We all know how The Beatles got started. John, Paul, George and Ringo playing the Cavern. Right? Wrong! In Best of the Beatles, Pete Best along with Beatle insiders tell the vivid, compelling story of the creative forces that produced The Beatles, from The Casbah to Hamburg, and right through the first Abbey Road recording date.
People with far more tenuous connections to the Beatles than drummer Pete Best, the subject of Best of the Beatles
, have written books, made films, and otherwise tried to cash in on their moment in the Fab Four's sun. Best, after all, was
a member of the band, a claim that only two other fellows (the late Stu Sutcliffe and Jimmy Nicol, who very briefly replaced Ringo Starr when the latter fell ill) besides the Fabs themselves could make; he was with them during their heady early days in Germany, and when their popularity in Liverpool began to explode. But that was before the Beatles, with Starr in the drummer's seat, started writing songs in earnest and making records, and history, with producer George Martin and the EMI label. Released more than 40 years after his tenure ended, this DVD begs the question: other than Beatle obsessives and completists, who really wants to sit through a two-hour (plus an hour of extras) documentary about Best and the group's early days? That's not to say that Best isn't a decent fellow. Though still perplexed by his dismissal, he shows no rancor, and he genuinely enjoys reliving his glory days. What's more, the filmmakers have assembled an impressive bunch of talking heads (including Cynthia Lennon, close pals Klaus Voorman and Astrid Kirchherr, and right-hand man Neil Aspinall) to weigh in on the topic. But it seems a bit futile, not to say desperate, to still be claiming that Best was a great drummer ("If you didn't see the Beatles at Cavern Club with Pete Best, you havent seen the Beatles" is one refrain), not to mention the most handsome and popular of the group. It's one thing to be in the Beatles; to be
a Beatle is something else. If nothing else, Pete Best lacked the charm and wit that helped make them the phenomenon they became. Good guy? Sure. But he wasn't a Beatle. --Sam Graham