The long and winding road that the Beatles took to worldwide fame passed through Hamburg, Germany in the early 1960s. Only a couple of years before they became household names, the former Quarrymen and Silver Beatles, now the Beatles, were cutting their musical teeth on nightclub stages in Hamburg.
The Beatles went to Hamburg, Germany several times between 1960 and 1966. In the early 1960s the group was still developing. At the time of their first Hamburg adventure, one of the Beatles, George Harrison, was not yet 18 years old. They were all still very young men, and their group was virtually unknown. By the time of their last German visit in 1966, the Beatles were a worldwide phenomenon.
The Reeperbahn and St. Pauli were a wild place in those days, with no equal even in London. John Lennon has said, “I might have been born in Liverpool – but I grew up in Hamburg.”
The Beatles cut their first record in Hamburg (“My Bonnie,” as the Beat Boys in 1961), with the German producer Bert Kaempfert. They also performed their music live on stage for many more hours in Hamburg than they ever did in their hometown of Liverpool – or anywhere else for that matter. Below is a photo tour of locations in Hamburg where the Beatles lived, worked and played.
Also see Hyde Flippo’s comprehensive article about the Beatles in Hamburg (at About.com).
Große Freiheit (Great Freedom) is the name of this Hamburg street in the St. Pauli district where the Beatles were a bit shocked to land in August 1960. At that time it was even rougher than it is today, with its strip joints, bars and night clubs.
Still in business today, the Indra Club (Große Freiheit 64) was the first venue for the Beatles in Hamburg. Complaints of too much noise from the building's owner living upstairs led to a move to another club (the Kaiserkeller) after a month and a half.
Indra Beatles Plaque
This bronze plaque commemorates the date when the Beatles first played at the Indra Club. Today the Indra features Beatles-imitator bands from around the world.
Former Bambi Kino
The former Bambi Kino (cinema) at Paul-Roosen-Straße 33 is now a modest apartment house. It is only a short walk away from the Indra Club where the Beatles worked for 48 days when they first came to Hamburg. They complained about "living in squalor" next to the cinema's restrooms.
The plaque noting that the Beatles lived in this former movie theater in 1960 is almost hidden behind thick ivy.
Kaiserkeller, Große Freiheit 36
The Kaiserkeller at Große Freiheit 36 was the second Hamburg club where the Beatles played, after the Indra. About two months after starting their engagement here, the Beatles were deported from Germany, thanks to retribution from German nightclub owner Bruno Koschmider, after the group (rightly) accused him of exploiting them.
On April 13, 1962 the Beatles returned to Germany to play 48 dates at the Star-Club in Hamburg. This black stone marker bears the names of the Beatles and many other famous artists and bands who played there. The building burned down in 1982, but the memorial now stands in a courtyard at the site.
Hotel Pacific, Neuer Pferdemarkt 30
The Beatles stayed in this Hamburg hotel in December 1962. After a two-week gig at the Star-Club in November (when they were at the less fancy Hotel Germania on Detlev-Bremer-Str.), they reluctantly returned to Hamburg in December to fulfill a contract that required them to play twelve more dates. Growing success now meant they no longer had to live in the back of a movie theater. At the Pacific they had the "luxury" of four single rooms before they returned to England in January. It was so cold that winter in Germany that even the massive Elbe River froze over. - The Rotthoff music store on the left was popular with local musicians then, and is still in business.
In July 1961, on the last day of their engagement at the Top Ten Club in Hamburg, the Beatles signed a one-year contract with German music producer Bert Kaempfert. This sign, located on the Beatles-Platz (square) near the former club, marks that occasion. The square opened officially on 11 Sept. 2008. The Top Ten Club structure on the Reeperbahn now houses a Pizza Hut, without any signs of the Beatles many performances there.