The True Beginnings
by Roag Best (with Pete and Rory Best)
Spine Media 2002, hardcover ($35.00) and paperback (£25.00)
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When I first set eyes on this book, I was very pleasantly surprised at its outstanding quality. So many times Beatles or Beatles-related books are churned out to a mass market for a quick buck, with seemingly little concern about the finished product. This is certainly not the case with The Beatles: The True Beginnings. There is no doubt that a lot of tender loving care went into producing this artistically pleasing and informative volume.
With the intent of providing a detailed history of the Casbah Club, the venue where The Quarrymen truly got their start, Roag Best (Petes youngest brother) did a fine job in pulling it all together. The book is chock full of artifacts from those black-and-white days when The Beatles were actually coming together.
Ironically, there are many lavish and almost breathtaking color photos of the Casbah as it looks today and rare memorabilia, such as the pink caps the boys wore in Hamburg (in tribute to Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps), John Lennons harmonica, and the Dansette record player that was used in the club. Some of these items look as fresh as if they were in use only yesterday, while certain items (such as the mouse-knawed design plans for the club) are somewhat worse for wear.
Theres no shortage of memories presented in the familiar 1950s shades of gray, either, thanks to some early photos of the boys at the Casbah and in Hamburg, including a few rare ones Ive never seen.
But, of course, this is for the most part the story of the Casbah Coffee Club and how Petes mother, Mona Best, came to be affectionately known as the Mother of Mersey Beat. And if for any reason you doubt the importance of the role that Pete and Mona played in the early days of The Beatles, hopefully this book will at last set you straight.
I dont want to spoil the books many delightful surprises, so just let me say, as a first generation Beatles fan since 1964, I found plenty of fresh anecdotes and interesting tales as told by those who were there: Paul McCartney, Cynthia Lennon, Neil Aspinall, Astrid Kirchherr, Klaus Voorman, Howie Casey, Ken Brown, Pete and Rory Best, and many lesser-known participants have generously shared their memories of an amazing time.
Theres a valuable Beatles history lesson here, as this part of the story is told in its entirety, perhaps for the first time. After reading the book, I better understood The Beatles' story as a whole, and a lot of question marks were replaced with finely-honed details. The book's title says it all: the Casbah played a huge part in the development of The Beatles as a working rock band, but that fact has sadly been eclipsed by the emphasis placed on the Cavern era, which soon followed.
Text from the books slipcover echoes this sentiment: This book tells the story of how Mona Best created the Casbah, and in the process played a major part in creating The Beatles. The band played the Casbah over ninety times, first as The Quarrymen, then as The Silver Beatles, and finally as The Beatles. The Casbahs significance cannot be overestimated--it brought together some of the greatest names in rock music and became the catalyst for the Mersey Beat phenomenon which swept Liverpool in the early sixties.
Written with a balanced perspective and true sense of respect for everyone who was a part of the story, this is a must-have addition to your Beatles bookshelf. I absolutely guarantee youll love this book. In fact, I'd call it the ideal Beatle-book gift for Christmas 2002.
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