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Astrid Kirchherr's Recollections

From the magazine "Hörzu" 

A few years ago, I found this article in a German TV magazine, called "Hörzu", which I thought I'd best translate and add to the section on The Beatles in Hamburg.
Without further ado...
"My Time With The Beatles"
By Astrid Kirchherr
The encounter with The Beatles was the most important one of my life.
It was December 1960 when I saw the boys for the first time. Klaus
Voormann, a friend of mine, had discovered this band of five teddy
boys in the Kaiserkeller on the Grosse Freiheit. He was so thrilled he
asked me to come along the next time he went there.

At the beginning of the '60s, however, a young girl didn't just go to
the Reeperbahn. That was something for men. I still went along with
Klaus and was very frightened. Then I saw The Beatles onstage and from that point on, I was there every night. Even as teenagers - George was only 17 years old at the time - they had an incredibly charisma. They could entertain the audience. And even though they were covering rock and roll songs at the time, their musicality was tangible. They were five young men who had perfect timing with one another, but still remained individuals, with their humor, their charm and their looks.

The moment I saw them, I knew I had to photograph them. I had just
finished my studies at the Master School for Fashion and was working
as an assistant for the Hamburger photographer Reinhard Wolf. I was
very ambitious and dreamed of being famous. And they young Beatles
were, in their way, every photographers dream.

A wonderful friendship was inevitable. We liked one another and we had the same interests. We wanted to be provocative with our different attitude and break the norm. We arranged ourselves quickly, even though I barely spoke English, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete being the first English people I had ever met, and the five of them thought German girls were all fat
and had braided hair. With which we've arrived at the hairstyles and
the old question if I was actually the one who invented that typical
Beatle haircut.

I didn't invent it. At the time, all of us in the Hamburger artist
circles, were influenced by the French existentialism. We wore black,
thick scarves, our hair combined onto our foreheads - and I had no
braids. The boys thought that was really wonderful. Stuart, whom I had fallen in love with immediately, was the first to let his haircut be
changed by me, in my parents' kitchen in Altona. Later, George
followed suit. John and Paul got the Beatle haircut sortly afterwards
in aris, from my friend Jürgen Vollmer, a photographer.

I can remember the date of my probably most famous Beatles picture
very well. It was at the beginning of 1961, around noon, when I placed
them on the wagon of the travling artist Hugo Haase at the Hamburger
Dom. The weather was good, so was everyone's mood, and the boys
followed my instructions, and afterwards, we went to my house and
drank - tea. Then they still gelled their hair. Soon, though, they
were sporting the haircuts with which they became world-famous.

Oh, those stupid hairstyles. The questions regarding them always
irriated me. Because there are so many other questions which are more
important. For example, what I learned from The Beatles. The answer:
perseverance. Whatever you do, do it completely! That was important to me, because I was spoiled young lady who had always gotten exactly what she had wanted. The boys taught me to work for one's goals, to believe in them in order to reach them.

Perseverance, that was also true for our friendship. Unfortunately, I
didn't see John anymore after he went to America. I'm still in touch
today with Paul and Ringo. But the strongest friendship I had was with
George. We saw each other often, and he always looked out for me,
always got in touch with me, to ask if I was healthy and if I had
everything I needed. Today, almost four years after his death, I still
meet his wife Olivia and his son Dhani. Sadness? Of course, when
friends are suddenly no longer there, sadness is part of it. But not
when I think back to The Beatles. I had so many beautiful moments with them that it was an absolute enrichment for my entire life.
That's also exactly what their music did. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts
Club Band" from 1967 is unsurpassed in its genius. Or John's "Imagine". Is there anything better? Competing with that is difficult. On the contrary, many artists nowadays are still inspired by The Beatles. I can spot it immediately. Also because George and the others always kept me informed and sent me the latest LP releases.

The genius and with it their place in music history are what keep the
interest in the Beatles alive and new books and CD's continuously
become bestsellers. Yoko Ono, too, is working on a new book on John. I don't assume she's only out for money like others do. I would find it
rather unfortunate if she kept John's work from us instead. Because
it's about continuing the messages. John was about peace, and from
George I learned a lot about belief, finding one's self and rebirth.
Those are the essentials which can help us and the world. Because of
this, I hope for many more Beatles-booms like the ones of late in the

All material copyright Hörzu & translated to the best of my abilities.