GEOFFREY: When did you first meet the boys?
PETE BEST: The first one I had laid eyes on was George Harrison because he was playing in a group called Les Stewart Quartet. They were a skiffle group, a kind of semi-rock band, I suppose. They were supposed to open the Casbah. George said, "We'd like to open the place. The problem is the band's broken up. But I happen to know two guys, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. I'll ask them whatever they'd be prepared to form a band." Anyways, they came down, had a look at the club and said "Oh yeah, great." So Mum said, "What are you gonna play as?" There was John, George, Paul, and Ken Brown. So they said, "Well, we'll play as the Quarrymen." That was the first time I met all of them together. Stu Sutcliff wasn't with them all the time, but he came down to watch the band because he was a friend of John's from art college. And, of course, John used to bring Cindy [Cynthia] down. I got to know Stu through the boys, so to speak. Then, of course, when I was asked to join them, Stu had already joined as the bass player.
GEOFFREY: You were quite close to John, I know. When stu came in, was that somehow jeopardized?
BEST: No, I mean the relationship between John and Stu was always there. Stu had a lot of respect for John as a person and John had total respect for Stu because of his artistic ability. It was like two different dimensions meeting up and making one force. When I joined the band, it didn't sever the relationship between John and Stu, because that was ongoing. I mean, even after Stu left the band, in April 1961, he and John still got on. After we finished a gig, we'd all come back, go into the Casbah; raid the fridge, stock up on sweets, Coca-Colas, go upstairs, switch on the record player, and they'd spend the night. Bacon butties in the morning. Maybe if we had a luchtime session to play, we'd be off to the Cavern. We were like that.
GEOFFREY: They intiminated in the television drama Birth of the Beatles (for which you were the creative consultant through Dick Clark) that Stuart's death may have been a result of a beating you guys took on the way home from a gig by some jealous boyfriends. Can you tell me about that?
BEST: It's hard to say, to be quite honest. A lot of people have said that. It could have been because of what happened.
GEOFFREY: He was kicked in the head, wasnt't he?
BEST: What happened was that Stu had come out and these so-called hard knocks picked on him. They were giving him a good working over, and John and I stepped in and broke up the situation. So to say directly that the brain hemorrhage, which Stu consequently died of, had anything to do with it, I just don't know. It may just as easily have been the fact that Stu was overworking himself in Hamburg. Because when he finished with the group, he put all of himself back into the Hamburg College of Art. So I don't really know the answer to that.
GEOFFREY: What was it like being in Hamburg with the boys?
GEOFFREY: Living conditions were rather spartan, I hear.
BEST: When we first went there, we were supposed to play the Kaiserkeller. Derry and the Seniors were already there, which was another Liverpool band. Anyway we dent down to the Kaiserkeller and the place was jumping. It was Neon City, Sin City, you name it. Bruno Koshmider [the club's owner] said,"Oh no, lads, you're not playing here. You're playing and the Indra, which is just at the bottom of the street." It was a different club altogether with a very different atmosphere so that took us down a peg or two. We asked him, "Well, where are we staying?" We expected a hotel or maybe rooms in the club. But actually we were staying at the Bambikino [cinema]. Paul and I nicknamed it the Black Hole of Calcutta. Before Stu had linked up to his girl Astrid we spent a lot of time there. John, Stu, and George got the best room in the house, so to speak. The middle room, which had the old neon light in it, two camp beds and a couch. Paul and I were too late running up the alley to claim our space. You went in through the back of the cinema. So we said, "There's only three beds here. where are we going to stay?" John pointed down the corridor and we found this black hole with no lights, just an old bed with enough room for us to climb in on to and go to sleep. Those were our accomodations.
GEOFFREY: Roy Young [from Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousels] told me that more than once he had come up there and give you guys hell because, apparently, there was a little German woman that would come in and clean and she refused to go up there because it was so bad. People were pissing on the floor.
BEST: That wasn't in Bambi, because the first time we went out, we spent as little time in there as we could.
GEOFFREY: Did you take many girls there with you?
BEST: That goes without saying. Sometimes we didn't even have to take them back. They knew where we were staying. They'd come in through the movie house. The time Roy's talking about is when we were playing the Star club. We had moved into proper accommodations facing the club, which was great. We had a self contained flat with proper wash basins and all that. This particular occassion was when George threw up by the side of the bed and didn't bother cleaning it up. The cleaning lady came in the next morning, and said, "Oh, I'm not cleaning that up." It was like the beginning of a Mexican standoff, and he said, "Well, I'm certainly not cleaning it up." Anyway, this thing gre, and he started heaving and smelling and all the rest of it, so she just refused, point blank, to clean our living quarters. In the end she told Horst (who was the manager of the Star Club), thinking, "If anyone can get the guys to clean it up, it'll be Horst." So, of course, Horst comes over, and he says, "Come on lads, just clean it up." "No." And it went on and on like that.
