The Five Beatles in Hamburg, Germany, 1960-61
Think of the person who had the foresight to record The Beatles long before they were famous, way back in 1961-62, in Hamburg, Germany. Using a reel to reel recorder and not more than two mics, these recordings are gold. Many of them were done at the Star Club, the top of the list for German nightclubs that British rock bands sought to play at. When you hear The Beatles wail out on "Red Hot", the promise and potential is so obvious in hindsight, but at the time, they were the best rock band from Liverpool.
It took two long, grueling years for the Fab Five (not four) to reach the top of the heap. They arrived in Hamburg's 'red light, sex" district, the Reeperbahn at ages 20 and 17. They had got there by more of a case of need than talent in July, 1960. In fact, Bruno Koschmider, who had flown from Hamburg to look for British rock bands to play at Der Kaiserkeller had only time to hear The Jets and Derek and the Dominos. When The Jets was stolen by Peter Eckhorn, a competitor club owner, Bruno promoted Derek to Die Kaiserkeller, which left his other club, Indra, needing a band.
The Beatles had auditioned for Alan Williams but failed to impress him at all. They even had problems finding a drummer. So, when Bruno contacted him about needing another English rock band, The Beatles was his only band to offer. Bruno had never heard of them because they were relatively unknown and had played only at few clubs. But, he needed a band. Unlike the other clubs on "Die Grosse Freiheit" avenue in the prostitute area of Hamburg, the Indra, was a little dive rather away from the main action and clubs. Even The Beatles thought is was at the bottom. It was, but it did pay for them to play music and free room and board.
The first members of the Jets heard them, they felt they were unpolished in appearance and in playing. They did mostly covers of others and basically just focused on playing with little interaction with the crowd. This concerned Bruno and he would yell, "Make a show". Sometimes the band would go on stage in costumes or with toilet seats around their necks. By the time late August or September arrived, the Jets realized how improved The Beatles had become. It was at this time, they were all deported because of a accidental fire George had started and authorities had found him to be under 18. Peter Eckhorn had seen them and saw how the audience liked them. He had planned to steal them from Bruno by paying much more to play at the Top Ten, which was almost as good as the Star Club.
When The Beatles returned in 1961, the game was on. They were THE band at the Top Ten playing form 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. with very few breaks every night. Another band playing down the street was Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. This was a band that The Beatles envied. In it was Liverpool's best drummer, Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey). Since all the bands playing on the street were from mostly Liverpool, during the off hours, they hung out with one another. So, when John Lennon bought his Rickenbacker guitar, a member of the Jets was with him.
It is estimated The Beatles played for 10,000 hours during their Hamburg days, the last in 1962. They were by then, Liverpool's best rock band and most popular. It was at the Star Club that the band first played, what would be their smash single in America in 1964, "I Saw Her Standing There". This version was not only slower, but John and Paul mess it up and laugh it off, while remaining composed to finish, as if it was on purpose!
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