Thursday, October 2, 2008

BEAT THAT

Former Beatle Pete Best on grit and growth

Posted on Thu, Oct 2, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Haymans Green
Label: Lightyear
Length: LP
Media: CD
Format: Album
WorkNameSort: Haymans Green

In the fall of 1962, Liverpool drummer Pete Best rehearsed a midtempo number he'd been working on with his band, the Beatles, called 'Love Me Do.â?� It was one of many songs, including 'Please Please Me,â?� they had honed over the last couple of years in places like Best's mother's venue, the Casbah Coffee Club, and now they'd be recording in a real studio. Best was, as always, drenched in sweat, and something was going on.

'There was so much subterfuge going on at the time,â?� says Best, now 66 and still a proud Liverpudlian. 'Whatever was going on behind the scenes was kept away from me.â?�

What he sensed, however, was his imminent firing from the band. Best, 46 years later, still has no clue why he was let go.

'[The Beatles and I] never talked again. We played on the same bill a couple times, but I was coming off stage as they were coming on.â?�

Best formed the Pete Best Band and maintained a regional cult following. His reaction to watching his former bandmates create music history was characteristically understated.

'[Their success] was expected,â?� says Best. 'We had that much belief in ourselves. Call it arrogance, call it Liverpool grit, but we just knew. 'Give us a chance to make a record,' we thought. My gut reaction when 'Love Me Do' went to the charts was, 'Of course!' It leaves a sad taste in your mouth, though.â?�

Eventually, Best left the music world and focused on providing for his new family, but finding work in Liverpool was tough. Most prospective employers knew him as a rock-star drummer and assumed he would quit if given half a chance to go on tour. His brothers, he says, finally pulled him out of a suicidal stupor and Best began working twice as hard, loading bread onto vans at one point.

'I was very proud of the sweat on my brow,â?� says Best.

Generations later, the Casbah, which John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison helped decorate before opening night, where they tended bar to meet women and played their first gigs, is a tourist spot. Best and his brothers are back in their family home, Haymans Green.

'It was my mother's pipe dream, it was the encapsulation of our dreams,â?� remembers Best. 'Haymans Green is so important; a great big house with four stories, cellars, massive gardens. Even though our mum's moved on to greener pastures, we're keeping her legacy alive.â?�

That legacy includes Best's new outing, Haymans Green, a full-length album with heavy shades of the Beatles' dreamy pop and full of the introspection that comes from a life as both a 19-year-old Beatle and a grandfather of four.

'For 20 years, I stayed away,â?� says Best. 'For many years, people around ' punters and tourists ' were trying to get me to pick it back up. In '88, my younger brother got me in a corner. He was playing drums then, so we started playing again. My mother was still alive, and she said, 'Pete, you don't know it but you're going to go back into show business.' I thought she was out of her mind.â?� He chuckles for a moment, then mentions the song 'Broken,â?� a drifting rocker off Haymans Green that's reminiscent of, ironically, famously Beatles-obsessed Oasis.

'I think it's my favorite [song from the album],â?� says Best. 'Having been through it, knowing what it was all about. You've gotta reinvent yourself. You've gotta stand tall.â?�

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