• Germany's news in English

Beatles museum opens in Hamburg

AFP · 31 May 2009, 11:12

Published: 31 May 2009 11:12 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

There were five of them, not four, and they weren't that fab yet, when in 1960 an obscure English band called the Beatles arrived in Hamburg.

When a battered minibus carrying John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe, Pete Best and four others chugged into Hamburg, the not-so-fab-five entered an alien world.

The English city of Liverpool where they came from was also a port with its rougher sides, but Hamburg's infamous red light district set new standards in seediness that were enough to make all but the toughest docker blush.

The band, hired by a club owner with a limp called Bruno Koschmider, were on contract to entertain guests in a moth-eaten strip joint known as the Indra. First taking to the stage on August 17, 1960, Koschmider told the boys to "mach schau" or "make a show".

Horst Fascher, the former boxer who would later get the Beatles to play the nearby Star Club, said he saw them on their second night with a large group of male and female friends, and to his disgust found them playing skiffle.

"After half an hour I said to my friends, let's go back to the Kaiserkeller for some rock'n'roll," he told AFP, adding with a knowing wink: "But the girls, they didn't come ... The girls said 'they look good'."

And the Beatles soon got a lot better, belting out rock'n'roll covers and increasing their stamina with the help of German lager and drugs to keep them going.

"We really had to hammer. We had to try anything that came into our heads," Lennon recalled later. "We played what we liked best, and the Germans liked it as long as it was loud."

Working so hard -- the record was 98 nights in a row -- is widely credited with creating the foundations for their prodigious talent that would later make them world-famous.

"I might have been born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg"

Off-stage, life in Hamburg was also a highly formative experience for the Beatles, with the area where they played and lived offering the teenagers -- all were under 20 in August 1960 -- a world of opportunities.

At first Koschmider put The Beatles up at the Bambi cinema, a stone's throw from the Indra that showed a mixture of porno movies and westerns, forcing them to sleep in a windowless room with no toilet and no heating.

"They stank of sweat, and sometimes from old sweat from the day before," Fascher told AFP. "I took their underwear and gave it to my mum to boil-wash."

Having girlfriends back home didn't stop the band taking advantage of the many female admirers who threw themselves at the English boys playing the funny music, although their cramped living conditions meant privacy was at a premium.

Harrison, just 17 when he first arrived in Hamburg, is reputed to have lost his virginity there, with McCartney, Lennon and Best clapping and cheering when it was over.

During one of their spells in Germany, another English band on the bill -- Rory Storm and the Hurricanes -- had a certain drummer going by the name of Ringo Starr, and it was in Hamburg that they first played together.

Pete Best's days as the band's drummer were numbered. Back in England soon afterwards, he would be unceremoniously booted out the band.

"When there were the four of us with Ringo, it always felt rockin'," Harrison is quoted as saying.

The Hamburg period is also tinged with tragedy because it was also where Sutcliffe, another "fifth Beatle", died in April 1962 from a cerebral haemorrhage, just before their inaugural concert at the Star Club.

All things must pass

The band, which in five separate periods between 1960 and 1962 played in the Indra and three other clubs: the Kaiserkeller, the Top Ten Club and the Star Club, all in the same Reeperbahn district still full of sex shops to this day.

Today, only the Indra and the Kaiserkeller are still concert values. The Star Club, which was also played by Jimi Hendrix, is no more and the Top Ten, although a club, is unrecognisable.

Story continues below…

The building which housed the Bambi is still there, but it is no longer a cinema, with a small sign informing passers-by of its famous former residents.

Until recently, this was practically the only sign in Hamburg that the Beatles had ever been in the city apart from the re-naming of a square as Beatles-Platz with some abstract statues of the band including Sutcliffe.

The new museum, which opened on Friday, is meant to change all that.

Set out over five floors, it tells the story of the band from Hamburg to their break-up, with interactive exhibits like a mock-up of the legendaryAbbey Road studios where visitors can record themselves singing.

There are also hundreds of photos, including some rare ones from their Hamburg period, as well as artefacts ranging from a postcard from Starr back home to memorabilia from the height of their fame.

Sticking out of the front of the building is a huge, inflatable yellow submarine, and downstairs there is a fish and chip shop -- for Germans the height of Englishness. The name? "John & Paul's."

"This museum reminds me of the old days and sometimes it hurts," Fascher said. "I had a good time, I was a lucky man."

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

20:36 September 22, 2011 by BTH-Peter
Beatles-Tour Hamburg - english tours - http://www.beatles-tour.com
Today's headlines
Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Parents who don't get nursery spot for kid entitled to pay
Photo: DPA

The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on Thursday that parents whose children don't receive placements in nursery care are entitled to compensation.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd