Judge David M. Gutierrez thinks he's getting kicked out of the band after watching Best of the Beatles.
They say there are three sides to every story—point of view A, point of view B, and the truth. In this case, there were about half a dozen.
Even the most influential band of the last century is bound to have some skeletons in its closet. Everyone knows about John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Only a few—and fewer as the years advance—know about Stu and Pete and Andy.
Facts of the Case
Music history is a funny thing. We live in a time where we ask what happened to the Miami Sound Machine, Tin Machine, Andrew Ridgeley (of Wham!), or John Oates (of Hall & Oates). Now relegated to a bit of Beatle trivia, drummer Pete Best is often referred to as the fifth Beatle. To set the record straight, Best was in the original five during the days when Paul McCartney played guitar and Stuart Sutcliffe played bass. Sadly, Best became a casualty of the Beatles' rise to legend. Sacrificed after the recording of "Love Me Do," Best was replaced by Ringo Starr, who was replaced on the "Love Me Do" single by session drummer Andy White. Up until the release of the Beatles Anthology documentary, only a few bootleg demos and Tony Sheridan recordings were all that remained of Pete Best's days with the Beatles. In Best of the Beatles, the former drummer tells his version of events through interviews and reunions with Cynthia Lennon, early Beatle photographer Astrid Kircherr, and artist-musician Klaus Voorman.
Best of the Beatles doesn't break any new ground as far as its structure goes. Using old photographs, video and audio clips, and first person interviews, the documentary takes viewers back to a time when the rock 'n' roll baton was being handed to Britain from the United States. Where Best of the Beatles excels is in its portrayal of Best, someone this reviewer expected to be the angriest and most envious man on earth. Surprisingly, he isn't. Best of the Beatles shows a man who has long made peace with dismissal from the Beatles. All the interviewees agree that Best deserved his place amongst the rock n' roll greats. Opinions differ only on why he was dismissed. Unfortunately, most of those that were involved in his removal are either dead or not interviewed.
Most revealing was Best's mother's involvement in his career and in the Liverpool music scene. A counterpart of Beatles manager Brian Epstein, Mrs. Best was one of the world's first women pioneers in the rock music industry. It's an interesting side tale of Pete Best's world.
The two best parts of the documentary—no pun intended—pair Best with Astrid Kircherr and with Andy White. Best and Kircherr reminisce about a magical time we will never see again. Best and White had never met and discussed their involvement in recording versions of "Love Me Do" before the documentary. Beatles fans will marvel at the all-too-brief exchange.
Viewers familiar with the movie Backbeat will recognize the backing audio track taken from the film. It may not be the original Beatles, but it sounds just as great.
Also included on the DVD are several featurettes. "Decca Sessions—The Truth Revealed" expands on the earliest Beatles recordings. "Hamburg Revisited" takes the viewer back through the Beatles' days in Germany. "Never Say Die," "Love Me Do with Andy White," "Life After the Beatles 1962-1968," "Band On the Road," and "Original (A Work in Progress)" round out the DVD's featurettes. Also included is a trailer.
Presented in a widescreen format, the picture quality varies and depends on the age and source of the video footage. On the whole, the DVD looks as sharp as it possibly could. The audio varies as much as the video quality. Some of the interviews should have sounded better than they did, but the DVD still employs a good Dolby Digital mix.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Many on the DVD claim Best has superior drumming skills. We never see this beyond brief flashes of Best on the traps. Such a claim needs some backing up.
Some balance is lacking on the documentary. No Paul McCartney, no Ringo Starr and no George Martin interviews make the DVD appear one sided. I'm sure Best was the victim of an unfair act, but some counter-evidence always makes for a stronger documentary.
Pete Best has taken his elimination from the best rock 'n' roll group of all time and turned it around. Back in a band, making personal appearances and making a good living, don't pity Best. He may not have hit it as big as his old bandmates, but he still became a legend in his own right.
Best of the Beatles deserves a place between Beatles Anthology and Imagine: John Lennon and is free to go.
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