The Beatles! Live at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany: 1962 is an album that was recorded in December 1962, before the Beatles became famous, but after the release of their very first single, 'Love Me Do'.
The Beatles in Hamburg
In early 1960 Allan Williams, who owned Liverpool's Jacaranda coffee bar where the Beatles often played, met Bruno Koschmider, a German nightclub owner looking to book acts for his Hamburg clubs. Acting as their agent, Williams arranged for the Beatles to travel and play in Hamburg, initially playing at the dingy former strip club Indra, before progressing to the KaiserKeller. At this time the members were:
These nightly performances in Hamburg were gruelling, with the band expected to play up to six hours every night, seven days a week, for 30 deutschmarks a day each. One of their key friends in Germany at this time was Koschmider's bouncer, Horst Fascher. He had a fearsome reputation, having been a boxer in his youth before he had accidentally killed his opponent in a street fight and served a prison sentence for manslaughter. The top-billed band playing at the KaiserKeller at the time was Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, a group whose drummer was Ringo Starr.
In October 1960 a rival and more upmarket Hamburg club, the Top Ten owned by Peter Eckhorn, opened nearby. This employed Tony Sheridan as house entertainer, although his backing group, the Jets, were due to leave in December. Eckhorn offered the Beatles a better-paid job as both artists in their own right and to be Sheridan's backing group. When Koschmider learned his musicians were being wooed by his rival, he arranged for the under-18-year-old George to be deported. He then accused the remaining band members of arson, resulting in Paul and Pete also being deported. They had performed for over 500 hours in their first stay in the city.
They returned to Hamburg in 1961, employed by Eckhorn for 92 days at the Top Ten Club. As Koschmider had given up nightclubs and converted the KaiserKeller back into a strip club, Eckhorn had persuaded Fascher to move over to join him at the Top Ten. As Tony Sheridan was still in residence there as top of the bill and with no regular backing group since the departure of the Jets, he asked the Beatles to be one of his backing groups for an album he was making. On 22-23 July they recorded a dozen songs and were credited as 'The Beat Brothers', with one song, 'My Bonnie', released as a single in Germany, getting to number 32 in the German charts. They performed for 503 hours on this trip; during this time Stuart Sutcliffe left the group.
By their third trip to Hamburg the lads had found themselves a new manager, Brian Epstein, who increased their fees. As Eckhorn was unwilling to pay Epstein's increased group rate of 2,000DM per week, they now performed at the Star Club owned by Manfred Weissleder, who had hired Horst Fascher as manager. The Star Club was opposite the former KaiserKeller, now the Colibri strip club, and had been converted from the SternKino cinema. The club was determined to attract good acts and the Beatles performed there in April-May 1962. They returned for a fortnight in early November with a new drummer, Ringo Starr having replaced Pete Best. They went back for a third time in late December 1962 at a rate of 750DM per week each. They only performed one more time in Hamburg; at the height of their fame they gave one performance at the Ernst Merck Hall in June 1966.
The Star Club closed in 1964; the building was destroyed by fire in 1987. Fascher frequently tried to re-open a club in various parts of Hamburg, succeeding in 1978. However, even with the presence of Ringo Starr and George Harrison when the club opened, he failed to meet any long-term success.
In December 1962, the Beatles were giving their last performances in Hamburg in the city's Star Club. The club's stage manager was Adrian Barber, former founder member of Cass and the Cassanovas as well as a member of The Big Three. Among the acts performing at the club were Carl Perkins, Cliff Bennett, Jerry Lee Lewis and Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes. While there, Edward 'Kingsize' Taylor and Barber set up some recording equipment in the club. As well as recording sets by his own group, Taylor also recorded other acts performing there at the time, including the Beatles.
Taylor described the recording by saying:
Adrian Barber fixed a big metal AKG stage mike over the dance floor and ran a long lead back down to the stage. He used to plug it into a little amp to check the balance of each band so he could adjust the amps and PA system. I plugged this mike into my Phillips ½-track mono tape deck... one 7" spool would hold four hours of material... We started on Christmas Eve and carried on for three or four spots each per night, right through to New Year's Day 1963. The Beatles tracks... [had] quite a few numbers lost because the tape had creased, got beer on it or the signal had simply dropped out. The Beatles would do maybe 50 or 60 numbers in all, rotating them throughout the evening spots, but they would repeat favourite ones and requests. They knew the material so well that all three main singers could sing each other's songs. Paul was the main singer, but George sang more numbers than John.
