Sunday 13 February 2022

Pete Best Reveals All

Liverpool Beatles Museum
23 Mathew Street
L2 6RE


On Tuesday I was invited to a special ticket only unveiling at the Liverpool Beatles Museum on Mathew Street

The museum was created by Roag Best, son of the Beatles’ Road manager / head of Apple Neil Aspinall and Mona Best, and the half-brother of Pete Best. 

As reported in my blog last September, with Covid restrictions hopefully easing for good,  Roag is planning on holding a number of ‘reveals’ during the year as important new pieces of memorabilia are added to the collection.

A good-sized crowd had assembled in Mathew Street ahead of the 9am opening. Once inside we were directed upstairs to the first floor of the museum where we were offered breakfast pastries, tea and coffee.  After 15 minutes or so of eating, drinking and catching up with fellow Beatle fans, historians and musicians it was time for Roag to open the proceedings.

There was a running gag throughout the morning which started when Roag  mentioned his son’s had recently started referring to him as ‘Pete Best’s brother’ after they decided to test their Amazon Alexa:


Q: Alexa, who is Roag Best?   

Alexa: I’m sorry I don’t know that one.


Q: Alexa, who is Pete Best?

Alexa: Pete Best is the former drummer in the Beatles. He joined the group in August 1960...

Q: Alexa, who is Mona Best?

Alexa: Mona Best is the mother of Pete Best. She founded the Casbah Club and was the first female booking agent...


Q: Alexa, who is Leanne Best?

Alexa: Leanne Best is a famous British Actress who has starred in such shows as Line of Duty, Four Lives.... She is the niece of Beatle Pete Best...


Q: Alexa, who is Pete Best’s brother?

Alexa: Roag Best is Pete Best’s brother!


After much hilarity it was time to introduce the special guest for the morning.

Ladies and gentlemen, the man who put the beat in the Beatles: Pete Best!!!

After receiving a warm welcome from the crowd Pete said his hellos, thanked everyone for coming and commented on how nice it was to see everyone’s faces after an absence of about 2 1/2 years.

Before ‘revealing the reveal’ Pete said, ‘I’ll tell you a little story’:


As you all know, I joined the band in August 1960, and we went out to Germany. We were playing at the Indra Club. We closed that one down after a month because we were playing too loud, and then we got moved to the Kaiserkeller.


We should have been there a month but Bruno Koschmider, who was the manager of the Kaiserkeller, kept extending the contract....and extending the contract. And we didn’t mind because we were getting booze, and birds, and women. We were loving it!  We were 17-18 year olds and it was another education for us.


But what we did talk about between ourselves was that regardless of what was going on in Germany, we wanted to be home for Christmas. We’d been there since August, and this was now getting to be the middle of November. So, I was like ok, regardless of whether we get extended again we’re going home for Christmas and then we’ll see what happens. So, I said I’m going to start promoting the Beatles in Liverpool, and I wrote to Neil (Aspinall) and said keep it under your hat, but we’re going to be coming home for Christmas, and I want you to do some posters. I said just basically tease the public. Don’t let them know who the Beatles are, just say they are coming, watch out for them. So, he did.

It’s important to remember at this point that before the Beatles went to Hamburg they were, to use their agent Allan Williams’ immortal words, a ‘bum group’. Nobody knew who they were in Liverpool, before going to Germany most of the bookings Williams got for them were on the Wirral. When they’d last played at the Casbah Club, ran by Pete’s mother Mo, they were still using the Quarry Men name.       


Pete: We had gone away a mediocre band and now we were coming back a powerhouse.


It was a lot of fun. We didn’t know what possible reception we were going to get back in Liverpool. We knew we’d basically become kings of Hamburg but coming back to Liverpool no one had really heard of us.

We got back a lot quicker than we anticipated because when we told Bruno Koschmider that we were going to the Top Ten Club he said, ‘you will never work in Germany again’, to which we went [mimes sticking up two fingers] ‘We will sir’....  that was the last thing we ever did.


All of a sudden George was sent home for being underage. Pete and Paul got sent home for allegedly trying to burn the Bambi Kino down. We didn’t succeed, thank God, and a couple of days after that John said to hell with this I’m going home. The only one who was happy to stay was Stu cost he’d fallen in love with Astrid, the beautiful Astrid Kirchherr.  The mysterious and lovely woman.


Anyway, we landed back home. Neil had started making posters like I’d said. He’d made two of each. He hadn’t started to put them up in the Casbah yet because we took them all by surprise (by returning early). I came back home and saw them, and the complete set (of three) was there in duplicate, so I took one complete set, and I kept them for my scrapbook. That was 1960, and I’ve had them ever since. So, what happened was, I kept them, and I kept looking at them up to today, and I said to Roag, it’s no good letting me look at them in my little vault, where I’ve got my other little bits and pieces. It’s about time we broke this out into the world.


So, I’m very proud to say that this is the only complete set of posters promoting the Beatles for the very first time, for their very first gig in Liverpool after the return from Hamburg.  And it is, I’m very proud to say again, the only complete set in the whole wide world, Ok? Now I’ve kept them for 60 odd years, I’m not going to keep them anymore I’m going to reveal them to you, and I think as I reveal them, you’ll see the importance of them. And then afterwards you can get up closer and see what I was talking about.

