The Beatles story may have started in Liverpool, but did you know the first time they performed under that iconic name was in the German city of Hamburg? It was also the place where John, Paul and George first met future drummer Ringo Starr.
We spoke with local musician and major Beatles fan Stefanie Hempel about her Hamburg Beatles Tour and to learn more about how you can relive the band’s rise to fame while on holiday in Hamburg.
“Hamburg is very important because this is the place where the Beatles played most, even more than in their hometown Liverpool,” Hempel explains. “They were here between 1960-62, had five engagements in four different clubs – Indra, Kaiserkeller, Top Ten and Star Club. Altogether they must have played about 300 concerts on Hamburg stages.
“They always emphasiszed themselves later that in Hamburg, the foundation stone was laid for their international career because here they became a professional live band. They grew together as a band, they found their style and image here, and last but not least, they met Ringo Starr in Hamburg.”
Hamburg welcomes The Beatles
When you think of The Beatles today you may recall images of the Fab Four dressed in their garish Sgt. Pepper marching band outfits, or crossing the iconic zebra crossing on Abbey Road, but the start of their story is far from glamorous.
Shortly after the band’s arrival in Hamburg on August 17, 1960, they quickly found themselves sleeping rough in the backrooms of venues they played, and were paid very little for their performances. Regardless, the band’s talent rapidly grew with each passing show.
While many of those venues have since closed, others have certainly endured. “The Indra and the Kaiserkeller are on the same spot with the original name and they are still live clubs,” Hempel explains. “The Top Ten is also still a disco and live club on the same old place, but it’s called Moondoo now.
“On the tour we see all the original places, we see where they lived – an old cinema called Bambi Kino, we find out where they bought their first great black leather suits, and we visit places and backyards where famous photos were taken, for example, the cover for John Lennon’s Solo album Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
If you look closely, you can still see traces of The Beatles’ imprint on Hamburg’s streets today, from old music venues to the nearby Beatles-Platz plaza, complete with statues dedicated to each of the band’s members. The band also played at the infamous Star-Club, and although it closed in 1969 a plaque has taken its place that lists all of the bands that took to its stage, including The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Ray Charles and Little Richard to name a few.
Hamburg’s 1960s spirit lives on
Hempel has been running Beatles tours for over ten years now, so we asked what inspired her to start them. “I came to Hamburg in the late 90s to study music here,” she replied, “and one of the first things I wanted to do was a Beatles tour because I was a huge fan myself, and I knew there were tours in Liverpool and London.
“I had to discover all the places on my own and then a few years later I had the idea to start a tour myself. I wanted it to be a musical tour because I´m a musician and singer-songwriter.”
If you’re a music lover and you find yourself on holiday in Germany, be sure to discover The Beatles’ legacy across St. Pauli while staying at the comfortable Radisson Blu Hotel in Hamburg.
Tours take place every Saturday at 6pm, starting at the U-Bahn Feldstraße station and last around two-and-a-half-hours. Hempel also performs Beatles songs on her Ukelele at the end and invites guests to take part in the show.
For more information or to book a tour, visit: http://hempels-musictour.com/en/