Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Beatles in Hamburg

There are many Beatles facts about the early days of the Beatles, when they played long hours in Germany. The Beatles first went to Hamburg on August 12, 1960. They first played at the Indra Club, followed by the Kaiserkeller and the Top Ten Club. This first trip to Hamburg was a bit bumpy, however. At seventeen, George was deported for being too young. McCartney and Best left shortly thereafter, with Lennon returning in December of that year. Stu Sutcliffe remained in Germany to be with his fiance, Astrid Kerchherr. McCartney would later take up the bass, which Sutcliffe had never really learned to play with any competence.

It was when the Beatles returned to Hamburg in the spring of 1961 that the Beatles met Tony Sheridan at the Top Ten Club and acted temporarily as his backing band and recorded with him for Polydor Records. (MGM and Decca released versions of "My Bonnie" in the States.)

After returning to Liverpool, they became cult favorites at the Cavern in Liverpool, where Brian Epstein first saw them play. Epstein had gone to the Cavern after someone requested "My Bonnie" at his record store. The Beatles signed a contract with Epstein and returned to Hamburg a third time, playing the Star Club from April to May of 1962. By this time, Sutcliffe had died of a brain tumor.

The Beatles admitted much later in their career that they were introduced to constant sex as they played in the seedy bars of Hamburg, frequented by prostitutes. As many biographies have noted, the Beatles practically lived with various STDs. Meanwhile, they practiced their craft, playing both original songs and covers (many of which would later be recorded on their Parlophone albums) for six to eight hours at a time. This grueling schedule helped the band hone their skills under vary difficult conditions as they played to raucous, drunken crowds.

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