John Lennon can be heard asking Taylor if the tape machine is on, so it is clear that the Beatles were aware that they were being recorded, although the idea that the recordings would ever be used as the basis for an album is unlikely to have ever crossed his mind.
Taylor left the music business in 1965 after the Star Club closed, and he became a butcher. He offered to sell the recordings to Brian Epstein, the Beatles' manager, but as the sound quality was terrible, Epstein was uninterested in purchasing them. Taylor declined Epstein's offer of only £20. Taylor then left the tapes with a sound engineer friend and subsequently forgot all about them for a decade.
Barber later moved to America to become a recording manager for Atlantic Records, working with bands such as Cream, Velvet Underground, the Bee Gees and Aerosmith.
In the early 1970s the Beatles' former booking agent, Allan Williams, learnt of the existence of the tapes at a Mersey Beat revival event he was hosting. After recovering them, Williams searched for investors to help turn the tapes into an album. As the recordings were made after the Beatles had signed a contract with record company EMI, legally they were bootleg recordings and banned by law. As the drummer on the records was Ringo Starr and not Pete Best, it was clear that the recording could only have been made after the Beatles' contract with EMI had been signed.
Frustrated, Williams and Taylor sold the recordings to Paul Murphy of Buk Records, a former Liverpool singer who had gone on to be a recording manager for Polydor in Hamburg. He formed his own company, Lingasong, to remaster the recordings and sold the worldwide distribution rights to Double H Licensing, which reportedly spent £50,000 on remastering and improving the sound quality, editing out flawed sections of songs. In 1977 the resulting tapes were released as an album in West Germany, where it was believed that the copyright regulations would be more favourable. The Beatles sued, but the judge declared that the album was of genuine historical interest, and the album was released in Britain. Slightly tweaked, the album was released in America as well in 1979 in a two-volume set as First Live Recordings.
Although the band members could not prevent the album's release, they did their best to sabotage the album's success. Within a week of The Beatles Live! At the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany: 1962's release they had an approved live album released. This, The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl1, consisted of recordings made at the venue in August 1964 and August 1965. They had considered releasing this in 1971, yet decided that the sound quality was not good enough; with a rival release in sight, this was quickly brought out, polished off and it became a UK number 1 and US number 2 on the album charts. It has not been re-released on CD. Meanwhile, The Beatles Live! At the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany: 1962 failed to chart in the UK and was outside the top hundred in the US.
In 1998 the recordings were remastered in preparation for the album being released on CD, only for band members to sue. George Harrison said that he felt the recordings were of too 'crummy' a standard to be released under their name, which he said should be associated with quality2. He concluded by saying:
Even if John had given Taylor his permission to tape The Beatles' performance, that does not make it legal for the tape to be turned into an album. One drunken person recording another bunch of drunks does not constitute a business deal. I could go out tonight and tape Mick Jagger, but it doesn't mean I could go and sell it. The bottom line is that John didn't give permission and even if he had, he couldn't have given it for us all. We were a democratic band.
Following this appeal, the courts decided in favour of the Beatles and prevented the album's release. Despite this, in 2013 the 50 year copyright protection expired and the album is freely available to purchase once again.
The album itself is a historical curiosity of the Beatles' early days. Some of the songs can be compared to their counterparts on later albums, including their live BBC performances. The only recordings by the Beatles of some songs are on this album.
Former featherweight boxer and bouncer Horst Fascher not only gives an introduction but sings the lead vocals on 'Hallelujah I Love Her So' and his brother, Fred, sings 'Be-Bop-A-Lula'. As when the album was initially released the producers were unsure who was performing which song, they were both credited as 'Herr Ober', German for 'Mr Waiter'.
The following table lists the songs released on the original European version (The Beatles Live! At the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany: 1962) and US version (First Live Recordings) of the album.
|The Beatles Live! At the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany: 1962||First Live Recordings|
Over the years many different versions, many of which are bootlegs, of the album have been released in varying countries. These contain different combinations of the following songs.
