Meet Pete Best

How many times have you heard someone either claim to be, or claim to have been called, the Fifth Beatle? I am often asked that question too. I have a simple answer: Pete Best.

Before you all scream ‘It should be George Martin, or Brian Epstein or Murray the K or countless others,’ I have a simple solution.

If you just apply a chronological order to The Beatles, then it is simple: first there was John, then Paul, who introduced George, and they were all Quarrymen. When John added his friend Stuart Sutcliffe, then there were four and they were Silver Beatles. To go to Hamburg, they added Pete Best and they became The Beatles – Pete joined as the fifth member.

They were Beatles for two years before Pete was dismissed. That also therefore makes Ringo the sixth Beatle! Easy, isn’t it? All six of them contributed to the story of The Beatles. (If you want to be pedantic, Chas Newby is the sixth and Ringo then becomes the seventh, but it was only for 4 gigs, so we won’t nit-pick!)

To deny Pete and Stuart their part in The Beatles success is to ignore a vital part of The Beatles’ history. John said that if you hadn't seen The Beatles in their leathers performing in Hamburg or Liverpool, then you hadn't seen the real Beatles. Therefore, you have to include Stuart and Pete.

I have been with Beatles’ fans to the Casbah as a regular visitor since 2004 and still get an incredible buzz from being there. Over the months, Pete’s brothers Roag and Rory have entertained these fans, who spend most of their time there dumbstruck! With the release of their documentary film and DVD "Best of The Beatles" in 2005, the Casbah was suddenly big news.

Roag kindly arranged for me to have the honour of meeting Pete at the Casbah in July 2005, and I spent a great 90 minutes with a hero of mine. I admitted to him that I had a disturbed night beforehand and hadn’t been so nervous for years, but as we sat there in the coffee bar of the Casbah Club that started the Merseybeat scene, Pete simply said:

“Dave, I go to sleep and get up in the morning like everyone else”.

Maybe you see it like that Pete, but you were a Beatle, and an important member of the greatest band to grace this earth!    

So my first question, Pete, is about the Casbah itself. Tell me about it, and its place in Beatles history, a place that has been often overlooked.

“It is like Tutankhamun’s cave, a gem that has laid unchanged for nearly 50 years; a place that can only be conveyed in books to a certain degree, that you have to stand here to feel the atmosphere. I have always seen it from this side as my home, but it is only when I see the faces of fans that I realise what we have here. It has its own special atmosphere that is unique in the world.”

So Pete, what is like to have this great club in your house?

“You have to stand here and feel the buzz. This is where it started. We’ve grown up with it, so it is part of the family: it has always been here, and so for us it is home, but for visitors it's like stepping into history.”

Outside there is a plaque claiming this is the “Birthplace of The Beatles”. The Cavern amongst others claims that too. However, The Casbah was where the band first played as “The Beatles” outside of Hamburg in December 1960. The Quarrymen – John Paul and George reformed to open the club; they added Stuart Sutcliffe by coercing him to buy his bass guitar in a corner of the Coffee bar; they added Pete Best from the Casbah to join them on their journey to Hamburg.

What do you feel about the fact that people are finally now recognising these important facts?

“We (the Best family) have always said it, but now other people are saying it too, so a lot of these myths are being destroyed. We’ve not gone out in the documentary to say this is black, this is white; you were told this, but this is actually what happened: this is the truth. Other people are saying it and giving their impressions about how they saw it. We are just saying this is what really happened, and then it’s up to you to piece it together. Others have written about it, often from their own slant and plagiarised other books.

Many researchers say it all started in 1962 with four Beatles; John, Paul, George and Ringo, but there were three years before that. Everyone has their own slant and reasons for writing their version. There are certain facts and stories, which they twist in order to sell books. Fans therefore read these books, and see it in black and white and assume it to be true. There are some ridiculous and made up stories, which are often sensationalism and just ways to make some dollars. They write garbage and people believe it – it’s in a book, so it must be true.”

One thing I have noticed in Pete, Rory and Roag is that at the slightest reference to their mum, Mo, there is a glint in their eye and smile on their face, and no wonder.

“If Brian Epstein has been credited with polishing the rough diamond to create the biggest and best group of all time, then it is surely Mo who helped to produce the rough diamond in the first place.”

So, I asked Pete to tell me about Mo – all three boys refer to her as “Mo”, a real term of endearment.

“I could sit here and talk for a year about her. She was a mother first, and then a mother to all the club members. We became like a family to all of the members, and she would hand out advice when asked, even to some of the parents! She was a diplomat and a politician. She was the matriarch, who had a clear vision of what she wanted the Casbah to be. At the time, we didn’t realise the ideas that she had.

She saw the potential in The Beatles when we came back from Hamburg. Derry - from Derry and the Seniors, the first Merseybeat band to conquer Hamburg - had come back from Hamburg and told Mo how good The Beatles were, but when we came back and played that Christmas at the Casbah, we were the best rock ‘n’ roll group around.”

This is an excerpt from the full interview from the book

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