The Beatles might have been born in Liverpool, but as John Lennon once said, Hamburg was were they grew up. It's accepted legend that the long hours and hard slog of the band having to perform for up to six hours a night, night after night, for sixteen weeks straight, had an extraordinary effect on the sound and fury of The Beatles and their music. It charged—and changed them—both personally and professionally—forever afterwards.
But there was the human side to the legend, too.
Late one night, a young art student, Klaus Voormann, happened to stumble across Rory Storm and The Hurricanes—and The Beatles—'making one hell of a show' at The Kaiserkeller Club, on the Grosse Freiheit, in the St. Pauli red-light district. Klaus was so 'knocked out by the sound and energy' of the rock 'n' roll that was being played, he returned a few nights later with his two closest friends—his then girlfriend, Astrid Kirchherr, and fellow art student Jürgen Vollmer. The self-styled 'Exi' (Parisian-inspired 'existentialist') trio returned again and again and again to The Kaiserkeller and struck up a close friendship with The Beatles that would have far reaching consequences—in the lives, look, style and feel of the band.
'Exi' | Girlfriend of Stuart Sutcliffe |
Friend of The Beatles | Photographer
The first and still best Beatles' photographer in my not so humble opinion. Her photographic 'eye' of the youth-culture emerging in Europe was utterly unique in 1960—its documentary-style much imitated since—but never surpassed. Born in Hamburg, Germany. An art student, then photographer's assistant, her iconic photographs of the early days of The Beatles still have the power to haunt. Astrid fell in love with Stu Sutcliffe—The Beatles' then bass-player—and the two lived together and their combined artistic sensibilities had a major influence on the look, feel, and style of The Beatles as individuals and as a band. Stu Sutcliffe—John Lennon's closest friend—died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage in 1962. Astrid remained a close friend of The Beatles forever afterwards.
Her brilliant photos have been exhibited in galleries the world over and continue to draw huge crowds wherever they're shown.
'Exi' | Art Student | Friend of The Beatles | Artist | Bass Player
That Klaus Voormann was pulled off the street and down into The Kaiserkeller by the pounding beat of Rory Storm and The Hurricanes—and was later transfixed by The Beatles themselves—is one of those magical moments in Beatles' history that's right up there with Raymond Jones walking into NEMS in Liverpool or Brian Epstein going into HMV Music Store on London's Oxford Street to get an acetate made of The Beatles' failed Decca audition. A spur of the moment decision that ultimately led to 'Eppy' meeting George Martin. One moment leading to the next. Thanks for being there, Klaus.
Klaus Voormann went on to become an accomplished bass player and in 1965 formed the group Paddy, Klaus, and Gibson, managed for a time by none other than Brian Epstein. He later took over from Jack Bruce as the bassist with Manfred Mann. And also won a Grammy for the album cover he designed for The Beatles' Revolver LP.
'Exi' | Art Student | Friend of The Beatles | Photographer
Jürgen Vollmer tends to get left out of many Beatles' history books, which is shame. His existentialist style—dressed from head-to-foot in black turtleneck, black trousers, boots, his hair combed down over his forehead in the French 'Exi'-style gave rise to one of the group's most important symbols and signifiers—The Beatles Haircut. It was Jürgen, in fact, who first styled John and Paul's hair—'Exi'-style—when they met him in Paris while on a brief vacation. Jürgen also had ambitions to become a professional photographer. His terrific book of black and white photos: The Beatles in Hamburg 1961 is a wonderful evocation of the times.
In 1975 John Lennon chose one of Jürgen's photos of him standing in a doorway, in the port district of Hamburg, for the cover of his solo album Rock 'n' Roll. Timeless.
Club Bouncer |
Friend of The Beatles | Star-Club Manager
A man who always punched well above his weight. Horst Fascher was employed as a bouncer by Bruno Koschmeider at the Kaiserkeller Club because of his fearsome reputation around St. Pauli. An ex-featherweight boxer, who'd fought for Hamburg and West Germany, he'd been imprisoned on a manslaughter charge after a street fight went badly wrong. More protector than bouncer, he befriended The Beatles and other Liverpool beat groups and took them all under his wing—saving them from untold horrors. He later proposed that The Beatles be taken on at Peter Eikhorn's Top Ten Club and followed them there. And then initiated the band's move to Manfred Weissleder's new Star-Club, where he was the manager and proved to be a rock ‘n’ roller from the tips of his toes to his un-bandaged fingertips.