'I Saw Her Standing There'
The Beatles' debut song on their Please Please Me album remains one of their best rockers. One of Paul's early compositions in 1961, when the Beatles performed this song on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 a record 70 million Americans were watching. Versions of this song appear on Live at the BBC, On Air and on Anthology 1. It was one of the few songs written by Paul McCartney that John Lennon later covered following their split, in a duet with Elton John released on the B-side of Elton's 1975 single 'Philadelphia Freedom'.
As this is one of only two Lennon-McCartney originals on the album, it is strange that it was missed off the original American release of the album.
'Roll Over Beethoven'
A Chuck Berry 1956 song that failed to make much impact in the British chart, but a song George Harrison frequently sang. They performed it seven times for the BBC radio sessions, including recordings available on Live at the BBC and On Air. Versions appear on With The Beatles and Anthology 1. It also appears in the biopics Birth of the Beatles and Nowhere Boy.
'The Hippy Hippy Shake'
Originally a 1959 hit for Chan Romero, this was also a 1964 number 2 hit for Mersey Beat act The Swinging Blue Jeans. The Beatles often sang it, including in Hamburg. BBC performances are available on Live at the BBC and On Air.
'Sweet Little Sixteen'
Chuck Berry's first UK hit in 1958 was a favourite song with the Quarry Men and Beatles from 1957 onwards, with John often singing it in Hamburg and the Cavern. Surprisingly, they only gave one performance for the BBC, which is available on their Live at the BBC album. John later covered the song on his 1975 album Rock 'n' Roll3.
'Lend Me Your Comb'
A 1958 Carl Perkins tune that the band often sang in Hamburg. They can also be heard performing it on Anthology 1 and On Air.
'Your Feet's Too Big'
A song by Ada Benson and Fred Fisher that was popularised by Fats Waller in the late 1930s, and again shot to prominence following Chubby Checker's 1961 version. This was one of the last times Paul sang this song. As it left their repertoire before they broadcast on the BBC, this is the only known recording by them.
'Twist and Shout'
Though a 1962 US hit for the Isley Brothers, this song will always be associated with the Beatles, as the song magnificently concludes their debut album Please Please Me. Despite their never releasing it as a single in the UK, in the US the song was a number 1 for the group on the Cash Box and Record World charts, though a Billboard number 2.
In early 1963 Brian Poole & the Tremeloes, the band that record company Decca signed instead of the Beatles when both auditioned in December 1961, released a single of this song which reached number 4 in the charts. It was massively outsold by the Beatles' version included on their first EP, Twist and Shout, which sold so well it became the first EP to make it into the top ten of the singles chart. 'Twist and Shout' also appears on the On Air album.
The song 'Twist and Shout' appears in Beatles biopics Birth of the Beatles, Backbeat, In His Life: The John Lennon Story and Lennon Naked. This song did not appear on the original American release.
A song written by Roy Lee Jackson that was released by Dr Feelgood & the Interns in 1962, but failed to become a hit. It was noticed by the Beatles who sang it throughout 1962-1963, recording it for Beatles For Sale (1964) and with another take from the same session on Anthology 1.
'A Taste of Honey'
A song composed by Ric Marlow and Bobby Scott for the 1960 play of the same name, it was made popular by Lenny Welch. The Beatles recorded a version on Please Please Me and performed it seven times for the BBC, with their sixth radio performance on the Live at the BBC album.
Paul announced it as being 'a request for the Scottish lady'. This referred to Scottish singer Isabel Bond who was appearing at the club at the time.
A song written in 1943 that has been recorded by over a hundred artists, although the Beatles were inspired by the Coasters' 1960 version. An even earlier recording featuring Pete Best, recorded at their first EMI recording session, was released on Anthology 1.
A King Curtis composition that in 1962 was a posthumous hit for Buddy Holly. George sings vocals on it, but the song only remained in the Beatles' catalogue for 1962-3. It was not included on the American version of the album, First Live Recordings.
