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May 2002 - Nr. 5


The Editor
Vorsicht Satire!
Antje berichtet
Hier O.K. Berlin!
K-W and Beyond
German Theatre
COC Opera Duo
Die Alte Dame
German Studies
Gone Fishing
40 Years Lein's
Wines of Austria
Sportclub 64 Toronto
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
Ganghofer Treffpunkt
40 Years Beatles
Deutsche Regisseure...
Lost Film Era
Historical Centre
Der Nürburgring
Deutsche Autos in USA
To Do Business
Stained Glass Windows
Berlin History Museum
Online Village
World Cup 2006
Economic Upswing
"Hesse Year"
German Beer Day

It Was 40 Years Ago Today...
The Beatles in Hamburg

   TWIG - "All misery has come to an end! The times of bad music are over!" These words, scrawled on garish red posters advertising the opening of a new club, hung on every corner of St. Pauli, Hamburg’s red-light-district, in April 1962. For the city’s youth, the opening of the Star Club, plunked down between striptease bars and sailors’ taverns, heralded the arrival of real rock ‘n’ roll. The obscure group that opened the club on the now legendary night of April 13, 1962 - exactly 40 years ago - turned out to be no less a pillar of rock history than the Beatles. On a small stage hung with a curtain featuring the Manhattan skyline, the Liverpool lads launched their careers. The Fab Four had three stints at the club that year, earning a weekly salary of about US$200, and living cheaply at the nearby Wohnhaus Jankowiak.

This was not the Beatles’ first visit to Hamburg, though. In 1960 and 1961, they had played in several music clubs in St. Pauli. These first gigs allowed them to find their musical style during performances that lasted up to six hours a night. At the time, with Stuart Sutcliffe on bass, and Pete Best on percussion, their raspy sound did not attract many listeners. But after some practice, the band was good enough for its first recordings - those that paved the way to later band manager Brian Epstein.

But then, as ever, more important than fame and money was the spirit behind the music. In the early 1960s, rock music was part of the sub-culture. It was the sound of an avant-garde minority that fascinated the youth. It armed them with a new self-awareness that distinguished them sharply from their parents and authorities. "The Star Club was a part of the counter culture," says Frank Dostal, rock music fan and member of the Rattles-band and the music industry rag Partisan, "The codes of conduct that needed to be applied outside the Star Club wouldn’t function within it."

It was this fascination that also sparked an encounter between Stuart Sutcliffe and Astrid Kirchherr and thus turned the Hamburg success story into a love story. Stuart, a painter and art student brought into the band by fellow student John Lennon, met Astrid in 1961. Stuart fell in love, stayed in Hamburg, and asked Astrid to marry him. The object of his affection was a young German photographer and radical existentialist who wielded considerable influence over the band and is even now one of the surviving ex-Beatles’ best friends. It was she who created the band’s signature mop-top hairstyle, and she who took all their early photographs. Tragically, in 1962, Sutcliffe died of a brain hemorrhage.

For entirely different reasons, the remaining Beatles left Hamburg in 1962. They gave their very last show at the Star Club on December 31 of that year. By then, they had a major-label recording contract and their song "Love Me Do" had already soared to No. 17 in the British charts. The Beatles phenomenal career had begun - a little of it "made in Germany."

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