Here Comes the Sun, Let it Be, Come Together, Yesterday, Hey Jude… and so many more hits from this wonderful group of people provided the time of so many people’s lives. The Beatles will always be remembered as the greatest band ever. Who would’ve thought a couple of young men from Liverpool would become poster boys for the 20th century, would be the beauty behind so much chaos. But their story isn’t all hunky dory.
It's 1960, a group of young teenagers with dreams of musical success arrive at Hamburg and have no idea what lies ahead of them. They first played at a club named “Indra” located at the heart of the city’s red-light district.Club owners often hired bands from Liverpool as they were cheaper than local bands. It was a rough neighbourhood. Their stay was... not ideal.
“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 the next day by the sound of the cinema show and old German fraus pissing next door.”
Rough living conditions and bad pay at a former strip joint was what they had to look up to everyday.
Their work schedule made their rooms look like a dream, a grueling 46 hours a week, no days off (that includes Sundays) and odd timings which was justified as it was a club. But other than that it was like they were barely getting paid to live hell everyday for three months. They had to play loud to attract customers and resort to on stage antics in order to keep the attention of the customers. They basically put on a live show, everyday.
This went on until eventually Indra closed down, and the Beatles got transferred to another club, Kaisenkeller. Where the situation was the same but the housing was a tad bit better.
The Kaisenkeller is where they met a certain drummer who was playing for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, another band. Since there were many such bands from Liverpool in Hamburg, they got to know each other very well over time. They were all homesick and far from home.
The Kaisenkeller was the same as club Indra. Endless hours of loud music and live shows.
“The waiters, when they’d see the musicians falling over with tiredness or with drink, they’d give you the pill [Preludin, a variant of amphetamine]. You’d take the pill, you’d be talking, you’d sober up, you could work almost endlessly–until the pill wore off, then you’d have to have another.”
These clubs were placed in rough neighbourhoods, with the prime customers being drunk sailors and gangs. They had to literally do a song and dance in order to keep them happy. Sometimes the sailors would request a sea shanty, this led to their first commercially released song My Bonnie” with Toy Sheridan.It was like someone poking a stick at them, saying “Dance monkey, dance”.
This went on until George Harrison was deported for being underage, and the Beatles’ time in Hamburg ended.Thankfully, Ringo Starr was part of the group so that connection wasn’t cut off.
Around 600 hours of work, terrible conditions for three months, without a day off. If that isn’t enough experience and exposure I don’t know what is.
Sure enough, their time in Germany paid off, people who had heard them play before they shipped off to Hamburg were amazed at how much better they got. They booked a lot more gigs at home and were doing fine. But their rise to stardom had only just begun. For 3 years, they still faced a lot of disappointments but their popularity grew. In 1963, “She Loves You” became their first hit song.
They left Heathrow Airport on February 7, 1964, to fly to New York City. What greeted them on the other side could only be described as Beatlemania. And the rest is history.