Talk of the Moptops, vintage 1963-4 — John, Paul, George & Ringo — reminds me of that individual lost to history who refused to become one, a Moptop that is: Pete Best, the Beatles’ original drummer for two years. Because he wanted to keep his James Dean/Elvis style pompadour and was no druggie or boozer like his three ‘mates’ gigging Hamburg, Germany, and the North of England, he was dumped, but only at the Moptops’ first recording session — so that it could be said his drumming wasn’t up to par. George Martin, Parlophone’s chief producer and creative head, was hardly enthralled with the musicianship of the others and he and group manager Brian Epstein seriously discussed whether it would be best to substitute their playing with session musicians for recording. That included new drummer Ringo, brought in from Rory Storm & the Hurricanes by Beatle George and Paul. Paul was so impatient to move on he phoned Epstein in the middle of Best’s dumping to check if the dirty work had been done. And then Martin substituted session drummer Andy White anyway for Ringo for that first recording session, August 1962, on ‘Love Me Do’.
Before they met Epstein, John, Paul and eventually George had changed their hair to shortish Julius Caesar-style cuts combed forward, emulating French students of the day.But through 1963 their locks grew longer and were styled fluffy, so that with the prime directive from Epstein to burn their ‘rebel’ leathers and dungarees and don natty suits and ties they resembled more a group of walking, talking, singing cuddly toys — and therefore one of the greatest merchandising products, if not the greatest of all, ever conceived by an upwardly mobile entrepreneur.
Brian Epstein taking them on as clients, George Martin taking them on as recording artists, Sir Joseph Lockwood (head of EMI) hoisting them as an export industry, and America raising them to all-conquering superstars had almost nothing to do with their music and everything to do with their winning personalities. It’s all there in the history books. But it turned out one more hoodwinking triumph for the mass media and big business, and one more scam written off to the power of celebrity.
See my book published November 2007, ‘Beach Boys vs Beatlemania: Rediscovering Sixties Music’, available from Booklocker.com (offices and printers in London and Bangor, Maine) and Amazon outlets everywhere including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France and Japan.