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That Magic Feeling

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John Lennon: I grew up in Hamburg, not Liverpool.
Millie Sutcliffe: Stuart and John got together with Allan Williams and said, "We hear you're taking groups to Hamburg. What about us?" Allan said, "What about you?" Stuart and John said, "Well, why can't we go?" Allan said, "You haven't got a drummer. You can't go professional until you have a drummer." Well, they couldn't afford a drummer, but Pete Best was around at that particular moment and he had the whole drum kit, the lot. Pete was definitely willing to go with them. So that's how they came to get Pete.

Mike McCartney: ...I remember when Paul came home from Hamburg. He sat down and made the mistake of putting his leg up on the table. You could see how thin his leg was sticking out between the trousers and the boot, betraying his story or image of how well they did there. You know, "Really doing well, Got all these things a new guitar, new that this and new that and the other." But this little pipe-thin, pipe-cleaner leg appeared and betrayed him

Horst Fascher: Many people called me a bouncer, and I was a bouncer at some of the clubs, but I was also a manager and a friend of the bands. When the [British] groups came to Hamburg, I tried to learn English because I loved the music they were playing. As a result, I became good friends with The Beatles. I was a Hamburger, like we say, and they were Liverpudlians, so I took care of them. I knew what was going on, especially in the St. Pauli area with all the prostitution and pimps, all the sailors and foreigners. I told them what was dangerous and how to take care of themselves. I said, "If you get into trouble, let me know and I'll try to solve it for you."
When The Beatles first arrived, we were downstairs at the Kaiserkeller, and all of a sudden a rumor got around that a new group was here. We were all nosy and went upstairs to see what this new group looked like. They were playing further down [the street] at the Indra. Tony Sheridan was playing at the Kaiserkeller, so we went downstairs again. When Tony was finished that night, we met The Beatles at Harolds, which was a club where we could eat good chicken soup. We went there and met The Beatles and that was when I found out who was who. Later I found out that the other musicians had told The Beatles, "It's good to stay with Horst, He's a good friend. He takes care of the musicians here!" And that's why we first became friends. I never thought in the first place that they would get so big. If I'd know, then I would have collected more things they threw away, like drumsticks and guitar strings.

Paul McCartney: Hamburg was our real introduction to the world of show business. People would appear at the door of the club, and our job was to convince them to come in and see us so that they would buy beer from the guy who was paying us. So this is obviously very important when it comes to show business. You're basically there as a means to sell beer. So we'd see someone at the door and we'd really turn it on. One of us would say quietly, "Hey, guys, this is it." And we'd launch into one of our big numbers like Twenty Flight Rock, or one of our other big numbers. We would make like we hadn't seen them, and we would just be rocking! And you'd see them walk in. Eventually we would fill the club up, and when that started to happen regularly, I would say then we started to know that we were going to make it.

Horst Fascher: When The Beatles first came to Hamburg, they behaved quite politely. But when they got used to Hamburg, found out what they could do, and how safe their asses were, then they got a little more fresh. Later on they did many funny things and did much crazier things than in the early days.

George Harrison: In Hamburg we got very good as a band because we had to play eight hours a night and we started building a big repertoire of some of our own songs, but mainly we did all the old rock songs. In fact, we did everything. We used to play Moon Glow and lots of other old songs, whatever we could come up with in order to try not to repeat too many. Of course, we had our favorites, which we'd play a couple of times in the night in the main sets when most of the crowd were there. But we got very tight as a band.  And it was the period in England when it was all "matching ties and handkerchiefs" and doing [really safe] routines like The Shadows, and we weren't there for that. So we just kept playing the rock and roll things and the stuff from records we used to get from Brian Epstein's shop before we met him.

Cynthia Lennon: Hamburg was decadent. It was sleazy. It was disgusting and it was wonderful at the same time. I was an art student and Dot [Dorothy Rhone], Paul's girlfriend, was working in a chemist's shop at the time. She took time off and I had my holidays, and we went to visit the boys. Now Liverpool was quite decadent, but no comparison to Hamburg. It was a real eye-opener and, of course, when you're young, you have no fear. None of us had any fear at all. I mean, going back now, you watch your back and you're very careful about what's going on. It's just as dangerous now as it was then, but I think it was the experience of a lifetime. I loved it.

Klaus Voorman: I often went for walks in that area [St. Pauli] because I lived pretty close and I had a small apartment there. I walked there because I liked going to the harbor. It wasn't the normal area for art students like me to hang out. As I walked along, I heard this rock music. All the rest of the places were mostly strip clubs and such. I heard this band playing and thought it sounded great. I was scared to go into the place. I sometimes went into jazz clubs, but I never went into rock clubs because I never knew what to expect. I wasn't used to them.
So I went in and sat down at a table. I was scared stiff and ordered a beer. Rory Storm and the Hurricanes were playing, with Ringo Starr on drums. I didn't know he was called Ringo. I just saw this band with this weird-looking singer and thought it was fantastic. And when they were finished, the next band immediately came on. Sometimes a jukebox played between acts, but this time the next band came on. Stuart Sutcliffe came out first and looked really stunning. I thought he was the bandleader because he looked it. He was the most interesting. Then, one after the other, the rest of the band came out. They picked up their instruments, plugged in, and started playing. It sounded amazing, fantastic. I loved it from the first moment. I don't know how long I stayed, but when I went home I said, "You all have to come!" I lived upstairs in a little attic at Astrids home, so I first took her. She didn't want to go. I really had to convince her, because people were really scared to go there. It was just not the place to go. It was like Soho in London. It wasn't the area you normally went to.

