Beatles' gigantic success “no surprise”, says original drummer Pete Best at Prague exhibition

Pete Best, photo: CTK

The name Pete Best became a synonym for nearly man after he was kicked out of The Beatles before they became the biggest band the world had ever seen. The group’s original drummer is currently in Prague to perform at an exhibition at the Czech Museum of Music entitled Beatlemánie, which features original memorabilia and documents how young people in Czechoslovakia, like their peers elsewhere in the world, were thrilled by the explosion of the Fab Four. On the eve of the show, I discussed The Beatles’ continued popularity with Pete Best.

Pete Best, photo: CTK
“I think they left a legacy which…finished in 1968 when they stopped performing live. But, you know, the music’s captivated the world. And what’s happened since then, you’re talking about what, 40, nearly 50 years afterwards, the legacy’s been…found by new generations.”

How did you view the madness, the Beatlemania, from the sidelines, when the Beatles rather quickly became huge global stars?

“I think it was something which was…it wasn’t a surprise, like a lot of people think. It was something which was expected, we’d seen fan appeal even when I was with them. Even before they broke America and they went on to become icons of the music industry, they were still getting this fantastic response from audiences. And I think that was the charisma. They had something that wasn’t bottled, it was new, the way they presented it was new, and I think they just captivated the world.”

Earlier I believe you signed the John Lennon Wall in Prague. The image of him there is from the hippy days, the late ‘60s. He’s seen here as a figure of peace and love. How does that image compare to the John Lennon you knew?

Pete Best at the John Lennon Wall in Prague, photo: CTK
“It’s nice to reflect back and say, I knew John when he was a snotty young kid. He was an angry young man, but we all were in Liverpool in those days. I was fortunate to know John…not what the public saw, I saw another side of him. I think the beauty of it was then that I saw a side of John that…came to fruition many years afterwards. He wanted to deliver a message, and I think he did that many, many years afterwards.”

There are a lot of books, even films, about the early days of the Beatles. Do any of them get it right?

“[Laughs] I wish I could turn around and say, yes, but the answer’s no. I haven’t watched all of them. I’ve watched certain films, because there’s that many out there. The ones I’ve seen…people have taken artistic licence, they’ve made mistakes, but at the end of the day they’re not archivists.”

I know you’re playing at this exhibition on Wednesday night. What kind of set are you going to play?

The Beatles
“We’re playing for this exhibition music from the 1961-63 era. We do play some Beatle music. At the end of the day, we’re not a Beatle copy band but we admire the Beatles, I admire the Beatles. And it’s nice to allude to the fact that, you know, I was part of the band. The people who are there we want to enjoy themselves, there’s lots of crowd participation numbers. We want them to get involved, we want them to shout and scream and enjoy themselves. Just imagine it was the Beatles and enjoy themselves.”

Beatlemánie runs at the Czech Museum of Music until January.