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When Pete was the Most Popular Beatle
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When recalling this time to Beatles' biographer, Hunter Davies, Pete said: "When we came back from Germany I was playing using my bass drum very loud and laying down a very solid beat. This was unheard of at the time in Liverpool as all the groups were playing in the Shadows' style. Even Ringo in Rory's group copied our beat and it wasn't long before most drummers in Liverpool were playing the same style. This way of drumming had a great deal to do with the big sound we were producing."

This style of playing (which Pete had developed in Germany) earned the tag 'the Atom Beat', and Pete was regarded as one of the 'Pool's leading drummers.

Issue No. 2 of Mersey Beat, published on 20 July 1961, devoted its entire front page to the story of the Beatles' Hamburg recording and Brian Epstein ordered 144 copies of that particular issue.

When Bob Wooler wrote his report on the Beatles' impact locally (in Mersey Beat on 31 August 1961), the only Beatle he named was Pete, describing the group as: 'musically authoritative and physically magnetic, example the mean, moody magnificence of drummer Pete Best -- a sort of teenage Jeff Chandler.'

It was due to pressure from Mo and Bob Wooler that Ray McFall eventually decided to book the Beatles at the Cavern and their rise to local fame continued at a meteoric pace. Pete and Mo continued to act as unofficial managers and agents for the group, arranging all their gigs and negotiating the fees.

Pete Best was emerging as the most popular Beatle among the fans. Bob Wooler considered him the Beatles' biggest asset and said that it was principally Best who was the attraction at the Aintree Institute and Litherland Town Hall gigs.

Due to his popularity, he was encouraged to introduce his own singing spot, 'Peppermint Twist' into the act. Next, Bob Wooler suggested something unprecedented -- place Pete in front of the other three members of the group. This unusual line-up was presented only once -- at the St Valentine's Dance on 14 February 1961 at Litherland Town Hall -- because the stage was mobbed when the girls surged forward and almost pulled him off. This had never happened when John, Paul and George were in the front line.

Reports in Mersey Beat and comments by people involved in the local scene confirm Best's huge local appeal. One story related how girls slept in his garden overnight just to be near him!

Promoter Ron Appleby was to comment: "He was definitely the big attraction with the group and did much to establish their popularity during their early career."

George, Paul, Pete and John at the Cavern

In 1963, the Cavern doorman, Paddy Delaney, was to recall:

"Before the Beatles recorded, Pete was inclined to be more popular with the girls than any other member of the group. There were several reasons why I believe he was so popular. Girls were attracted by the fact that he wouldn't smile, even though they tried to make him. They also tried to attract his attention on stage, but he wouldn't look at them. When he left the Beatles there were exclamations of surprise. 'the Beatles will never be the same without him'...'He was the Beatles'...'They've taken away the vital part', were comments I heard."

When Brian Epstein took over the management reigns, it was Pete who discussed gigs and fees with him. The two men had an amicable relationship, although Pete was to point out that Brian once attempted to seduce him and had asked if he would come to a hotel and stay with him overnight. Pete politely told him to forget it -- and nothing further was said.

1961 was an event-packed year, in which the group's Cavern bookings increased. They went on another trip to Hamburg, during which Stuart Sutcliffe left the band. The Beatles also recorded in Hamburg with Tony Sheridan and Bert Kaempfert. Astrid Kirchherr fashioned Stuart's hair in a style that was developed by Jurgen Vollmer for John and Paul in Paris and later became known as the 'moptop.' Astrid never offered to style Pete's hair and no one ever asked him to adopt the hairstyle.

Astrid said she never attempted to style Pete's hair because it was too curly, although Pete said he would have agreed to the style if he'd been asked. Too many writers have written, inaccurately, that one of the reasons he was fired was because he refused to adopt the moptop.

The Beatles began 1962 with a Decca recording audition and were confirmed as Liverpool's No.1 group in a January issue on Mersey Beat. On 7 March 1962 they made their broadcasting debut on 'Teenager's Turn' in Manchester. When they recorded their second radio appearance on 11 June, Pete was mobbed by the Manchester girls, while John, Paul and George managed to make their way to the coach. When Pete finally managed to break free and join the others, he was reprimanded by Paul's father, who accused him of hogging the limelight.

That month, Pete learned by accident that Decca had rejected the group. The other members knew about it, but no one had bothered to inform Pete. He said: "I was hurt because I was the last to know about it. The others knew a couple of weeks earlier. They let it slip out in a casual conversation one day."

Pete was also to comment: "When I did eventually learn our fate, their lame excuse was that they had all thought I would take the result extremely badly."

When news of the Parlophone deal came through, Mersey Beat ran the story on the front page, featuring a photograph of Pete Best with the caption: "Congratulations to Pete, Paul, John and George."

The Beatles were now on the brink of success, but a number of incidents hinted at a covert plan to get rid of Pete. Apart from the fact that the others had not immediately informed him of the Decca audition result, a similar situation occurred regarding the Parlophone contract -- they just didn't bother to tell him.

When Pete was chatting with Paul and mentioned he was considering buying a Ford Capri, Paul told him: "If you take my advice you won't buy it, that's all. You'd be better saving your money."

On Wednesday 15 August 1962, following their lunchtime gig at the Cavern, Pete asked John what time he and Neil Aspinall would collect him for the customary lift in the van the next day. John said: "No, don't bother. I've got other arrangements," and rushed away.

Brian was still in the Cavern and asked Pete if he could come and see him at the office the next morning. Pete saw nothing unusual in this -- he was the one who met with Brian regularly to discuss forthcoming gigs. He arrived at NEMS the next day, driven by Neil, and went to meet Brian in his office.

The manager seemed unusually flustered and blurted out: "The boys want you out and Ringo in. They don't think you're a good enough drummer, Pete. And George Martin doesn't think you're a good enough drummer."

When Pete asked him: "Does Ringo know yet?", Brian told him that he was joining the band on the coming Saturday. Then the phone rang -- it was someone asking if Pete had been given the news. Brian asked Pete if he could fulfil the remaining three bookings until Ringo replaced him.

Stunned, Pete said "Yes", then left, in somewhat of a daze.

>>Continued on Page 3...

This article is Copyright © 2007, Bill Harry, and may not be reproduced on other web sites or in print, in whole or in part, without expressed permission.

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