Their work rate was phenomenal – at one point in 1961 they played for 98 nights in succession, frequently starting at 7pm and going through until 7am. They learnt how to survive on their wits, their flair for improvisation, their innate cockiness – and on a steady stream of uppers...More at the link.
It is no exaggeration to say that it was in Hamburg that the Beatles properly learnt how to play as a band ("It was our apprenticeship," Harrison said); it was in Hamburg where they made their first recording (as the backing band on a Tony Sheridan version of My Bonnie); and it was in Hamburg that John, Paul and George first played together with Ringo Starr (he was at the time the drummer with the rather superior Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, and told the lads that they had better work on their act if they wanted to get him to join).
That first performance 50 years ago was at the Indra Club – a dingy little place that doubled as a strip joint in the Grosse Freiheit ("Great Freedom") on the fringes of Hamburg's Reeperbahn red-light district. The band had driven from the Hook of Holland in an Austin minivan and had been given digs in a couple of bleak storage rooms in the back of a nearby cinema, the Bambi Kino ("It was a pig sty," Lennon recalled later. "We were right next to the ladies' toilet.")...
At the new club they were asked to play long sets seven days a week – and to "mach schau" – or put on a show, something Lennon in particular liked to do (he once turned up on stage wearing nothing but his underpants – and a toilet seat around his neck; he frequently addressed his audience with the greeting "Heil Hitler".)
Hempel explains how they played right through the night with only short breaks and drew on every musical influence they could. They learnt fast. As Lennon recalled: "Every song lasted 20 minutes and had 20 solos in it. That's what improved the playing. There was nobody to copy from. We played what we liked best and the Germans liked it as long as it was loud."
17 August 2010
The Beatles in Hamburg - 50 years ago today
An article at the Telegraph remembers when John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe performed the first of their 281 concerts in Hamburg: