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Beatles in Hamburg

By Viator, March 2014

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In 1960 the Beatles were still an unknown band trying to make it big. Their booking agent found them a gig playing in Hamburg, Germany, and in August of 1960, they started performing at various clubs in the St. Pauli neighborhood. While in Hamburg, the Beatles improved their performance skills, gained popularity, and eventually made their first recordings as a band. 

They started in Liverpool, but their time in Hamburg was what really started the Beatles on the path to becoming a world famous band. Today you can explore Beatles history by visiting some of the clubs in St. Pauli where they played from 1960 to 1962. 

The Indra Club was the first place they performed in Hamburg. Though it closed in 1960, it has recently reopened at its original location. The building has been remodeled, but you can still go there to see bands perform live. The Indra Club is located at Große Freiheit 64.

After the Indra Club closed in early October 1960, the Beatles started playing at the Kaiserkeller. The club was in a slightly better location for them since it was a little closer to the action. Today the club continues to have live shows as well as other parties and events. Kaiserkeller is located at Große Freiheit 36.

The Beatles aspired to play at the Top Ten Club, a bigger and more popular club and they finally got their chance in late October 1960. However, by playing there, they were breaking their contract with the owner of Kaiserkeller. He was upset by this and reported George Harrison for working under the legal age (he was 17) and later reported Paul McCartney and Pete Best for attempted arson when they lit a condom on fire. As a result, the three of them were deported between late November and early December.

In1961, after Harrison turned 18, the Beatles returned to Hamburg to once again play at the Top Ten Club. It was during this time when they played as back up for Tony Sheridan in their first official recording session. The club is now closed, but you can still go to Reeperbahn 136 where you will now find a club called Moondoo. Another club where the Beatles performed, the Star Club, is also long-gone. This one closed in 1969, and the building itself burned down years later. The address was Große Freiheit 39, and a bar called Highway is there now.

Decades after the Beatles were in Hamburg, the city recognized their place in Hamburg's history by constructing Beatles Platz, a public square that honors the band in a unique way. Five statues in outline form stand to represent the band members. Of course, since a few members changed in those early years, the drummer’s outline could represent either Pete Best or Ringo Starr.

Though the city has also changed over the decades, Hamburg is still a great city to visit for dedicated Beatles fans to see where it all started. The buildings and establishments that shaped the early years of the Beatles' career have come and gone, but the history and the memories remain.

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