GEOFFREY: For how long?
BEST: Days, weeks. This thing was growing. It was fungusting, it even grew hair. It became a pet. We were feeding it beer, throwing ciggie stumps into it. We nicknamed it the Big Thingy. People were even coming in to see it, because it was growing. In the end Horst just came in one day, with a shovel, and scooped it ito the bin.
GEOFFREY: I've seen pictures of John standing in the street in his underwear. They also say he pissed on a nun's head. Is that true?
BEST: Yeah. [Singing] "Raindrops keep falling on my head." It's true. But it's just one of the many mad things he did. That particular day, he wanted to go for a pee and the balcony was the nearest place. He just unloaded his water over the side and the nuns happened to be passing underneath.
GEOFFREY: Was he more outrageous than any of the others?
BEST: Yeah. I had a lot of respect for him that way. I mean, simply because he didn't give a damn. John bought a pair of long johns, great big woolly things. We'd gone back to Bambikino, and said, "Hey John, we dare you to go in and stand in the middle of the street in your long johns and your sunglasses and read a paper. He was getting ready for bed and without saying a word stormed outside and kicked the bucket doors open. People were going up and down the street, and John's there in his long johns reading an English newspaper. We used to do leapfrogging and rolling about on the pavements, but John was by far the most outrageous. He used to do it with a very deadpan face.
GEOFFREY: On the other hand, people say he was actually a gentle, sensitive guy.
BEST: Very much so. There are two definite sides to John, which I was fortunate to see. One was the outrageous guy onstage who loses his temper, takes the mick, and genuinely acts the goat. But the other John, which the public didn't see, was a very loving, tender person. That came out with his initial love and tenderness for Cindy.
GEOFFREY: Still, there was great anger inside of him. He used to hit her and things like that.
BEST: That may have happened. I'm only talking about experience, and from what I could see, you never saw that.
GEOFFREY: Was John very much in love with Cyn?
BEST: Yeah, we used to talk. For all the screwing about with the girls, there were moments we'd be relaxing. John and I would go and have a couple of quiet beers, just sit down and chew the fat. And he'd talk about Cynthia and how much he missed her.
GEOFFREY: Tell me about when Epstein came on to the scene for the first time to have a look at you guys.
BEST: There was a result of many inquiries going into NEMS for the record, "My Bonnie." He found out we were playing the Cavern, which was only about a hundred yards from his door, basically. He came down and must have been very impressed with what he saw because he left a message that he wanted to see us. Talking to afterwards, he was just captivated by the charisma, this sentuality, the force which was coming from the Beatles as a unit.
GEOFFREY: It is well known he was very gay. Do you think he fancied you guys?
BEST: He may have done. The thing with Brian, he made it quite clear when we went up to see him. He said, "I have no musical knowledge nor do I know very much about show business or the record business." He laid it on the line, so at least he was genuine. At that time we needed someone who could pull strings a little for us. He had a good reputation as a businessman. He was always very honest with us. He didn't say, "I promise to make you stars." He simply said, "I'll be prepared to do what I can." And we accepted him for that.
GEOFFREY: I have yet to hear anyone bad about the guy. The bottom line, I guess, was that he was a real gentleman.
BEST: He was. His personal life had nothing to do with anything, as far as we were concerned. What amazed us was he was trying to get as close to us as possible. He wanted to be part of it. He could see we were a very tight unit. He even wanted to dress the same as us. He even started wearing leather jackets.
GEOFFREY: You guys - John and Paul in particular - could sometimes very cruel to him. Is that true?
BEST: Yeah. He took a lot of verbal abuse, which I think really hurt him. You coud see the expression on his face sometimes like, "Why pick on me," or, "What have I done to deserve this?" But he didn't ever hold a grudge. Whether he mentioned it to them personally, I don't know. But as a group, no, never.
GEOFFREY: What do you remember about John's life with Aunt Mimi?
BEST: I only went up there a couple of times, actually.
GEOFFREY: She wasn't too encouraging as reguards of the band, was she?
BEST: No. The first time I went up to see Mimi, John turned around and said, "Oh, you're going to meet Mimi." I said, "Fine." He said, "Look, let me just warn you she's a little bit, I won't say straightlaced, but she's a little severe in her approach to what I'm doing, don't pay attention to her." Actually, she was fine. She just sort of laughed and joked.
GEOFFREY: Do you feel there was competition between you and Paul as reguards the group?
BEST: Not unless Paul took it upon himself that there was going to be a rivalry. Lots of people have said it was the jealousy factor. My answer to that is, if he was jealous, then it was a stupid bloody thing to be. I mean I was never trying to be number one.
