Tracking the Beatles in Hamburg

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The Beatles played at the Kaiserkeller in the 1960s. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

The Beatles played at the Kaiserkeller in the 1960s.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

I didn’t go to Hamburg because of any love of the Beatles, but I’m happy to have rediscovered them there. Partial to the Rolling Stones, I don’t consider myself a huge Beatles fan. Sure, I had Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on vinyl in the ’70s; had a favorite Beatle (George in my teen years, but now I am more partial to John); know more than I should about Linda’s vegetarianism and Stella’s clothing business; remember where I was when I learned that Lennon had been shot; and used to associate apples with records more than with computers.

The Beatles’ early years also included gigs at the Indra. Photo credit:  M. Ciavardini

The Beatles’ early years also included gigs at the Indra.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Even so, in Hamburg on business, I was game to go on a walking tour of the Reeperbahn led by a ukulele player who bursts into song as she relays the band’s early history. For the Beatles, working in Hamburg was the way some of us might head to Jersey to polish our act. Learning that band members bunked in a movie theater and scrubbed up in its restrooms (no showers!) reminded me of sacrifice for a dream. How could they have known whether they would ever get past beer-stained floors and being just a bit too close to their audience?

I liked learning about the Beatles’ lean days and of their time outside the walls of the 1,500-year-old city in the Reeperbahn, which was once the place to which prostitutes (and Catholics) were banished, close to where sailors at port would retain their services, in short, a neighborhood with a past, with bars and bands and graffiti and chance.

Maybe I am a bit of a fan.

—Lori Tripoli

The Brawny Sherpa standing in the same spot where John Lennon stood years prior and thinking, What’s next, a ride on the yellow submarine? Photo credit: L. Tripoli

The Brawny Sherpa standing in the same spot where John Lennon stood years prior and thinking, What’s next, a ride on the yellow submarine?
Photo credit: L. Tripoli

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