They were a tight little band playing pieces I knew, like Chuck Berry and Little Richard. I thought, Wow, its so simple. Remember, they rehearsed a hell of a lot and they were quite young. Young kids, really. George was only 17. It was exciting for them. They were having fun. They were giving a lot of enjoyment to the audience, which was a hard thing to do. They just wanted to give pleasure, and that's what they did.

It took time before we actually met them. We sat there and sat there. We didn't talk to them because we were scared. It was alien and strange for us. Don't forget, we were Germans and they were English. The most outgoing was Paul, like he always was. They didn't strike up a conversation. They were talking about us and seeing us sitting there and saying, "Oh, look at him. He's here again." Then, maybe after six or seven times in the club, the first person I talked to was John. I don't know why. John immediately said I should go and talk with Stuart because he was the arty one in the band. Eventually we somehow became friends, and when they had time to leave their little rooms, which wasn't often, we asked them to come for dinner, go out for a walk, go to the harbor, or drive to the Baltic Sea. We became good friends and saw them a lot.

They definitely wanted to become famous. They had the urge to and I think they had the will. You could see that. The other bands that played in the clubs were good, but none were as good as them. Even if they hadn't become a huge success, I would still say they were the best band that played around there at that time.

John Lennon: Jürgen Vollmer was the first photographer to capture the beauty and spirit of The Beatles (though I say it myself). We tried very hard to find someone with his touch after we returned from Hamburg, Germany... Nobody could. He loved rockers and rock'n'roll...

Jürgen Vollmer: The Beatles arrived just at the right time as inspiration during my search to express myself photographically. With their wild looks and rebellious attitude, I saw in them the perfect models. But when I approached them with my request to take some pictures of them, John asked, "What for?" Not prepared for that kind of question, I stuttered, "For.. for... art." "Art?!", he asked with a sneer, "Who's that?"
But John, as usual, was just kidding and he as well as the other Beatles agreed to pose for me...

Paul McCartney (in 1997): Meeting Jürgen Vollmer, and his friends Astrid Kirchherr and Klaus Voormann, was a very important event in my life and the lives of the other Beatles. His sense of style and excellent photographic skills where to have a profound effect throughout our careers... I thank him for being there at the right time.

George Harrison: When you think about it sensibly, our sound really stems from Germany. That's where we learned to work for hours and hours on end, and keep on working at full peak even though we reckoned our legs and arms were about ready to drop off.
Sure we come from Liverpool. There are hundreds of groups there, many on an R & B kick. But you won't hear us shouting about a Liverpool Sound, or Merseybeat, simply because it's been dreamed up as an easy way to describe what's going on with our music.
'Hamburg Stamp and Yell' music might be more accurate. It was all that work on various club stages in Germany that built up our beat.
(Cited in Barry Miles' The Beatles A Diary, p 25)

Juergen Vollmer: "He [George] was such a sweet and charming little boy. But he also had this melancholy feeling that I identified with. I didn't have much contact with Paul, and I was always a little afraid of John because he could be arrogant and overly ironic. But George didn't have a mean streak in him.
(Cited in Harrison, p 54-56)

Astrid Kirchherr: George was lovely. Wide-eyed, innocent, open and very loving and warm. He used to tell me that he'd never met a girl like me before, and he meant it. I felt very protective of George. He was a long way from home and seemed to miss the attention of his family.
(Cited in Harrison, p 60)

George Harrison: Astrid was totally responsible for our whole image. She said, 'Hold your head here, turn to the left'... All we did was pose.
(Cited in Harrison, p 61)

All about the haircut...

Paul McCartney: ...To get back to the haircut. I should know! We saw a guy in Hamburg, whose hair we liked. John and I were hitchhiking to Paris. We asked him to cut our hair like he did his. He was living in Paris. He was sort of an artsy guy, a photographer friend of everyone. His name was Juergen...
(Cited in The Beatles in Hamburg by Juergen Vollmer, p 25)

John Lennon: Juergen had a flattened-down hairstyle with a fringe in the front, which we rather took to. We went over to his place and there and then he cut - hacked would be a better word - our hair into the same style.
(Cited in The Beatles in Hamburg by Juergen Vollmer, p 36)

Paul McCartney: The Beatle haircut was in fact a Juergen haircut... George explained in a 60's interview that it was John and I having ours cut in Paris which prompted him to do the same... We were the first to take the plunge...
(Cited in The Beatles in Hamburg by Juergen Vollmer, p 64)
Note: It seems that George had in fact combed his hair forward earlier in 1961 - as can be seen on some of Juergen's Top Ten photos - just for fun but changed it back after the rockers at the club had given him "funny looks".

Johnny Hutchinson (The Big Three): It was as though the Beatles had gone to Hamburg as an old banger and had come back to Liverpool as a Rolls Royce.

George Harrison: [About their accommodation in Bambi Kino]...Our room was midway between the cinema and the ladies' lavatory, on an old dark corridor that led up to the fire escape. We used to sleep there in a bare concrete room with little cots and now windows.
(The Beatles Anthology p 48)

Paul McCartney: Hamburg was quite an eye-opener. We went as kids and came back as... old kids!
(The Beatles Anthology p 53)

George Harrison: Our peak for playing live was in Hamburg, At the time, we weren't famous and people came to see us simply because of our music and the atmosphere we created.