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A Hint of Beatlemania on December 27, 1960

Updated on May 31, 2014
In Hamburg, 1961.
In Hamburg, 1961.

The Beatles had just come back from their music bootcamp in Hamburg, Germany, where they played at various clubs like the Indra, Kaiserkeller and the best one, Top Ten in the red light district called Reeperbahn.

They were paid little, got horrible living conditions and cornflakes for food. In return, they played for 8-10 hrs straight with few breaks. They were told to play anything they wanted to keep the audience entertained and drinking. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis, all became standard covers. The Beatles did this seven days a week over a nearly five month period. In between playing, they looked and learned other material to use from ballads to old standards. Odd stuff like songs from Nat King Cole, The Platters and country western.

Before going to Hamburg, they were just a struggling wannabe band seeking to get a record contract and dreamed of being the next superstar bigger than their idol, Elvis.

So, when the band returned from Germany in late 1960, they were suddenly without many gigs and had a lot of downtime. George and Paul were only 17, John, 20. They all had grown up considerably living in a foreign country and in the "bad" district of Hamburg. The only gigs their then manager, Allan Williams, could get were one nighters in small dance halls around Liverpool paying little. A promoter, Bob Wooler, worked with many local rock bands in lining of gigs and small concerts. He had heard The Beatles before, before Hamburg, and did not think much about them.

Bob needed one more filler band to complete his lineup of The Del Renas, Deltones and The Searchers concert. So, he had the Beatles play for the unheard amount of eight pounds. In 1960, the rate was just one pound per band member, so, the Beatles (who were five members at the time) received much more.

Now, Bob told the Beatles to "keep everyone dancing". The kiss of death then was to have the audience not dance. Back then, if the audience stopped dancing it was because there was a fight or brawl or the band sucked. Just before the Beatles went on, Bob told them to jump into their first song after he introduced them. So, Bob walks onto the stage between sets. The audience is listening, Bob loudly spouts, " Live from Hamburg, Germany, The Beatles!". The curtain rises and Paul and the band scream like no other singing, "Long Tall Sally". It was Paul's anthem of songs- screaming like Little Richard. The music is tight like a record.

Even Bob was stunned. The audience was shocked. Nobody had ever seen something like them. They were so different than the other bands that looked similar and did covers like they all did. The Beatles rocked-loud and brash. Bob got worried because as he looked around, nobody was dancing.

Was this a bad thing? A good thing? Bob continued to watch with concern. Then he realized, they were simply transfixed, watching them, as if they had seen an alien. The stage was very high and the audience simply moved towards them for a closer look. Bob said it was the band that was a "magnet". The audience looked up towards them in a calm mesmerized state. Boys, girls, did the same thing-just stared. Even the few couples who tried to dance, seem to stall and continue watching Paul scream the lyrics to a song they had seen covered so many times.

The Beatles' themselves seemed to have noticed. Usually, in Hamburg, they were mostly ignored unless requests were asked or they did some outlandish thing on stage. Paul and John glanced at one another, but they were not sure what to make of it.

Bob Wooler was, perhaps, the only one who saw a "hint of Beatlemania" still some three years away. The audience reaction to the band became, as time went on, more and more to be expected. All of the songs they played then were just covers that many other bands played. But as Bob noted, "The other bands were good. The Beatles were sensational. Their covers were different and much better".

It was a glimmer of the future that The Beatles did not truly comprehend. From then on, Bob always booked the band. He had seen the future.

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    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      4 years ago from California

      The Hamburg gig is what made them outliers. Nice work.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      4 years ago

      Thanks, it is interesting info.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      4 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Really a gem of an article. Thx very much. Voted up and shared.

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