Book review of Spencer Leigh’s ‘The Beatles in Hamburg’

By Gillian G. Gaar

Spencer Leigh
The Beatles in Hamburg: The Stores, The Scene and How It All Began
Chicago Review Press
*****

Considering how key a period it was in their career, it’s surprising there aren’t more books about The Beatles’ time in Hamburg, Germany. Beatles author Spencer Leigh remedies this oversight in this informative and entertaining book.

The Beatles In Hamburg by Spencer LeighLeigh draws on the extensive interviews he’s done over the years with Beatles associates in both Liverpool and Hamburg, giving you an insight into how other Liverpudlian musicians experienced Hamburg, not just The Beatles. There are plenty of rare vintage photos of the city; one early morning shot was snapped by Kingsize Taylor (of Kingsize Taylor & The Dominoes), who later tape recorded The Beatles playing at the Star Club in 1962. There are also photos of other ephemera: the Star Club’s accounting book, a box of matches from the Kaiserkeller, posters and set lists.

Leigh also takes care to put the story in context, describing the German music scene before the arrival of rock ’n’ roll and how English musicians introduced it to the country. Various sidebars offer further details, such as one about which drummer played the most on stage with The Beatles and another identifying the doorway used for the shot that ended up on the cover of John Lennon’s “Rock ’n’ Roll” album. The story continues through The Beatles’ return to Hamburg in 1966 and Paul McCartney’s subsequent visits to the city. There’s also a map of the area and pictures of the area’s Beatles museum. Those with a special interest in the Hamburg years should really enjoy this book.

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