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.
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.
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