GEOFFREY: Did you ever sing lead on anything?
BEST: On a couple of songs, yes. "Matchbox," "Peppermint Twist," "Roses Are Red." A few times I got up and sang.
GEOFFREY: Pete, do you know why you were sacked from the group?
PETE: No. I wish I did. I think as time goes on, there's more and more information coming out. It's beginning to become a bit more open now. Suspicions which we've had in the past are now beginning to come to light. But to actually say, I know the reason. No. A lot of it tended to be the fact that they didn't want me to be the focal point of the band, being the drummer. I was taking too much attention away from them. As I've said before, if that was the reason, they're damn stupid.
GEOFFREY: I put this to Mike McCartney, and he said, "They would have had a better chance of success if they had a really good-looking drummer who was a combination of Tony Curtis and James Dean, moody and magnificent, and those two crazy, lively guys doing vocals. It would have been much bigger."
BEST: Look, we were a unit. If the birds screamed and paid more attention to me, as far as I'm concerned, it sisn't male any difference. They were simply contributing to what the Beatles were. If they came to see the Beatles or they came to see me, it didn't make any difference because they were screaming and shouting and it added to the overall atmosphere. If that was the reason, then as I keep stressing, they were bloody stupid!
GEOFFREY: Well, I've convinced it certainly wasn't because you weren't a good enough drummer, as a legend sometimes has it. That was a convenient, accessible, tidy reason to give people to skirt around the real question. As a matter of fact, Bob Gallo [Best's former producer] told me no uncertain terms that you're actually a bit better than Ringo. Anyway, you were certainly as good, if not better than Ringo Starr, as a drummer.
BEST: I've always advocated it. There's drummers in Liverpool who swear that I was the top dog as drummers go.
GEOFFREY: Obviously, it's been hell for you. You're world famous now as the bloke who wasn't as good enough, and that must feel really terrible.
BEST: But there's always two sides to it. That's the way I look at it. Sure, by a Kiffey trick, I was ousted. I didn't become part of the acclaim, which we worked for. So, okay, there was some heartache. But now I have a great family and good friends. I can do basically what I want to with out fear or trepidation. As long as I'm happy and healthy, that counts for an awful lot.
GEOFFREY: Did it take a long time to come to terms with it?
BEST: Many years of heartache and resentment.
GEOFFREY: Did you ever ask the Beatles personally what happened?
BEST: No, I never saw them, it was a funny thing.
GEOFFREY: Not only did the band end that day, but the friendships ended as well, didn't they, in Brian's office?
BEST: Basically, yeah. But I actually played on the same bill as them later on two occasions. I joined another group and we were runners-up to them in the Mercy Beat poll.
GEOFFREY: Did you ever speak to them?
BEST: There was nothing mentioned. There was just a stone-cold silence from that day to this.
GEOFFREY: Mona said they came to the Casbah afterwards.
BEST: I wasn't here. It was still an open house.
GEOFFREY: You were good friends with Neil Aspinall, weren't you?
BEST: Oh yeah. we were always getting along very nicely.
GEOFFREY: Did that friendship go that day as well?
BEST: The funy thing was, Neil was with me that day I was sacked. We'd gone down to the van when I met Brian. When I came out of NEMS he looked at me, and said, "Peter, what happened? You went in happy as Larry and you've some out as though you've got your crotch kicked." I said, "Basically, that's what happened. They've kicked me out." Neil turned and said, "That's it, if you're out, I'm out." Later, we went for a couple of pints just to appease the situation and talked. I said, "Look, Neil, they're going places. You can feel it." We had the recording contract by then and it was an inner belief. We knew it was going to happen. So I said, "What's the use in cutting your nose to spite your face? Stay with them." He said, "Well, okay," and he stayed with them.
GEOFFREY: And he's still with them to this day.
BEST: Well, he's the director of Apple. Whatever he does, he's the guy. He put in a lot of good work. He progressed, he became their road manager. What he's got now, he worked pretty hard for.
GEOFFREY: What would you say if you met Paul McCartney and had a chance to sit down and chat with him? And what do you think he would say?
BEST: As for me, the animosity's gone.
GEOFFREY: You wouldn't want to sock him, would you?
BEST: No. That would defeat the whole object. It might just be embarrassing. I don't know how he'd feel about it. I should imagine, knowing Paul it would be a case of, "Hi! How are you doing?" Where the conversation would go from there, I don't know. You couldn't rehearse it.
GEOFFREY: When the Beatles went out and started doing Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, the White Album, Abbey Road, and Let It Be, did you enjoy the Beatles' new music?