Both Paul and John were heavily influenced by Buddy Holly, seeing him perform live with the Crickets at Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall on 20 March, 1958. Stuart Sutcliffe chose the name 'The Beatles' having been inspired by the Crickets. Paul later bought Holly's song catalogue from Holly's manager Norman Petty in 1971.
A medley of two songs:
A Leiber-Stoller tune composed in 1952 as 'KC Loving' that became a US 1959 number 1 for Wilbert Harrison.
'Hey!-Hey!-Hey!-Hey! (Goin' Back to Birmingham)'
A Little Richard song from early 1959. It was Little Richard who combined the two in late 1959.
The song appeared on Beatles For Sale and was recorded by them from their Hamburg days. Other versions appear on Live at the BBC and On Air. Paul later recorded 'Kansas City' on its own for Russian album CHOBA B CCCP.
An Eddie Fontaine rockabilly tune from 1958, sung by George. It also appears on Live at the BBC.
'To Know Her Is to Love Her'
This song was written as 'To Know Him is to Love Him' by Phil Spector, who had been inspired by this inscription on his father's gravestone. The song became a US number 1 for The Teddy Bears, reaching number 2 in the UK. The Beatles changed the 'him' in the title to 'her' and sang this regularly from 1960 until 1964, with a version found on Live at the BBC. This song was later on John Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll album.
Phil Spector impacted on the Beatles' lives in early 1970 when he was hired to turn what they had recorded for the Get Back sessions into an album. His Wall of Sound transformation without Paul's permission of songs 'Let It Be' and 'The Long and Winding Road' was a contributing factor to the Beatles' break-up. Paul later released Let It Be... Naked, a version free from Spector's influence. George and John continued to work with Spector after the break-up until the recording of John's Rock 'n' Roll album. Following a disagreement, Spector took out a gun and fired it at the ceiling above John. Despite this, in 1981 he produced Yoko Ono's album Season of Glass. Spector was imprisoned for murder in 2009.
A 1959 Chuck Berry song that the Beatles often performed, sung by Paul. This is the only recording of them performing this song.
'Falling in Love Again'
A song from the 1930 German film The Blue Angel where it was sung by Marlene Dietrich, this was sung by Paul throughout 1961-62. Again, this is the only recording of the Beatles performing it.
'Ask Me Why'
The second Lennon-McCartney song on the album. It had been the very first Lennon-McCartney composition broadcast by the BBC, as it had been included in their debut radio session on Teenagers Turn: Here We Go in June 1962. The song appears on their debut album, Please Please Me, while a live radio performance is on On Air. Like the only other Lennon-McCartney song on the album, it did not appear on the original American album.
A 1956 million-selling hit for Gene Vincent which was included in rock film The Girl Can't Help It (1956), a film Paul McCartney has admitted influenced the Beatles in the early years. In fact, John Lennon sang this song with his skiffle band the Quarry Men on 6 July, 1957, the day he met Paul at the Woolton Parish Church Garden Fete. John didn't know all the words and had ad-libbed during his performance, so Paul wrote them down for him.
The Beatles regularly performed the song during 1957-1962, although waiter Fred Fascher performs the lead vocals on this occasion. This is the only recording of the Beatles playing it. Despite this, the song features in biopic Nowhere Boy and is performed by John on his Rock 'n' Roll album, and by Paul on Unplugged (The Official Bootleg).
The lads had met Vincent twice earlier in 1962. John in particular would often imitate Vincent's performing style and had asked for his autograph the first time he had performed in Hamburg. Vincent described this with the words:
I had a nice band backing me up [at the Star Club]. They're called the Beatles.
Vincent had been backed by them in the Cavern in Liverpool on 1 July as well. He had also appeared on the front page of the very first issue of Mersey Beat, the same issue of the magazine that published John's report on how the Beatles got their name and that inaccurately called young singer Priscilla White 'Cilla Black', creating her enduring stage name.
'Hallelujah, I Love Her So'
A Ray Charles song from 1956 that was one of the last recorded by Eddie Cochran before his tragic death in 1960. Cochran was one of both John and Paul's music idols. Paul's ability to play Cochran's 'Twenty Flight Rock' when he first met John impressed him so much it lead to him inviting Paul to join his band. Although this version of 'Hallelujah, I Love Her So' was sung by Horst Fascher, a home recording of this song dating from 1960 is available on Anthology 1 and is one of only four recordings to feature founding member Stuart Sutcliffe.
