Friday, 12 September 2008

Beatles-Platz Hamburg opened


Hamburg - "All you need is..." patience and money. 48 years after the then completely unknown Beatles played their first gig in Hamburg, and seven years after the idea was born of honouring the band with a memorial square, the legendary mop tops are back in the city. 
The Beatles laid the foundation stone of their career in the early 1960s in the Hamburg neighbourhood of St Pauli. It is there where five stainless steel sculptures now depict the musicians, doing what they did best. 
There are five statues - not the more famous Paul, John, George and Ringo - because the installation also features Stuart Sutcliffe, and a hybrid of Ringo Starr (who was not in Hamburg with the band) and his predecessor Pete Best (who was). 
The square, located in the middle of Hamburg's red light strip, is shaped like a giant vinyl record with a diameter of 29 metres. 


It stirs up memories of a time when hardly anyone knew the boys from Britain, and when the local music clubs were bustling with young musicians and beat bands on every stage. 
From London and English port city Liverpool came bands that played for hours, day by day and night by night.
This is why the "Hamburg Sound" is credited for playing a vital role in the development of beat music. 
August 1960: the Beatles from Liverpool play their first gig in Hamburg's Indra club. For 30 Deutschmarks a day each, they would play for four-and-a-half hours on weekdays and six hours on Saturdays, as Beatles expert Ulf Krueger writes in his books. 
At first, they had no success and moved on to the "Kaiserkeller" beat basement. 
Astrid Kirchherr is an old flame of Stuart Sutcliffe - and a one- time band photographer. She recalls her first meeting with the boys in the seedy Kaiserkeller in Krueger's book Beatles Guide Hamburg. 
"I was thunderstruck. One of the rockers on stage looked better than the rest and the music was simply mind-blowing." 


For two years, the Beatles played in clubs along Hamburg's Reeperbahn and Grosse Freiheit. After Indra and Kaiserkeller followed the Top Ten Club and Star-Club. 
"Slowly, the Beatles turned into local heroes. It didn't take long until the record industry took notice of the band and the already well-known Tony Sheridan," writes Krueger. 
Sheridan - now aged 68 - is an English rock and roll singer and songwriter who was a well-known figure in Hamburg's 1960s music scene. Together with Sheridan, the band recorded an album under the name of Beat Brothers in 1961. 
Anecdotes from these days are fondly remembered in Hamburg: Like the story that it was Kirchherr who gave her boyfriend "Stu" his first mop-top-haircut. Later, Harry's Salon on Hamburg's Davidstrasse was responsible for the band members' famous hairstyles. 
There is also the story of the outstanding bar tab that McCartney finally paid for during his visit in 1989 - interest included. 
And almost as notorious as the Davidwache police station itself is the night that McCartney and Best are said to have spent there. Because of bad pay and treatment, the story goes, they set a condom on fire in their promoter's cinema as vengeance. 
According to Krueger, the musicians also took "at least one trip" to Herbertstrasse, an infamous men-only Hamburg road lined by brothels and prostitutes on display. 
When Harrison was deported in November 1960 because, as a 17 year- old, he was an unaccompanied minor, the Beatles performed as a quartet for the first time. 
But after their visit to Davidwache police station, McCartney and Best, who had no residence or work allowances, also had to leave the country. While Lennon followed them, Sutcliffe stayed in Hamburg. 
Shortly before the Beatles' breakthrough with "Love me Do", Starr replaced Best as the band's drummer. 
To commemorate both of them, the designers of the memorial placed the drums not at the left or right, but in front of the statue. 
Construction costs for the square amounted to 550,000 euros (776,000 dollars), of which 350,000 were donated by the city. The remaining 200,000 euros were raised from sponsors and donors. 
Local radio station Oldie 95 came up with the idea to erect a memorial in honour of Lennon (1940-1980), McCartney (born 1942), Harrison (1943-2001), Starr (born 1940), Best (1941) and Sutcliffe (1940-1962), in 2001. 
"It is about time that Hamburg commemorated this great band," said Mayor Ole von Beust during Thursday's inauguration. Directed at critics who complained about the length of time it took to happen, he said: "Better now than never." 
The square that, when illuminated, looks like a spinning turntable, should symbolize the duty to open more opportunities for young musicians, said von Beust. "We have to do more for Hamburg's club scene," he added.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a Great memorial to
The greatest band of all time.

John Hardy and Chris Belton

Anonymous said...

They finally made it - and they made mistakes: The songlist around the place includes a song “Can´t buyme Love“, another is named “Drive Me Car“ and “Sgt. Peppers“ miksses an apostrophe... In the meantime all has been corrected.