Hamburg: Beatle Clubs

The reopened Indra Club today

Indra Club, with Grosse Freiheit in the background

Inside the Indra today

The Beatles, with Pete Best on drums and Stu Sutcliffe on bass, arrived in Hamburg in August of 1960 for the first of several extended residencies that proved to be a crucial turning point for the stuggling band. Their first Hamburg venue was the Indra Club, run by Bruno Koschmider. To the Beatles' dismay, the Indra was a block away from the real action on the Grosse Freiheit, which connects to the main drag, the infamous Reeperbahn, and boasts the area's highest concentration of sex and music clubs. A new Indra Club recently opened on the original site, though the building has been extensively remodeled.

1960 Kaiserkeller poster

Kaiserkeller Club and Grosse Freiheit

Kaiserkeller Club

The Beatles moved closer to the action in October when the Indra closed and the group began playing at Bruno Koschmider's Kaiserkeller Club, which is at the end of the bustling main block of the Grosse Freiheit. The original Club was on the corner, to the left of the box office. The Kaiserkeller has been expanded and remodeled, and remains a music club (Matchbox 20 was appearing when I was there in June 2000). There is a plaque near the entrance commemorating the Beatles' residency at the club.

Top Ten Club & Beatles living quarters

Top Ten site today

The Beatles were lured to the larger Top Ten Club, located directly on the Reeperbahn, in November 1960 while still contracted to Bruno Koschmider, who got revenge by alerting authorities that George was underage (17) and by turning Paul and Pete in to the police for starting a "fire" in the famous condom incident...
Soon after George turned 18, promoter Peter Eckhorn brought the Beatles back to the Top Ten Club for a three month engagement--from March 27 to July 2, 1961. The Beatles lived in the attic above the club, and backed up Tony Sheridan in their first official recording sessions during this period. A version of the Top Ten Club existed until fairly recently, but is now gone.

Star Club commemoration

Star Club entrance today

Star Club interior today

The Beatles returned to Hamburg in April 1962 to headline at a big and glamorous new club, the Star Club, which was located across the street from the Kaiserkeller. (Upon arrival in Hamburg, they learned of Stu Sutcliffe's death the previous day.) The Beatles played at the Star Club from April 13 to May 31, and returned at the end of 1962 for two shorter (2-week) engagements in November and December, by which time they had released "Love Me Do" and recorded "Please Please Me," their first number one single in England. The Star Club remained the premier music venue in Hamburg until it closed in 1969. (It then became a sex club, and burned down a decade later.) An engraved stone now commemorates the Beatles and other acts that played the Star Club in its glory days. There is also a small Star Club cafe in the courtyard that was the interior of the original club.

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