From the perspective of the Pete Best camp, the story of his firing is usually told as a tale of jealousy, of three Beatles envious of Best's good looks, talent and female fan base -- turfing him at an opportune moment just before they made it big. The reality may have been different, but regardless it long remained a mystery to Best himself, as he was never properly provided with a reason for his sudden axing from the group.
A key decision maker for the group at the time (1962) was John Lennon, whose leadership continued to carry over from the Beatles' Quarry Men origins ("John is in fact the leader of the group," Paul McCartney said in a radio interview two months after Best's departure). In 1972, John was asked point blank why Best was fired during a radio call-in show (to John's amazement, ten years after the fact, two of the questions from callers that afternoon dealt with the subject of Pete Best). John replied succinctly that Best's poor drumming skills were the reason behind his removal. The full explanation, however, requires going back to a time in the Beatles' career where their future in the music business was anything but certain.
After being rejected countless times by record companies, including EMI and Decca, the Beatles auditioned for Parlophone Records and the time came for the group to record their debut single, "Love Me Do," after being given the somewhat reluctant go-ahead from producer George Martin. As evidenced by the demo heard on Anthology 1, Pete's drumming was anything but skillful or solid. Martin informed the Beatles in no uncertain terms that they could do as they wished for their live concerts, but he would be bringing in a professional drummer to fill-in on their recording sessions.
This became the pivotal moment that sunk Best's career as a Beatle. Here was a group member chosen for expediency's sake in 1960 in advance of an important series of gigs in Hamburg, Germany. He was someone that never completely gelled personality-wise with the other Beatles: he preferred being on his own to hanging out with the others, he did not share their sense of humor, he refused to adopt their soon-to-be-famous haircut style, and so on. This criticism from their new producer, seemingly endangering their all-important recording career, provided the Beatles with a perfect opportunity to bring in a drummer they actually wanted into the group, perhaps for the first time. Previously, they had selected drummers mostly for the simple fact that they owned a drum kit; "they were usually idiots," lamented John. Within days, Pete was out, and Ringo Starr, drummer for Rory Storm & the Hurricanes, was in.
George Martin for his part was surprised, not having intended to change the group's lineup or lose the member whom he thought was "the best looking of the bunch." Despite the change in personnel, Martin refused to back down on the use of a studio drummer for the next session. "I don't even know who you are," Martin said to Starr, who was given maracas to play instead, while Andy White handled the main percussion duties. This was, of course, quickly resolved as Ringo became the Beatles' live and studio drummer, who would later tease George Martin with an indignant, "You didn't let me play, did you?!"
As for their former drummer, the Beatles never looked back, quite literally: they handed off the firing job to manager Brian Epstein and they assiduously avoided contact with Best when sharing a concert bill months later. The whole affair left Best stunned, as expressed in the interview recorded with his mother Mona, below. The Beatles went on to become the biggest rock group in history and they never so much as spoke to Pete Best again.