This is the first club
in Hamburg in which the Beatles played --August 17 - October 3, 1960. This
is where the Beatles Story began. In a small, dark, and dirty club, almost
at the end of the Große Freiheit street in Hamburg's St Pauli district.
upon letters praising Hamburg's club scene, Allan Williams of the Jacaranda
club in Liverpool made contact with Bruno Koschmider, offering to act as
a booking agent. Koschmider agreed since he had previously booked
the English band Derry and The Seniors, who were very successful. Williams
contacted Rory Storm and The Hurricanes and Gerry and The Pacemakers,
but both bands were already booked, so he sent a young inexperienced band
-- The Beatles -- to Hamburg instead. This was a difficult decision for
most of the band members since it would mean foregoing their education
and career opportunities in Liverpool to work for an unknown employer,
in front of German-speaking audiences, in a distant foreign country with
whom they had been at war about 15 years before. In fact, in 1943, RAF
bombers had leveled much of Hamburg in "thousand bomber raids" that had
killed 43,000 civilians.
PAUL: It was still
very close to the war and all the people in Liverpool and on our estate
hadn't forgotten, so it was good that we could meet young Germans. All
these kids coming in had forgotten about the war, and this was very good
for our relationships with those people.
The pay for the band worked out to
only about 100 pounds a week but it was still much more than what the Liverpool
gigs paid. To cut costs Williams drove the band and their equipment to
Hamburg in his Austin van, which they loaded onto a boat at Harwick and
crossed to the Hook of Holland. Accompanying them in the van were also
Williams' wife and three friends -- making for a dangerously overloaded
vehicle. Since Williams had failed to obtain work permits they posed as
students on vacation.
Although they had hoped to play
in the large Kaiserkeller club they were disappointed to find that they
were booked into a run-down strip club -- the Indra -- where
they were required to play six or seven hours a night, seven nights a week.
For lodging they were assigned to a filthy storeroom at the rear of a theatre
-- the Bambi Kino.
JOHN: We were put in this
pigsty. We were living in a toilet, like right next to the ladies' toilet.
We'd go to bed late and be woken up next day by the sound of the cinema
show and old German fraus pissing next door.
The Beatles soon learned that they
had to expand their repertoire to fill the long hours on stage and to develop
a stage act that would satisfy the tough sit-down German crowds who constantly
shouted, "Mach schau!" (Make a show). The band soon built up a following.
Near the end of their contract the club was forced to return to its stripper
entertainment due to noise complaints from a nearby church and tenants
who lived in the apartments above. The Beatles were moved over to the Kaiserkeller.
Indra Club ~ Photo of
Beatles on their first night at the club (click)
in their matching lilac jackets
tailored by Paul's next-door neighbour.
GEORGE: The city
of Hamburg was brilliant; a big lake, and then the dirty part. The Reeperbahn
and Grosse Freiheit were the best thing we'd ever seen, clubs and neon
lights everywhere and lots of restaurants and entertainment. It looked
really good. There were seedy things about it, obviously, including some
of the conditions we had to live in when we first got there. The Indra
was at the far end of Grosse Freiheit, off the Reeperbahn, the main club
zone. The whole area was full of transvestites and prostitutes and gangsters,
but I couldn't say that they were the audience. Hamburg was really like
our apprenticeship, learning how to play in front of people.
JOHN: We worked on the stage non-stop 6 to 7 hours
per night. The waiters had these pills. They saw when the musicians were
totally fatigued, or collapsed drunk, and then they gave you one of those
pills. You took the pill, and could go on again. You sobered up. You kept
going until the effect wore off, then took another.