Beatles-Tour / Beatles-Schild / Bambi-Kino / Paul-Roosen-Str. 33You call yourself a Beatles fan.  Were you aware that it was in Hamburg, Germany, where the Fab Four began their career-as the not so fab five- recording their first commercially released record, “My Bonnie,” on June 22/23, 1961?

Thanks to a well-known night club owner who needed musical acts for his clubs in the infamous St. Pauli red light district, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and drummer Pete Best had come to Hamburg a year earlier. The rest is history.

Hamburg made stars out of The Beatles, got them their signature hair style, and the Fab Four never tired of stressing the importance of those early days in the northern German music metropolis. John Lennon confessed: “I was born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg”.

Beatles fans visiting Hamburg can still explore the band’s stomping grounds.  When the Beatles arrived in Hamburg on August 17, 1960, they moved close to the action at Reeperbahn, where they rented two windowless back rooms in the Bambi Kino, a now defunct movie theater on Paul-Roosen-Strasse 33. The house is now marked with a small plaque.

The Beatles first stop on the road to fame was the Indra Club, located at Grosse Freiheit 64.  Legend has it that Paul McCartney referenced the Indra’s street address when he wrote “When I’m 64.”   The club’s owner, Bruno Koschmider, asked that the boys put on a wild show. John and company obliged. Starting on August 18, 1960, they played the Indra every night from 8:30 until the last guests, mostly prostitutes and their clients, had turned in for the night. It was a tough schedule, and after 48 nights the club was shut down after neighbors complained about the non-stop noise.

50_Jahre_BEatles_190x190_01 (1)Today, the Indra is still in the night club business, staging live acts nearly seven nights a week.

The Beatles moved down the block to Grosse Freiheit 36. Starting October 4, 1960, the Kaiserkeller, also owned by impresario Bruno Koschmider, became the new home for John, Paul, George, Stuart and Pete for 58 engagements. The Beatles took turns with another group, Rory Storm & The Hurricanes. The drummer was a certain Richard Starkey (aka Ringo Starr).

The Kaierkeller still exists as a club today.

When they were not performing, the boys could be found at their favorite watering hole, the Pub Gretel & Alfons at Grosse Freiheit 29, still a traditional neighborhood pub.

Beatles-Tour / Stefanie Hempel / Indra / Grosse Freiheit 64A memorial stone marks the location for the former Star Club, the most famous of all the venues where The Beatles played. It can be found in the backyard of the house at Grosse Freiheit 39. The club was destroyed by a fire in 1987.

In one of the first professional photos taken of him, John Lennon stands in the entrance of Hamburg’s Jägerpassage 1 (currently under renovation) on the cover of his first solo-album, Rock‘n Roll.

In 2008, to honor the Beatles’ early days in Hamburg, the city inaugurated the Beatles Platz square.  A 100′ vinyl record at the entrance to the Grosse Freiheit street features life-size metal silhouettes of the five original Beatles. The band’s songs are engraved in the “tracks” of the base.
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Hamburg’s Beatles sites can be explored on your own or by a guided tour on the Beatles Bus, which every Friday takes guests to all the important Beatles locations in St. Pauli.  A creative musical tour on the tracks of the Beatles is offered by guide Stefanie Hempel.

Even before the Beatles, Hamburg was known as a live music metropolis. To this day, the city sets the stage for up-and-coming bands and musicians, and hosts a score of live music events, including the Reeperbahn Festival featuring newcomer bands from all over Europe and theELBJAZZ Festival staged in off-beat maritime venues around the port of Hamburg.

More information on Hamburg, guided tours, tourist cards and hotel booking in the St. Pauli area and beyond can be found at www.hamburg-tourism.de/en. Images are credited to www.mediaserver.hamburg.de.