The first one. The Beatles are coming.  


Pete invited his brother to tell a story to tell about that.


Roag - The funny thing about that The Beatles are coming, as those of you who know, you Beatle historians and Beatles fans, when they first went to America in 1964 this was used as their tagline, The Beatles Are Coming. The first time that had been used was in Liverpool to promote their first show at the Casbah, so somewhere in their heads they’d remembered that and decided to use it again for the USA. Anyway, just adding that in! 

Roag’s world famous re-enactment of the Beatles remembering something in their heads. Uncanny. It's obvious who Leanne got her talent from. 

Pete: That's something I didn’t know. He’s the font of knowledge is Pete Best’s brother!


1964 promotional item ahead of the Beatles First US Visit

Here Soon. The Beatles.


Pete: Right.  Another tease OK.  The curiosity among the Casbah membership was building.  It was working.  


The the final one you'll find it a bit difficult to read from far off. The Fabulous Beatles direct from Hamburg, Germany.  Wait for it! Admission price: one shilling. In today’s money 5p. Now who wouldn’t want to see the Beatles for 5p?  I’d even spend 10p!  


But a couple of things about this and then I’ll let you have a look, The Fabulous Beatles. We were the first to use it and this got diluted own. It went in many different formats and used during the whole advent of the Beatle era It’s even still getting used today. It went from the Fabulous Beatles to the Fab Four to the Fab Beatles, the Fabulous Four, you name it. But it originated at a humble coffee club called the Casbah on 19 December 1960.


The other thing about it was this. I’ll tell you a little story about this particular poster. A lot of people don’t realise that with (The Beatles) being advertised as direct from Germany, when Mo gave us that first gig (the audience were expecting a German group).


John, George and Paul were going into the cellar to start the set and they went down and the kids in the Casbah turned round and went hang on a minute, they’re supposed to be The Beatles.  That’s John, George and Paul, who used to be in the Quarrymen.  'Ey?  What’s going on? 

Next minute Pete and Chas Newby, who was standing in for Stu Sutcliffe who’d stayed behind a while (in Hamburg) because of Astrid Kirchherr.... and who wouldn’t stay behind?  Again, it was the same thing, ‘hang on a minute, that’s Pete and Chas from the Blackjacks. Mona! Who are these Beatles? 


And Mona said ‘be patient, be patient, I’ve heard great things about them. Listen to them play’.  So, we did, and we kicked off and played the first number and at the end there was quiet, and we looked at them (the audience) and went My God, what’s happened?’ The next minute the place erupted they all rushed to the back to see Mona; they were saying Mo! They’re absolutely fabulous, you’ve got to book them again. She said I will do be patient.


The next gig we played was at Litherland Town Hall. Now just to put you in the picture and rectify a myth, if I’m allowed to do that. (Roag confirmed that we were totally into rectifying myths), So it’s always been put down in books and on social media that Beatlemania started at Litherland Town Hall on December the 26th. It didn’t. It started at the Casbah on December 19th and the reason I stress this is because Mo opened the Casbah on December 26th, and the place was empty. The whole Casbah audience, and membership, had gone to watch us perform at Litherland Town Hall.  

So, Beatlemania didn’t start at Litherland Town Hall, it started at the Casbah, and it went on to sweep the world and that really is the history of these three posters. The complete set, the only set that still remains in the whole wide world today.    

Now 80, Pete was sharp, charming, full of fun and happy to accommodate everyone’s requests for photographs and autographs. I asked him how big the personal archive he'd mentioned was, were we talking a cupboard under the stairs, or a shipping container?  He said, 'that would be telling!'

Pete with my friend and fellow historian Angela Leighton-Jones

There was also a little surprise for him, a one-off, custom-made snare drum featuring portraits of his Pete, his mother, and the Beatles during the time that he was their drummer.  He seemed genuinely touched by the presentation.  

Pete Best and Roag 'Pete Best's Brother' Best

There was no rush to get off afterwards, the guests were permitted to have a look around the museum or just stand around and chat.  I did both and took the opportunity to photograph some of the ‘Best’ items on display. [ba-dum tish!]

Other highlights in the collection include the Beatles’ first drumkits.  Pete’s iconic Premier kit which was captured in many photos taken in Hamburg and Liverpool and his Ludwig kit which he bought about a month before he was replaced by Ringo Starr.

Receipts from Hessy's and Cranes for Pete's drumsticks

Pete's leather trousers from Hamburg

Pete's cowboy boots from Hamburg

Pete's pink cap from Hamburg.  The whole ensemble can be seen in the group photo below.

George, Paul and John on the roof of the Top Ten Club in Hamburg, Spring 1961

Roag’s daughter, the actress Leanne Best.

I like Roag and I like Pete. But which one is Best?
There's only one way to find out...



Roag and Pete Best and everyone at the Liverpool Beatles Museum,  Angela Leighton-Jones for letting me use some of her photos, Brian Lewis for taking the photos of me with the various guests, Chrisse Usenius, Jackie Holmes and Dave 'Jamo' Jamieson. 

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