Beatles-Platz finally opens in Hamburg

Beatles-Platz finally opens in Hamburg

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The city where the Beatles launched their career gets a square and statue in honor of the Fab Four.

It took more than one hard day’s night for Hamburg to erect a monument to the band that began its career in the northern German city.

But 28 years after the then-unknown Beatles played their first gig in Hamburg, and seven years after the idea to honor the band was born, the legendary mop tops are back in the city.

The monument is located in Beatles-Platz in the Hamburg neighborhood of St. Pauli where, in the early 1960s, the Beatles laid the foundation of their career.

The monument consists of five stainless steel sculptures: one of Paul, John, George, early member Stuart Sutcliffe and a hybrid of Ringo Starr (who was not in Hamburg with the band) and his predecessor Pete Best (who was).

The square, located in the middle of Hamburg's red light strip, is shaped like a giant vinyl record and has a diameter of 29 meters.

AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY
A man looks through a hole made in a poster depicting the famous Beatles's album cover "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" on June 10, 2008 during The Beatles exhibition in Kiev.  AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY

The Hamburg Sound
The monument evokes memories of a time when hardly anyone knew the boys from Britain and when the local music clubs were bustling with young musicians and beat bands on every stage.

Bands came from London and Liverpool and played for hours, day after day and night after night.

The "Hamburg Sound" is widely credited for playing a vital role in the development of beat music.

In August 1960, the Beatles played their first gig in Hamburg's Indra club. For 30 Deutschmarks a day each, they played for four-and-a-half hours on weekdays and six hours on Saturdays.

At first, they had no success and moved on to the "Kaiserkeller" beat basement.

St. Pauli, the future

St. Pauli, future "Beatles Square"

during the work. Photo: variationen


For his book Beatles Guide Hamburg, Beatles expert Ulf Krueger investigated the Beatles’ relationship to the city.  

In one section, he interviews Astrid Kirchherr, an old flame of Stuart Sutcliffe and a one- time band photographer. She recalled her first meeting with the boys in the seedy Kaiserkeller.

"I was thunderstruck,” Kirchherr told Krueger. “One of the rockers on stage looked better than the rest and the music was simply mind-blowing."

For two years, the Beatles played in clubs along Hamburg's Reeperbahn and Grosse Freiheit. After Indra and Kaiserkeller, they moved on to the Top Ten Club and Star-Club.

The "Beatles Square" 

"Slowly, the Beatles turned into local heroes,” writes Krueger.  “It didn't take long until the record industry took notice of the band and the already well-known Tony Sheridan,"

Sheridan, now 68, is an English rock and roll singer and songwriter who was a well-known figure in Hamburg's 1960s music scene. Together with Sheridan, the band recorded an album under the name of Beat Brothers in 1961.

Mop-top memories
Anecdotes from these days are fondly remembered in Hamburg. For instance, the story about how it was Kirchherr who gave her boyfriend "Stu" his first mop-top-haircut.

Later, Harry's Salon on Hamburg's Davidstrasse was responsible for the band members' famous hairstyles.

 

There is also the story about the outstanding bar tab that McCartney finally paid for during his visit in 1989 -- interest included.

And almost as notorious as the Davidwache police station itself is the night that McCartney and Best are said to have spent there. Because of bad pay and treatment, the story goes, they set a condom on fire in their promoter's cinema.

According to Krueger, the musicians also took at least one trip to Herbertstrasse, an infamous men-only Hamburg road that is lined with brothels and prostitutes on display.

When Harrison was deported in November 1960 because, as a 17-year-old, he was an unaccompanied minor, the Beatles performed as a quartet for the first time.

But after their visit to Davidwache police station, McCartney and Best, who had no residence or work allowances, also had to leave the country. Lennon followed them, while Sutcliffe stayed in Hamburg.

AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI

Pop star Paul McCartney, one of two surviving members of the Beatles, visits the Church of Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on September 24, 2008. McCartney arrived in Israel ahead of his first-ever concert in the Jewish state. The British musician told journalists and fans who greeted him at Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv that he wanted to bring "a message of peace and love" to the Middle East, according to Israeli public radio. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI


Shortly before the Beatles' breakthrough with "Love me Do," Starr replaced Best as the band's drummer.

To commemorate both of them, the designers of the memorial placed the drums not on the left or right, but in front of the statue.

Better now than never
Construction costs for the square and monument amounted to 550,000 euros (776,000 dollars), 350,000 of which were donated by the city. The remaining 200,000 euros were raised from sponsors and donors.

Local radio station Oldie 95 came up with the idea to erect a memorial in honor of the band in 2001.

"It is about time that Hamburg commemorated this great band," said Mayor Ole von Beust during the monument’s inauguration.

In response to critics who complained about the length of time it took to happen, he said: "Better now than never."

The square should symbolize the duty to foster more opportunities for young musicians, he added. "We have to do more for Hamburg's club scene."


Dorit Koch / DPA / Expatica

 

Photo credit: Roger (thumbnail).

 

 

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