BEST PUTS THE PAST IN ITS PLACE
May 9, 2008
By ROBERT BIESELIN,
WHO: The Pete Best Band.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
WHERE: School of Rock, 31 Schrieffer St., South Hackensack; 201-342-8314 or ticket master.com.
HOW MUCH: $14-$18.
FOR MORE INFO: petebest.com.
Despite his infamous ties to the very origins of the British Invasion, it's a lyric instead from "Tower of Song," by a Canadian musician-poet — Leonard Cohen — that best summarized the state of Pete Best as he spoke from Liverpool's famed Casbah Coffee Club.
"Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey/ I ache in the places where I used to play."
In his youth in the very same club, Best served as the original drummer for the Beatles before being dismissed — without a reason — by then-manager Brian Epstein a mere two months before the band's meteoric launch in the autumn of 1962.
In a recent interview, Best made it clear that he hasn't yet recovered fully from the dismissal, but no longer does it haunt him as it once did.
"If I look down now, it's where, nearly 50 years ago, John, George, Paul and Ken [Brown] played as the Quarrymen on the [Casbah's] opening night," said Best, who owns the club founded by his mother, Mona, in 1959. "That's directly below me."
It's below him, but all that happened on it isn't necessarily behind him. Despite his muddling on in music for many of the 46 years following his firing, Best's life has largely been defined by that dismissal. Through the high points (a 40-year marriage to his wife, Kathy, that produced two daughters and four grandchildren) and the low (a cold, critical response to his music and a 1965 suicide attempt), Best has been stalked by the coulda, woulda, shouldas of his youth.
Now, as the Aug. 16 anniversary of that dismissal approaches, he's meeting it, appropriately enough, with music. "Haymans Green," a new album of original material, will be released in September.
"In a nutshell, [the album] portrays certain elements in my life, mainly the ups and downs of it," said Best, who cited the track "Broken" as a good example of both aspects.
"I suppose it represents my feelings way back in '62 when the dismissal took place," he said. "How you've basically stood your ground and rebuilt your career from that, and even though the title is called 'Broken,' it's very much a case of 'Yeah, maybe I'm broken, but I'm strong enough in character to resume and get on with life as it is.'
"If you keep reflecting on it, you do become a little bit cynical," Best said, "you do become a little bit twisted and acidic. But when you actually put that to one side and say, 'Look, it's happened, it's over,' then your priority is very much about today and tomorrow."
With this outlook, Best has been able to live in the moment and champion causes like the "fertile" Liverpool music scene, his own music and the Casbah.
"The Casbah is very much a business now as well as a tourist attraction, and we're in the throes of building it up," he said proudly. "It's achieved Heritage Status, so now it's a historical landmark, which was a great achievement for our family."
So the 66-year-old Liverpool boy — who'll be playing mostly Beatles tunes Wednesday in South Hackensack — is "doing all right" in his legendary "tower of song."
"Once you get over the sour feelings and that lifestyle, then you realize that there's more to life than thinking about what should have happened or what could have happened," he said. "Once you adjust to that fact, 40 years down the line, you can look back past that and see what a great life you've really had."
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