Saturday, August 13, 2005

Last night we saw The Beatles. Well, okay, not quite "The Beatles." We saw Best of the Beatles.

At the Brookdale Lodge, a place known for its ghosts, we saw "the man who put the beat in The Beatles", The Pete Best Band.

If you recall the name at all, it's as the biggest loser in Rock 'n' Roll history. Pete was the Beatles' drummer from 1960-1962, during the bands' rise from local Liverpool favorites to cult rave in both Liverpool and Hamburg, and up until the moment when they were about to achieve stardom. At that moment, for reasons "never fully explained to Pete," he was dismissed from his job and replaced by Ringo Starr. The rest, as they say, is history.

So why, forty-three years after being fired by The Beatles, was I going to see Pete Best perform on Friday night in the Santa Cruz mountains? That's what I was wondering up until the minute the band started.

Pete was being interviewed on the local radio earlier in the week, and my reaction at the time was, "Why is this loser on my radio?" As the interview progressed, there was nothing to change my mind, until the final moment when he said where the band would be playing. Then morbid curiosity got the better of me. I went home and told Leslie, I called my brother Miles and told him. Neither talked me out of it, and each agreed it would be an "interesting" experience. We were going to see the show.

We had our dinner in the world famous Brook Room (no sign of the ghost), and took our seats the Fireside Room to get ready. First out was local band, Cruzin. I never would have thought that such fast-tempo music could be played with such low energy, but they did. I wondered if it was ploy: pick the worst possible opening act so that Pete will look good by comparison. I considered screaming words I never would have thought I'd be stringing together, "Bring out Pete Best!"

The Pete Best Band finally gets ready to go and the first thing we notice is the drum sets: there are two of them. The only drummer/band leader that I was aware of who toured with another drummer to back him up, was Ringo Starr. Pete needs a drummer too. Not a good sign.

But then the guitars ring out and the music gets going, and it's good! The band rocks the house. Most of the band wasn't even born yet back when Pete was sacked by the Beatles, but they play a high energy set of 1960-1963 music that takes you back to where you've never been - the Cavern Club in Liverpool, or the Star Club in Hamburg.

The set consists of mostly the same cover songs the Beatles would have played then, from Twist and Shout to Please Mr. Postman to Money, to the Beatles first recordings with Tony Sheridan that Pete actually played on, My Bonnie, to early Lennon-McCartney songs that they were working on back before they were recorded, P.S. I Love You, One After 909, etc. (I know, you're thinking, One After 909 was from Let it Be, at the end of their career - Yes, it's true that that's when it was finally recorded, but it was actually one of the first songs they wrote).

Bottom line: This is a great bar band! Pete is still essentially worthless as a drummer. But he's a nice guy, and he's hired the right people to put together a great show. When the Pete Best Band comes to your town, you gotta go to the show.

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