Almost Famous: Musicians Who Just Missed Their Shot
Soundgarden with Jason Everman (far right)
The New York Times hit the jackpot on the Best trope this week, focusing a lengthy story on Jason Everman, who had the dishonor of being kicked out of both Nirvana and Soundgarden. These were “two rock bands that would sell roughly 100 million records combined,” as the Times pointed out. “At 26, he wasn’t just Pete Best, the guy the Beatles left behind. He was Pete Best twice.” But the story told by the newspaper is no tragedy. The moodiness that made Everman poor company in a van-full of musicians turned out to be perfectly suitable for his post-rock career choice, as a member of the U.S. Special Forces who was highly decorated for his service in Afghanistan and Iran. For Everman, joining the military wasn’t an act of desperation, but the ultimate punk-rock move. "I was in the cool bands," he said. "I was psyched to do the most uncool thing you could possibly do."
Not very many of the other Pete Bests of the world have a mantle full of medals to show for their post-rock careers. But not all of them fell into bitter jealousy over their near-misses, either. Here’s a gallery that includes early exiles from the Black Eyed Peas, Dixie Chicks, Destiny’s Child, Guns N’ Roses, and others who came thisclose to the big time:
Pete Best, formerly of the Beatles
He set the standard for close brushes with superstardom. He spent just over two years as a member of the group when he was sacked shortly after their first demos were recorded. Producer George Martin privately expressed a desire to use a session drummer in Best’s place, but that led the others to suggest they just axe Best altogether instead, a firing they left up to new manager Brian Epstein. "I decided that the drums, which are really the backbone of a good rock group, didn't give the boys enough support," Martin said years later. "They needed a good solid beat and I said to Brian, ‘Look, it doesn't matter what you do with the boys, but on record, nobody need know. I'm gonna use a hot drummer,' and I used the guy who was the best session drummer of the period…Now it was pretty tough for him and I felt guilty because I felt, maybe, I was the catalyst that had changed his life, so I'm sorry about that, Pete." Some of those seminal recordings with the original stickman did show up decades later in the Beatles' Anthology series, anyway. Best is still around and eager to update you on his last half-century at www.petebest.com.