"Paul McCartney & Hamburg" or "The Catcall Incident"Posted by matisse_ep on 2009.12.13 at 19:34
An interesting article from The Guardian, with annotations by me.
December 3, 2009 -- The Guardian (UK)
Paul McCartney gets back to Hamburg, half a century on
It's only 9.10pm, but it's a bitterly cold night and for some reason the doors of Hamburg's Color Line arena have opened a little late, forcing the audience to line up outside. The chilly crowd, at last in their seats, are restive. It starts as a grumble that becomes a slow handclap, but soon the collection of bald spots and sensible sweaters on the floor of the arena are making a sound that is unmistakably a boo.
"You're booing me?" The venue for the launch of McCartney's first European tour in five years last night was chosen, he has said, out of affection for his old band's "training ground", the city where the baby Beatles learned how to play, discovered sex and amphetamines, cut their hair, gained a new drummer and lost their fifth member, bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, to art school and later a brain haemorrhage.
They arrived in the city in August 1960, a group of callow 18-year-olds (George Harrison was 17) who had barely played a professional show. Twenty- eight months and 281 tough gigs later they gave their last Hamburg performance on New Year's Eve 1962. Just over a fortnight later the single Please Please Me was released in the UK and the world changed.
Half a century later, McCartney is back, once again in a collarless suit and mid-heeled Chelsea boots with a Hofner bass slung to his left hand and the Germans' first thought is of punctuality. His band burst into Magical Mystery Tour; it's a pretty effective riposte.
The audience's disrespect is the more perplexing since the city is belatedly starting to take pride in its Beatles association, after decades when only those in the know would have been able to trace their way through the red light district to the Indra, scene of their first contractual engagement in the city, or the Kaiserkeller, where John, Paul and George first met Ringo, or the Top Ten Club, where the Beatles played the longest residency of their career, 98 nights on the trot for 12 hours at a time, between March and July 1961. As John Lennon once remarked, if the Beatles were born in Liverpool, they grew up in Hamburg.
The hesitancy of Germany's most affluent city to market the connection, no doubt, was born of embarrassment. The Hamburg that the Beatles knew was a sleazy world of prostitutes, sailors, gangsters and fistfights and very little has changed (Note: Reeperbahn has become my city's main tourist attraction and is certainly no reason for embarrassment. The fact that prostitution and other sexual entertainment is not hidden away in shady back alleys as in other cities proves this. These days you see only tourists walking up and down Reeperbahn wide-eyed and wondering, the neon signs and display windows don't shock anyone else over here).
Taxi drivers boast that the cash economy on the Reeperbahn, the main red light strip around which the Beatles played, is so active that it boasts the busiest ATM in Europe; there is a street here down which women who aren't selling sex are physically barred from entering in case they distract the punters. Shakespeare's Stratford this ain't.
Half a century of neglect, however, has had one great advantage: most of the sites associated with the band are still standing and mostly unchanged several of the old clubs, indeed, are still live music venues. Even the barber's where they are reputed to have requested a copy of Sutcliffe's arty new moptop is still in business. (Note: The Beatles had their hair cut in Paris, France, not in Hamburg.)
Macca, it is fair to say, is not in bad nick either, bouncing about onstage with energy that is remarkable for a man galloping towards his eighth decade.
Though it is an unashamedly nostalgic set, on a stage backed with visuals showing old newspaper cuttings and photographs, this is not a man going through the motions.
Backed by the band he has toured with for a decade, he plays no fewer than six instruments during the set, but it is his 67-year-old voice that is most impressive.
Few musicians of his generation still have the ability to "woo!" like a teenager; McCartney makes it look easy.
The initial frostiness thaws as the gig progresses, and it does appear that the ex-Beatle has allowed himself a little sentiment about his return to the city, breaking into half-remembered snatches of Hamburg slang ("We'll have a little 'hummel hummel moss moss' tonight?' [Note: Actually it is "Hummel Hummel, Mors Mors - and I'm aware of the fact that no one understands it, not even Germans from other areas than Hamburg]) and bantering with a heckler who asks if he will be revisiting his old stomping ground.
"The Reeperbahn? Not tonight, no." (Note: Good idea. A soccer match, unwisely planned to take place only a few feet away from the Color Line Arena on the very same evening, left the Reeperbahn swarming with drunk, jeering fans.)
Live and Let Die, Hey Jude, Day Tripper, Lady Madonna, Get Back, Yesterday, Helter Skelter one gets the feeling he could go on forever.
Hamburg, desperate to persuade McCartney to return next year to mark the 50th anniversary of his arrival, can only hope that he does (Note: No one here honestly expects him to return for our anniversary. We are trying to get Pete Best instead).
Eight days a week in Hamburg
First Hamburg home of the Beatles, then a five-piece with Stuart Sutcliffe on bass and Pete Best on drums. They played 48 nights from August 1960.
Kaiserkeller, Grosse Freiheit 36
From October to December 1960, the Beatles alternated hourly with fellow Liverpool band Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, whose drummer, Ringo Starr, they would later poach.
Top Ten Club, Reeperbahn 136
Live music venue where the band played its longest residency, 98 nights in a row, between March and July 1961.
Star Club, Grosse Freiheit 39
Biggest club in Beatles-era Hamburg, destroyed by fire in 1980s (Note: 1983). Band's last Hamburg gig on New Year's Eve 1962.
Bambi, Paul-Roosen-Strasse 33Cinema where the band lodged in 1960, in two windowless rooms next to the toilets and behind the main screen (Note: Both facts are wrong, the rooms did have windows and they were quite far away from the screen which was fastened to the wall, there was no space behind it to sleep. I know what I'm talking about, we've been IN those rooms :))
Beatlemania, Nobistor 10
Museum that opened this year, next to the new Beatles-Platz. Particularly good on the Hamburg years.