Time Machine To Hamburg

Dave at A Sound Day gave writers a question to write about. If you could safely go back in time and move about for one day, what one concert or live performance would you choose to go to?

Well, that narrows it down to me because there are two cities that come to mind after he asked that. Now…if this was a baseball question I would go to New York in the twenties and see who I think was the best baseball player ever…Babe Ruth. But it’s music so the two cities are Hamburg and Liverpool…the Star Club in Hamburg or the Cavern in Liverpool…and I shouldn’t have to name the band.

I’m going to pick Hamburg…and the reason is The Beatles would play 6-8 hours a night compared to lunchtime sessions at the Cavern so to Germany I go! From everything I’ve read the performances there were off the charts. They played loud sweaty rock and roll there and accumulated way past 1000 hours playing there in a 3-year stretch from 1960 to 1962. It’s not a stretch to say at that time they could have had more hours on a stage than any other rock band.

The Beatles played over 250 nights in the seedy red-light district of Hamburg. If you average 6 hours a show that would be 1500 hours…that is why they could play so well with a wall of screaming in their ears later on. They would get to know the gangsters who would buy them champagne, the barmaids who would sell or give them  Preludin (a type of diet pill speed so they could play all night…”prellies”), and the prostitutes who would take them in and befriend them. They also met Little Richard, Billy Preston, and Gene Vincent there.

They slowed down in 1962 and didn’t play as long of sets but at the end they had Ringo. I would want to see them in 1960-61 when Stuart Sutcliffe was on bass and Pete Best was drumming. Other bands from England started to come over but none of them had the impact of the Beatles. They lived off of prellies and beer when they played and would go have an English breakfast when they could afford it. There are pictures of them holding a  Preludin metal tube (what they came in) and grinning manically.

Beatles In Hamburg

They would write a few songs but mostly played covers through this period of learning. They caused all kinds of trouble and there were rumors of John Lennon urinating off of a balcony on nuns…but that has been disproven…no he did urinate off of balconies but left the nuns alone. He once appeared with a real toilet seat around his head on stage after being angered and ripping it off a toilet. George was booted out of the country for being underaged and Paul and Pete were accused of trying to burn down a cinema. Stuart Sutcliffe found his true love there Astrid Kirchherr. He would die in 1962 of a brain hemorrhage at 22.

When they came back from Hamburg in 1960 to Liverpool…people were amazed and at first thought, they were a German band with their all leather clothes. They were a sensation because they played like no one else. Without Hamburg…there would probably be no Beatles. After they got back they started to play the Cavern regularly and the promoters were wary of them because of their reputation but soon knew they would make them a lot of money. They were NOT the grinning moptops that the world came to love. They were rough and tough growing up in Liverpool with further education in Hamburg. Often after shows in Liverpool, they would have to fight because of the rough audiences being jealous of their girlfriends who were fawning over them.

Well, that was long-winded…but Hamburg in 1961… is where I want Dave’s time machine to take me. I might hijack it and make another trip to the Cavern if Dave is not watching. So what is the saying about rock music? Sex, drugs, and Rock and Roll? This probably helped that saying along.

There are some low-fi recordings of them in Hamburg in 1962 with Ringo drumming which shows how stripped down and raw they were.


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

32 thoughts on “Time Machine To Hamburg”

  1. I’m not shocked that you would want to hang out in Hamburg and watch The Beatles hammer out set after set. Considering what they accomplished they certainly paid their dues by the time they spent in Germany.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. They were wild as hell there…it would have been exciting on stage and off. I’ve read where many people have said…including Lemmy who would see the Beatles at the Cavern….the Stones and Beatles images should have been reversed.


    1. Yes…it was Paul and Pete. They did it as a joke…lit a condom and nailed it to the wall and set it a fire…it quickly burned out and that was it…but the owner hated them so told the police they were trying to burn his building down…it was nonsense. They were back there the next year to the Star Club…a bigger and better club.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was invited by 3 older girls to go to Woodstock with them and I wasn’t all that interested in music back them, so I declined their offer. If I could do it all over, I would be there.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. thanks again for taking part Max. Good call, I’m actually surprised more out of the 7 guests I had on that assignment picked the Beatles – though as I said myself, by the time they were getting really great, to me, they were on their last tour with a bad sound system! Still this would have been a total piece of history to witness. I had a random thought about the Cavern – imagine, if you had gone to see them really early on at the Cavern, maybe you would have ended up standing next to Ringo Starr in the crowd … who says he didn’t mosey on over and see what those blokes were about in the Pete Best era?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh he did see them! He would request songs in the audience! Ringo was there with the Hurricanes with the Beatles.
      I think this would have been the best time to see their pure rock and roll shows…


      1. Yea you would probably get in less trouble with them…just stay away from John lol


  3. Intriguing read as always. What an apprenticeship that must have been in Hamburg! I remember the anthology section on that part.

    As you wrote, you can see why they gelled so well in big venues and lots of noise. Although if I remember correctly, Ringo said it got to the point in the big venues where he couldn’t hear his own drum or know what time they were in (or words to that effect).

    Ironically, being so popular had a a detrimental effect on their musical quality and they quit that scene altogether. But you may be able to correct me on some of my points here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No you are right…they quit touring because what was the use? But…if they would have continued to tour they probably wouldn’t have had as much studio time to do their big albums…so it worked out.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice to take that journey with you Max. Whether you are a Beatles fan or not and I am, you have to acknowledge this time and place was the genesis of the new face and future of Rock and Roll.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Obviously, I can’t argue with your pick, Max. It’s a fascinating piece of music history. As gruesome as their performance schedule was, there’s also no doubt it was the best prep for the types of shows they did during Beatlemania.

    My former guitar teacher, who was/hopefully still is a huge Beatles fan and definitely played an important role in making The Beatles my favorite band of all time, once told me a little anecdote about Ringo. Apparently, during an interview (I suppose in Germany after The Beatles had become famous), a reporter asked him whether he had picked up any German, given their time in Hamburg. Ringo apparently replied, “yes, pommes frites!”

    I have no idea whether the above really happened, but I could totally picture it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is funny…so he liked fries I guess!
      It’s cool that Ringo would come in and request songs while Pete was their drummer…which is pretty cool. It shows he liked them before he joined.
      I would have loved to hear the rawness…I’m glad we have that Star Club album but just imagine it live!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agree, that Star-Club album is cool. I actually got it on vinyl sometime in the ealy ’80s and still own that copy – somewhere…

        Sadly, ever since we needed to have work done in my basement due to water damage a few years ago, my music hasn’t been well organized.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I got it in 1978 right after I bought Live At the Hollywood Bowl…great album.
        I know how that is…I have stuff everywhere.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’d have to go for one of the Madison square garden gigs the stones played that made up get yer yayas out…
    Though seeing one of those early London gigs that Hendrix played would be something wouldn’t it.
    Great question…

    Liked by 1 person

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