Rock 'n' Roll: Best of the Beatles

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The record jacket reads Best of the Beatles, and it was a hot seller in the Christmas rush—or at least it was before it was brought up at a New York State Bureau of Consumer Frauds' hearing. Despite the billing, the album does not contain a collection of the best of the Beatles' hits—or even a single song by the Beatles.

Yet, in a way, Savage Records could justify the title of its album. "Best" refers to Peter Best, the drummer who was indeed "of the Beatles" during the scruffy, scrambling days when John, George and Paul were plucking from pub to pub. Then just as the lightning (now estimated to be worth $10 million) began to strike, Best was bounced in favor of Ringo.

"Too Conventional." "It's not so much the money that hurts," says Best today. "It's the heartbreak." When he joined the boys in 1960, they were known as the Silver Beatles and off to Hamburg for their first engagement out of Great Britain; their weekly take was an unimpressive $20 each. Best earned his passage with the suggestion that the "Silver" be dropped, because "it sounds a bit corny."*Best also contributed to the essential trip-hammering back-up for the Beatle beat; until his arrival, they were all guitars. A year later, Brian Epstein came aboard as the Beatles' manager and added the final refinements. Their hair, shorter than now, was to be kept kempter. "Out," recalls Best, "went our leather jackets. In came mohair suits."

Out also went Best—just as the group signed the contract with Britain's E.M.I, and recorded Love Me Do, the first of the sides that were to wing them to fame. Best had been with the band during the test session, but the recording company judged him to be the worst. The other Beatles went along with the decision. Among other things, says Epstein, they felt that Best was "too conventional to be a Beatle."

Red Tape. Peter was so "downfallen, so sick in the stomach that I never left my house." His Liverpool fans, feeling equally ill, loyally marched along the Mersey, carrying banners proclaiming "Peter Forever, Ringo Never." Even with a bodyguard, Beatle George Harrison got his eye blackened. It was three weeks before Best felt up to leaving the house, but, unlike his fans, he bore no personal rancor. "I saw John and George in Liverpool a couple of minutes," he notes. "We're still the best of friends. I asked them, 'How's your mother?'"

Best, in a quiet way, is on the rebound. Now 24, he is married, fronts his own five-man group (it includes two saxes) and has played in Britain, Germany and Canada. In the U.S., his boys have already been heard on four different record labels and, after three frustrating;—0 months of waiting, are booked to begin a cross-country tour next week.

What held up their U.S. debut so long? Seems that the Immigration Department promised Peter his working visa as soon as he arrived in Manhattan but was in no hurry to clear the red tape for his lesser-known sidemen. Best decided to wait along with the other four. This loyalty probably cost him $50,000 in bookings. "But I didn't," he explains, "want to do to them the thing that happened to me."

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