'Red Sails in the Sunset'
A 1959 song by Jimmy Kennedy and Will Grosz that had a cover version by Emile Ford & the Checkmates in 1960. This was one of the last occasions that the Beatles performed the song and is their only recording of it. 'Red Sails in the Sunset' was a minor hit for Fats Domino in 1963.
Paul calls out 'Bettina!' in the introduction, referring to Bettina Derlin, the club's buxom, blonde, bee-hived barfrau who briefly became John's Hamburg girlfriend while he was in a relationship with Cynthia Powell back in Liverpool.
'Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby'
Another Carl Perkins tune, sung by George, that officially appears on Beatles For Sale, and a 1964 live version appearing on Live at the BBC. Another version played live for their 1965 record-breaking Shea Stadium performance, then the world's biggest ever concert, appears on Anthology 2.
A song originally dating from 1927, but updated by Carl Perkins in 1957. Sung by Ringo, it was released in Britain on the Long Tall Sally EP but did not appear on an album until Past Masters: Volume One. A live version recorded in 1963 appeared on Live at the BBC. Paul would later perform a version on his album Tripping the Live Fantastic.
'I'm Talking About You'
A 1961 Chuck Berry song. The only other Beatles performance of it is found on On Air.
'Shimmy Like Kate'
Also known as 'Shimmy Shake', 'Shimmy' or 'Shimmy Shimmy', this song was inspired by The Olympics' arrangement of 'I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate'. This is the only Beatles recording of it.
'Long Tall Sally'
A Little Richard rocker dating from 1957. This was the very first song that Paul ever sang solo on stage, at a Butlin's holiday camp in Wales, and consequently was a favourite of Paul's and a regular part of the Beatles' set between 1957-66. They continued to perform it even when they had stopped performing other artists' tracks. In fact, 'Long Tall Sally' was the last song sung at the final Beatles concert, at San Francisco's Candlestick Park on 29 August, 19664.
Though it did not appear on a UK album, this Beatles cover was only available on 1964's Long Tall Sally EP before its official release on Past Masters: Volume One, though in America it was on The Beatles' Second Album, released in 1964. Live radio performances of the song appear both on Live at the BBC and On Air. The EP version features piano music. This song also appears in the biopic Birth of the Beatles. It is shown in another biopic, Backbeat, being sung by John, much to Paul's disappointment as he always sang it.
'I Remember You'
A 1962 number 1 hit for Frank Ifield in 1962 that the Beatles included in their set while it was popular, but dropped soon after. This is the only recording of them singing it.
'Where Have You Been All My Life?'
A song written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil that had been released by one of John's favourite singers, Arthur Alexander, earlier that year. This is the only recording, it was not included on the original UK release of the album.
'I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry (Over You)'
A lesser-known Elvis Presley song from his Rock 'n' Roll No 1 album that the Beatles also perform on Live at the BBC. This song was not on the original UK version of the album.
'Till There Was You'
A song from The Music Man musical that was a hit for Peggy Lee in 1961. Three versions of this song were recorded for BBC radio and broadcast before the song was released on their With The Beatles album. Other recordings of this song can be heard on Live at the BBC, Anthology 1 and On Air. Again, this song was not released in Britain's version of the album.
A 1962 US number 1 and million-seller and a UK number 3 for Tommy Roe, the Beatles performed it during 1962 and 1963. They were Roe's support group in March 1963 when he had a UK tour; a year later on 11 February, 1964, Roe was the band's support act at their first US performance at Washington DC's Coliseum. Curiously, this is the last of the four original tracks not to have been included on the original UK album.
Other bootleg versions of this album have been released over the years, many of which have included extra songs. Many, including the original US version, include the song 'Hully Gully'. Though credited to the Beatles, this was actually performed by Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers. Other songs performed by different bands performing at this venue at the time also find their way onto releases. There is another Beatles song that only has a short clip rather than the full song surviving, 'My Girl is Red Hot'.