John Lennon’s Confession About Pete Best’s ‘Coward’ Dismissal From The Beatles
Rock fans are familiar with lineup changes since tensions between band members or creative differences often instigate disputes which result in one side leaving. Numerous bands have changed their lineup throughout the years — some have even changed their frontman. For instance, David Coverdale replaced Ian Gillan in Deep Purple, and Iron Maiden rose to fame when they recruited Bruce Dickinson after Paul Day and Paul Di’Anno’s tenures.
We all know the Beatles as the quartet featuring John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. However, before they rose to worldwide fame with Ringo Starr, they worked with Pete Best as their drummer. Known as the fifth Beatle, Best joined the Beatles in 1960 after the band’s invitation. However, Starr replaced him only two years later, as he was dismissed by Brian Epstein, and not the band. As it turns out, John Lennon described this as a cowardly move in later years.
The Beatles’ Original Drummer
The Beatles played some of their first shows in Pete Best’s mother, Mona Best’s club. Before their first Hamburg dates, the band began their search for a drummer and settled on Pete. Although Best had a chance to attend teacher-training college, he decided it would be best to join the Beatles. Together, they performed in several venues — but the Beatles wasn’t a prominent band back then.
Apart from playing the drums, Best also sang on Paul McCartney’s ‘Pinwheel Twist’ while Paul handled his duties. In 1961, Tony Sheridan and the Beatles arranged a rock version of ‘My Bonnie’ and entered the studio to record it. German record label Polydor released this effort. A year later, Brian Epstein became the band manager and arranged a studio recording at Decca Records. The band began the sessions and recorded 15 songs, consisting primarily of covers. Pete Best recorded ‘Going Back Manchester’ with John Lennon during that period.
After a while, Decca informed Brian Epstein that the Beatles were rejected. Later, EMI’s George Martin met with Epstein at the Abbey Road Studios. After listening to the Decca tape, he agreed to sign the Beatles. However, Martin believed Best’s drumming didn’t support the band’s sound. So, the decision was made — Pete Best had to be replaced with an experienced studio session drummer for the recordings.
The Beatles’ Regret About Pete Best
Brian Epstein was hesitant to dismiss Best, as fans loved him. In the end, the band decided that their commercial success was far more critical than having a good stage presence. When EMI signed the Beatles, Epstein didn’t inform Best. He then invited the drummer to his office and dismissed him privately. As it turns out, the Beatles members had so much to confess about Best’s dismissal.
“We were cowards when we sacked him,” John Lennon admitted in a statement. “We made Brian do it,” he continued, acknowledging that it was cowardly of them to leave it to Brian Epstein. On the other hand, McCartney felt sorry for the drummer as he could’ve been a star if they hadn’t let him go. Macca said, “I do feel sorry for him because of what he could have been on to.”
“We weren’t very good at telling Pete he had to go,” George Harrison confessed, saying he regrets how they showed Best the door. “Historically, it may look like we did something nasty to Pete, and it may have been that we could have handled it better.” As Starr wasn’t with the band during the incident, he had a light heart, “I never felt sorry… I was not involved,” he once said.
Apparently, John Lennon blamed himself and the rest of the band for not having the courage to tell Pete Best he had to go because his drumming didn’t suit their sound. McCartney also believed it could’ve been different for Best if he had remained a Beatle. It seems like he was right since Pete only made unsuccessful musical efforts after his dismissal and left the music scene for a period before forming his Pete Best Band.