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Breaking the Illusion: Hamburg and The Beatles’ Gritty Roots

Breaking the Illusion: Hamburg and The Beatles’ Gritty Roots

Breaking the Illusion: Hamburg and The Beatles’ Gritty Roots
August 17
09:28 2017

For the longest time, The Beatles Story started with manager Brian Epstein stumbling upon the group in Liverpool’s Cavern Club in November 1961. For a clean-cut group with arrestingly goofy boy-next-door charm, it fit the press release.But even as the Fab Four transitioned from an energetic beat combo to a global phenomenon and then an era defining cultural force, they would readily admit that it was in a North German port city that they cut their teeth. As John Lennon would famously quip, “I was born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg.”The Beatles HamburgWe reflect on the Beatles’ Hamburg days and their ascension from middling amateurs to veteran rock ‘n’ rollers, well before the madness of Beatlemania hit.Performing their first show on August 17, 1960 on the edges of the city’s red-light district, the Reeperbahn, five English youths were dragged into a world of gangs, prostitutes, sailors and 24-hour parties.The club was the Indra. The audience was not a mass of ecstatically screaming teens but a scattered array of sex workers and their clientele. Within the dockland quarter of St. Pauli, the group bonded, recorded, and learnt how to really play. They were by no means oblivious to the vices and hedonism of their surrounds. Paul McCartney would even go as far to term it, “A baptism of fire into the city’s sex scene.”Prior to their arrival in Hamburg, formative iterations of the Beatles had played around 60 shows. Their three-month German residency was the start of a string of marathon performances fuelled by beer and amphetamines. Their grinding live schedule saw the group transition from middling amateurs from Liverpool into a powerful live act. Between August 1960 to December 1962 the group would visit the city on another four separate occasions, playing an estimated 281 shows.It was an unlikely and historically curious set of affairs that would see John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, drummer Pete Best and then-bassist Stu Sutcliffe would make it to the German city at all.England’s post-war years had been austere. In the wake of a war which had brought the country to its knees, a generation had been raised in bleakness. But in the mid-fifties the lights turned on. A storm of American rock and roll swept the nation. This music turned people on to a new energetic and rebellious way of life, something they could really identify with.The nascent Beatles were no exception. Taken with the new form of music, the earliest version of the group formed in March 1957 when a 16-year-old Lennon convened a series of skiffle groups. McCartney would jump on board later in ’57 and convince Harrison to join the following year. Sutcliffe, an art college acquaintance of Lennon’s, would sign on in 1960.

Source: Breaking the Illusion: Hamburg and The Beatles’ Gritty Roots

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Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

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