A Secret’ on 30th March and the second is an interview with your Mum and yourself. For my archives sake, do you remember when that was?
PB: Off the top my head I would say it was circa ’63. I know the piece. I think Johnnie Hamp was doing the interview. If it’s the same piece that I’m thinking of, one of my Mum’s parting lines is ‘Yeah it was something but it could have been handled better’ or words to that effect.
Q: That’s it.
PB: Yeah, circa ’63.
Q: Neil Aspinall was a close friend of yours and your family for the obvious reason. How did he stay in touch, if at all, through the sixties? Did you communicate with him or any of the Beatles associates after departing the group?
PB: You’ve got to remember he was the Road Manager for a long time and a lot of the stuff was based here (8 Haymens Green – The Casbah) picking up equipment and dropping it off and Neil was living here at that time. It was only when they migrated down to London that Neil went down there with them and at that stage they were on the verge of iconism. So it was a very much a case of he went with the road show so to speak. What happened was, if he was ever up in Liverpool, then of course he would call in but for a long period of time up to ’68, he was disappearing all over the world. Afterwards he was involved with them in the Apple process becoming the musical director and Chief Executive other stuff that went on over the years. He had his own business to look after and he realised that he had family and friends up here but the beauty of it was, he never mixed business with pleasure. I always appreciated Neil for that and I think it showed his strength of character. There he was, in charge of this fantastic organisation, multi-million dollar deals that are going on all around the world but as far as he was concerned, business stayed business and family stayed family and I think it’s something Neil respected as well. It wasn’t a case of if he came down he’d say what was going on. He’d say ‘No, that’s Beatles business. I’m here to sit down, with the family and be a friend.’ That’s the simple thing that we kept it at.
Q: You’ve just given me a completely new respect for Neil now.
PB: Why’s that?
Q: Because to me, Neil was always one of the fifth Beatles so to hear that he put family on an equal par with them is a lovely thing to hear.
PB: Well being with The Beatles since their infancy he was involved with them and we knew that but we didn’t want to take advantage of that. As I said, it’s very much a case of a friendship. When he came to Liverpool, we were friends and we talked about one-another. We talk about the old days, have a laugh and a joke, etc.
Q: And more credit to you for that Pete.
PB: I think it was a two-way thing. I respected him for doing it because he still had his loyalty to The Beatles which you have to appreciate anyway as he had worked for them all his life but he still had a friendship with me and the par of us never abused that situation. I knew what he was, he knew what I was and what I had been through and there the difference lay.
Reviving your past
Q: You retired in 1993, when and what made you decide to pick up your drumsticks again?
PB: Well I had been getting badgered with it for many years and I had always put it to the back of me. I’d make excuses, I ran out of excuses and then in ’88 I was buttonholed by Cavern City Tours who were doing a convention in Liverpool at that time and they said ‘Pete, we’ve been after you for years; we’re giving it one last shot. Will you please let the fans see you perform on stage and it makes sense that it’s got to be in Liverpool.’ and I said ‘Ok, I’ll succumb to it.’ because at that time, my younger brother Roag who plays double drums with me in the band now, had his own band called What For? and my Mother was still alive and I thought it would be great for her to see her eldest lad and youngest lad onstage at the same time. Just a one-off performance, that was all it was going to be for the archives. That was the only reason and at the end of the show, my Mother, my wife Kathy and Roag came over and he said ‘You don’t know it but you’re going to be going back into show business.’ to which I turned around and started laughing. I said ‘Yeah, we went down well. It’s a house crowd, it’s Liverpool, they love Rock and Roll.’ My goodness how right he was because within a couple of weeks the offers started to come in and then it became something. Whereas before I had sat in with a couple of people to make up a band, it became ‘Hang on a minute. I need a proper band around me now and that’s when I started again. All due to that one performance in Liverpool. Up until that moment in time, I had no inclination to go back into show business so it just shows you what my Karma holds! (laughs)
Q: Scousers are well known for their sense of humour, sarcasm and friendly digs at each other, was the Hayman’s Green CD cover done in jest or retaliation?