BEST: When they got into the psychedelic era, as far as I was concerned, that wasn't my cup of fish. That wasn't the Beatles for me. I admire them for what they were doing because it was something different. They were leading the world in the sounds. But my memories of the Beatles was their early stuff. That was really the Beatles for me.
GEOFFREY: Did you follow their careers?
BEST: Not avidly. I never made a point of it because you didn't have to. You'd switch the radio on. The papers were full of it. The concert in Tokyo. It was in the shops. It was all around you.
GEOFFREY: Was it the same thing with their solo albums after the Beatles finally broke up?
BEST: In my opinion, Paul has more or less dominated the scene as the solo artist. He is a great songwriter. You can't take that away from him. A very talented guy. But it would have been interesting to see how John could have challenged him as a solo artist had he lived. George went completely out of music and into Handmade Films. Ringo did a few things but really didn't have much of a solo career. But the two eyes the world were on was John and Paul. and that would've been very interesting.
GEOFFREY: Tell me about the moment you heard John had died. Was that very tough for you?
BEST: Yeah. A lot of people said, "What difference that it make to you? You hadn't seen the guy for twenty years." I said, "What you fail to remember is that I have fond memories of the guy." I knew him for three, four years. I spent a lot of time with him, we battled for one another, we fought for one another. We swapped beds with one another in Germany and all the rest of it. I had a lot of respect for him, and me deeply because I knew the guy and I had respect for him, and I still have very, very fond memories of him. I always will.
GEOFFREY: Do you have any show business aspirations today?
BEST: I would be open to offers. I have had offers.
GEOFFREY: You mean you're just waiting for the right offer, is that it?
BEST: No, I've got an awful lot to consider.
GEOFFREY: You've got a career, an established life here. You wouldn't want to jeopardize that on a lark.
BEST: No. There's other things ... It would depend. It would have to be the merit of the offer. But I would give it serious consideration. A lot of the thought would have to go into it.
GEOFFREY: I guess you realize in America right now, "Twist and Shout" is in the top ten, the Monkees, which is a shit group, has probably made a million or two in the last month alone.
BEST: A sixties comeback.
GEOFFREY: There's such an aura, mystique, and charisma about you. People want to know more about you.
BEST: It sounds great the way you make it sound positive. But I'd have to see. If it's going to happen, it'll happen. Because my cards are planned, that's the way I look at life, okay? I wasn't meant to be part of the phenomenon, but even the miniphenomenon had already started. Who's holding the deck for me? It's got to be fate.
GEOFFREY: The other thing was, in all, there were probably only about six Beatles. John, Paul, George, Ringo, you, and Stu. That is a very select group of six human beings. Sadly, two of them are now dead. There are only four Beatles left alive in the world, and you're one of them. George Harrison said the best music the Beatles ever made was in Hamburg when you were their drummer. You were the tightest group no matter what anyone says. You weren't with them for a number of years, but you were with them about half the time they existed, their acknowledged peak as performers, and today you're still around. The Beatles, as it turns out, may be remembered as the Beethovens of their day. How does that make you feel?
BEST: When you meet people like youself it sets the adrenaline flowing and it's nice. I've always been willing to talk about it. I didn't pull shutters down and close myself off. It;s great to see people the way they do, the admiration, the loyalty and the remarkable tenderness. It gives me a very good feeling.
GEOFFREY: Bob Gallo once told me recently that the album you did with him [Best of the Beatles] didn't really work because there was still a bad taste in the mouth of some of the fans. "If the Beatles kicked him out, he must be no good," and "Stay away from him, he's poison." But now that has turned itself around. Everyone has grown up, and those feelings have been transformed into deep respect, admiration, and even love.
BEST: Look, I don't go climbing walls and say I must get back into show business because I feel that if I'm meant to go back into it and the breaks are going to be there ...
GEOFFREY: We will close the interview now, but first let me ask you a few more questions. I'll shoot you the name of some people, and you give me an impression or rememberance. Mal Evans.
BEST: A gentle giant. A great guy who started as a Beatle fan and became the Beatles' road manager.
GEOFFREY: Brian Epstein.
BEST: Polite, reserved, he knew people credited him with losing millions for the Beatles, but the way I look at it, he also made millions for them as well.
GEOFFREY: George Harrison.
BEST: Still very much into his music. Always was, and it's great to see. Although he stepped out of the limelight for a few years and stayed away from the music, he is now coming back into it again.
GEOFFREY: Allan Williams.
BEST: What can you say about Allan? A Welshman with a great sense of humor.
GEOFFREY: John Lennon.
BEST: John was the closest to me as far as I'm concerned. As they say there are two sides to John, but I was fortunate to know both and he was one hell of a person.
GEOFFREY: Thanks, Pete.