Hamburg: Beatle Clubs
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.
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.
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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