PB: A little bit of both! Haymans Green is my anthology and the lads came up and said ’They ripped your head off on the Anthology for no known reason (Klaus could probably answer that one) so the missing piece from The Beatles Anthology would be great to put as the only thing on your anthology.’ It was great. It got the response that we wanted. People suddenly realised that that was the piece that was missing, they put two and two together and then it was very much a case of ‘now we see it, now we see the angle behind it’ and they appreciated it. They saw the humorous side of it and plus the fact I’m getting my own back for them ripping my head off on the Anthology.
Q: Aside from your own, have you read any books of your time with The Beatles that you would recommend?
PB: I don’t read all that many. There is so much hogwash out there and others where the author twisted things and you wonder ‘My goodness - which direction is he’s coming from?’ so I stopped reading them. I read Hunter Davis’ which was the first biography and the other I think was also Hunter Davis when he updated it for Anthology. There’s been a couple where I’ve dipsticked, flashed through a couple of pages but I’ve never sat down and read from start to finish. There are hundreds out there but for me, Hunter Davis was first and he got it right or tried to get it right. Whatever happened after that was just speculation I think.
Q: You were the technical advisor on 1979’s Birth of the Beatles, did that turn out to your satisfaction and how much input did you have?
PB: This was Clarky’s movie wasn’t it? Dave Clark?
PB: It was a funny on that. Technical Advisor, yes and I enjoyed working with the lads giving them insights into how things should be done. What happened as far as I was concerned, it had been done initially for cinema release. That never happened so it then became a TV release which meant that it had to go into a timeslot and a lot of the stuff that too me was the essence of the movie, was cut. So even though it was the first very courageous attempt to portray The Beatles on film, it was a little bit episodic for me. I had seen what had been filmed and if all those little links had been put in, then it would have made it a much more better film. There were artistic licences taken and in some cases it was too much but at the end of the day, you are only the Technical Advisor and you have the director to compete with and if he says he wants it done that way, it’s got to be done that way no matter what you say.
Anthology and others
Q: Were you asked to contribute to Anthology at all?
PB: No, far from it! When Apple approached, they said they were interested in using some of the likenesses and some of the material I had been on with The Beatles. It came as a total surprise because there had been so many things beforehand that I could have been involved in, the Hamburg stuff, BBC tapes, etc, but what brought it home to me was that they said they were interested in paying me for this so once it got to that level, I realised they were serious about going ahead. It got put to the lawyers and sorted out and as the world knows now I ended up on ten tracks which was absolutely brilliant for me.
Q: Did the royalties from Anthology give you closure on the whole thing or where you well past it by then and you considered it a bonus?
PB: Not closure because at the end of the day I’m still living my life and The Beatles were a part of my life, as I am talking to you now. I’ve got a Beatle history but I am also Pete Best in my own right which is what I’ve been slaving for. I suppose because of the way it happened, it came out of the blue, totally unexpected, I far as I was concerned it was the icing on the cake. It was a nice nest egg, something which I hadn’t been thinking about that provided security to my family (even though they had a secure future any way) and there was an essence there it could take us to the next level and I was thankful for that. It might be a little bit humbling to say so but for me it’s ‘Thank you for services rendered. We realised you played such an important part, we’ve given you ten tracks on it and we hope you make a lot of money.’ I’ve got no complaints.
Q: The film Nowhere Boy didn’t touch on your time with The Beatles but I’d like to know your opinion of Backbeat and what your feeling was seeing Scot Williams portray you.
PB: The funny thing is, after the film was completed, Scot Williams who is a Liverpool lad, got in touch with someone from the papers and said he’d love to meet Pete because he’s played him and he’s a household name in Liverpool. So the papers got in touch with me and I said ‘Yes of course I will.’ I think I was doing some filming at the Cavern for a documentary and I said ‘I’ll meet in The Grapes and we’ll have a good chit-chat.’ and we did! I met him and I found him to be a great guy, loveable and we’re still friends even to this day. What I did find from him, was that he apologised to me and I said ‘What the hell are you apologising for?’ He said that he had had an inkling that the way he had been asked to portray me in the film wasn’t the way I actually was; the non-committal, doesn’t speak, pretty sardonic kind of person and that he had asked the people if he could meet me either prior to the filming or during the filming. He said ‘I’m an actor, I can make my own mind up about how I portray him’ and they said no so he had to go with the way the director told him and that’s why he said ‘I’m sorry but that’s the way I had to play you.’ I said ‘Thank you for your honesty.’ and I think that’s one of the reasons why we are still friends today – because he was so honest about it.
