Head back to the Beatles’ Hamburg

This marker acknowledges the site of the original Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany. The Beatles performed three separate residencies at the venue in 1962. Photo by Chris M. Junior

1962: Settling in at the Star-Club
On April 10, 1962, Lennon, McCartney and Best flew into Hamburg ahead of Harrison and Epstein to begin a stint at a new venue called the Star-Club. Waiting for them at the airport was Kirchherr, who broke the news that her fiancé, Sutcliffe, had died earlier that day of a brain hemorrhage. He was 21.

With their Star-Club residency starting April 13, The Beatles had little time to mourn. Harry writes in “The Beatles Encyclopedia” that the band had the good fortune of sharing the billing at the venue with Little Richard and Gene Vincent.

The band continued its Star-Club stint through May 31, and in the interim, Epstein had arranged for an audition with the EMI label at Abbey Road studios in London. After arriving 30 minutes late on June 6, The Beatles were introduced to producer George Martin, who listened to them play a handful of songs that included the originals “P.S. I Love You,” “Ask Me Why” and “Love Me Do.”

In July and August, The Beatles performed regularly at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, and on the surface, all seemed well within the ranks. But on Aug. 16, 1962, a shocked Best was fired, with Epstein breaking the news to him.

The reasons vary for dismissing Best, a crowd favorite. In Pawlowski’s book, Best is quoted as saying that Epstein simply told him the other Beatles didn’t think he was a good enough drummer. It was believed in certain circles that Lennon, McCartney and Harrison were jealous of Best’s ability to attract women, and that Best lacked stage charisma. In the Aug. 23-Sept. 6, 1962, edition of Harry’s Mersey Beat publication — under the headline “Beatles Change Drummer!” — the official word from The Beatles was that Best left “by mutual agreement. There were no arguments or difficulties, and this has been an entirely amicable decision.” (Years later, in “The Beatles Encyclopedia,” Harry would write that The Beatles’ comments, issued by Epstein, were false.)

Regardless, a new drummer was needed. Singer Cilla Black, whose manager was Epstein, claimed that drummer Johnny Hutchinson was the first choice to replace Best, according to “The Beatles Encyclopedia.” It is also believed that Epstein wanted Hutchinson and offered him the job, but Hutchinson turned it down. Hutchinson did play with The Beatles for at least one show before Starr, the drummer they became friends with in Hamburg, took over for Best by Aug. 18 or 19.

A few weeks after their first single, “Love Me Do”/“P.S. I Love You,” was released in the United Kingdom, The Beatles returned to Hamburg in late 1962 for two more stretches at the Star-Club. The first stint at the venue began Nov. 1 and lasted for 14 nights, and the second started Dec. 18 and ran through New Year’s Eve.

The last Star-Club show marked the end of The Beatles’ nightclub days in Hamburg, but it would not be their final show in the German city. On June 26, 1966 — more than two years after they arrived in New York to perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and roughly two months before their days as a touring band would come to an end at Candlestick Park in San Francisco — they played at Ernst Merck Halle in Hamburg.

TOUR GUIDE, Stefanie Hempel performs a Beatles-ish version of “Twist and Shout” near the Star-Club marker in Hamburg, Germany. PHOTO BY CHRIS M. JUNIOR

Keeping their Hamburg history alive
Today in Hamburg, there are plenty of reminders about The Beatles.

The Indra and the Kaiserkeller are still in operation, and there is a marker where the original Star-Club once stood.

These places and more are all part of singer/songwriter Stefanie Hempel’s Beatles Tour. Raised in East Germany, Hempel became a Beatles fan at age 9 and since then has become versed in The Beatles’ Hamburg history.

Armed with a ukulele, the personable Hempel performs a few Beatles-related songs at various stops on her informative tour. For bookings, visit www.hempels-musictour.com.

Along the Reeperbahn, there’s the record-shaped Beatles-Platz, which contains steel silhouette sculptures of the band. Nearby is BEATLEMANIA Hamburg, a five-story museum devoted to The Beatles’ entire career; it opened May 29, 2009. One of the items currently on display is an original Star-Club pay receipt signed by Lennon.

Bernd Zerbin, who handles publicity for BEATLEMANIA Hamburg, says there are plans in the near future to expand the band’s Hamburg-related offerings at the museum, as well as other exhibits. To learn more about BEATLEMANIA Hamburg, visit www.beatlemania-hamburg.com.


For related items that you may enjoy in our Goldmine store:
• Get a Goldmine collective on The Beatles, “Meet the Fab Four CD”<

• Get the new John Lennon book: “John Lennon: Life is What Happens, Music, Memories & Memorabilia”

• Buy the brand new edition of “Goldmine Standard Catalog of American Records 1948-1991, 7th Edition”

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