Q: What can we expect in The Pete Best Band set list?
PB: We’ve always prided ourselves on a Rock and Roll show. Music from my period’ the 50s and 60s and Beatles. Some of the music from the Decca Tapes, the Hamburg sessions and some Beatle classics. I played them and I like their music and have some special favourites but we also a very much crowd orientated band. We like to get the crowd involved so you can clap along, sing along if you know the words and even if you don’t, just make some noise. It’s a very happy show, powerhouse with double drums which gives it a big barrage of sound and three great vocalists which gives us a good mix of vocals and harmonies and it’s a show which has had great acclaim wherever we have taken it throughout the world.
Q: Tell us about The Casbah now…unlike the Cavern Club which was demolished and rebuilt, we can actually go and relive the Beatle history and great times there in the original surroundings?
PB: It’s now a heritage site. It’s been recognised for its Rock and Roll history and has a blue plaque site with English heritage. The Casbah was the catalyst of the Merseybeat sound. It was my Mother’s brainchild and is the only club in Liverpool now that stands in its own originality. It is exactly as it was when it opened in 1959 and when it closed in 1962 but the beauty of it is because The Beatles were involved in it so much – it was their club, a social club, a meeting club, etc – it became the catalyst for all the bands and the Merseybeat sound. The decorations and the artefacts that The Beatles were involved in are still there. As our kid (Roag) says, it’s The Beatles Holy Grail. You have to come. This is where it started. You have to feel the atmosphere and you can still see how the lads contributed to the club. You can still see their work: The rainbow ceiling which Paul painted, the Aztec ceiling which John painted. The stars in the club which John, George, Paul, Ken Brown, myself and Stu all painted and over the fireplace there is something that my Mother commissioned Cynthia Lennon to do of John in an Elvis Presley pose. My goodness me I could go on and on! It has so much history and atmosphere, people that come are mesmerised by it because they don’t realise the history of the club. Roag and Rory who do the tours are very proud of that history and tell it really well. They make sure people go away having sensed going back to 1959.
Q: Facebook, Twitter and Website; how do you like working with the new media?
PB: It’s great! It lets me work at my own time because sometimes I can answer straight away and others there’s a bit of a delay but it’s something Roag and myself have wanted to do for a long time and when we did the facelift on the website, it seemed that for various reasons, because we had cut back on a lot of touring, it was good to keep in touch with the media and the fan base and it was also the right time to bring in Facebook and Twitter. Join the happy family is what it’s about and hopefully one day when we get to your neck of the woods we’ll get to meet the faces behind the tweets.
Q: Have you had any offers from film companies to make The Pete Best Story?
PB: At this moment in time I can’t say anything about that.
Q: One final Beatle question: Given that John, George, Brian, Neil and Mal (only joined the entourage five days before but probably had post knowledge of your firing) are gone, there is only Paul and probably Ringo who would know the real reason why you were fired. Is it a question you would like to ask them or the reason is just not important to you anymore?
PB: You summed it up perfectly then: It’s very true that Paul’s probably the only one that knows the truth. I’ve always said it would be nice for Paul and me to meet while we are still members of this planet. We’re not getting any younger and whether it was done behind closed doors or publically, I have no qualms about it but this would not be to sit down and open old wounds up again. I am certain that the last thing he would want to hear from me would be; ‘What the hell did you kick me out the Beatles for?’ My goodness me, we’re grown men, we’ve lived fifty-odd years since then, we’ve got families and grandchildren. There’s lots more to talk about than what happened fifty-odd years ago. To millions of Beatle fans out there, it’s the burning question but as far as I’m concerned, it’s been put to bed. It just doesn’t worry me simply because of the fact that whatever happened, life has been good to me. I appreciate that I’ve had a great life: I have a great band, wife, daughters, grandchildren and I go out and enjoy myself and live life to the full and maybe that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been part of The Beatles.
Q: Pete Best, thank you very much for your time and honesty.
PB: Thank you very much and I’ll look forward to seeing you in Tokyo!