“I might have been born in Liverpool – but I grew up in Hamburg.”
The Reeperbahn in Hamburg, Germany is the bustling nightlife center of the city, home to one of Europe’s largest red light districts, and also where the Beatles began to make their mark on music during the early 1960s. The Beatles primarily played in 4 clubs at the Reeperbahn and you can retrace their footsteps at each one while capturing a feel for the “sinful mile”.
It’s where the Beatles first played in Hamburg and by visiting you’ll get an idea of their humble beginnings. You’re better off showing up before 6pm or so, after which you’ll have to pay a cover to watch one of the bands that are booked for the evening. (The Beatles had to play hard, fast, and entertain the crowd anyway they could here which was difficult at times; fights breaking out during shows was common.) The drinks are cheap in the cramped and loud Indra Musikclub which is a great place to catch a show because even if you’re at the very back of the place, you’re not too far away from the stage (or bar).
This is large concert hall that’s hard to miss on the corner of 36 Große Freiheit; it alternates during the day between club, bar, and concert hall for rock, dance, salsa, and Kelly Clarkson. The interior of the Kaiserkeller is larger than the Indra, but still gives an intimate feel when there’s live music. The Beatles didn’t play very long here (only a few months during 1960) and it’s not a place you’ll hang out long unless you’re watching a concert.
The Star Club
Unfortunately there is nothing of the Star Club left but the plague below. It’s hidden on a side street off 39 Große Freiheit near a Thai dance club and strip bar standing on a wall by itself. The Beatles played at the Star Club for 7 weeks at the end of 1962 and it’s the only one of these Hamburg clubs where Ringo Starr played with the band (having replaced Pete Best). The original building burned down in 1987 but the plaque commemorates other later famous musicians who played there like Little Richard, Ray Charles, Cream, Jerry Lee Louis, and Black Sabbath to name a few.
Below is a live recording of the Beatles with some footage from the Star Club in 1962.
Lots Of New Beatles, Not As Much Old
Beatles fans will appreciate stopping by each of the bars that are still standing, if not only for a few moments to see the atmosphere of the clubs that strongly influenced the band. Some of the other clubs the Beatles played at like The Top Ten (136 Reeperbahn) are also not in existence anymore and there are still many more across the rest of Hamburg. Parts of the Reeperbahn have tried to make more of the Beatles than is actually there – a Beatlemania Museum for example, as well as Beatles hot dog stands and resturants. These places are “Beatles” only by name and you won’t see much outside of the museum on the Reeperbahn.
The real spectacle is the Reeperbahn itself, notorious for it’s wild nightlife, sex shops, and rowdy bars that imprinted themselves on the Fab Four long after they left Hamburg.
[photos by: vgm8383 (Indra Musikclub)]
I always think it’s amazing how much another city (outside of Liverpool) connected with the Beatles, so much so that it is somehow now synonymous!
…and Hamburg of all places, it seems a strange connection of sorts.
This was so fascinating. Especially because we have a music venue- and up and coming bands come to play- hoping to get their ‘spot’ in history- it is interesting to know at one time the Beatles were in that same category- and it makes me appreciate the hard work of these young and up coming bands!
– also- has made me want to go to Germany! 🙂
It’s crazy to think that when you see these places, knowing how big the Beatles became. They had to stop playing at these small clubs toward the end of 1962 because it was just getting too crazy after ‘Love Me Do’ was released. I wonder what bands playing there now might be the next big thing…you never know which is what makes smaller venues so wonderful.
I think the Reeperbahn area shows off the artistic side of Germany (which is hard to see sometimes) hopefully you’ll get to visit one day!
Awesome! U finally made it there!! Haha!!
😀 yes! I think it’s just a nighttime place…lived up to its reputation!
so this place is definitely “boozy” then, right?! LOL
Chilly gone 🙂
I never knew The Beatles had spent so much time playing in Hamburg. It makes me wonder if the local bands I know here will ever become big (though they’ll never be like The Beatles, of course)!
I guess you never know, but seems like the Reeperbahn attracted so many great talents. I wonder what place that is now…
Great article and photos. Can’t wait to make the trip someday.
Thanks Mike. The museum is pretty interesting too for fans. A *lot* of memorabilia and information from the Hamburg days.
I’ve had a few misadventures in Hamburg. The next time I’m there I would love to follow the footsteps of the Beatles.
Check out the Thomas Reed pub next to Beatlemania museum if you’re ever in town again, cool place. (5 Euro cover after 10pm though).
Very cool post.
I learned about the Beatles’ rights of passage in Hamburg in the book Outliers. The Beatles worked their asses off and it paid off. It would be great to visit those old venues.
I’ve been wanting to read that book for sometime. You’re right though, they were working and playing for about 6 years (as I recall) and in some pretty crappy conditions when they were playing in Hamburg. Their apartment above the Bambi Kino and the pay was atrocious.
I forgot how much time the Beatles spent in Hamburg. It is a really funny connection. Do they have organized tours of Beatles clubs or did you compile this for our pleasure?
I did this for pleasure – I’m a big Beatles fan and the idea to visit these places came from a family member. Although in and around the Reeperbahn I have noticed a Beatles walking tour, though haven’t experienced it myself.
I can feel the vibe from the photos. Great post, Anil! 🙂
Thanks! As you walk up to the Reeperbahn on a Friday or Saturday night you can just feel the energy.
Ooh, agreed on wanting to see Germany now. I’m a live music fan, so this post appealed to me. 🙂
I was I could go back in time and visit the Star Club. Little Richard, Beatles, Cream…the place was such a hotbed for music. Lively rock scene there now still.
Woot! What an übercool post! It’s like being thrown back in time a bit 🙂
😀 I bet they never thought their statues would be greeting visitors at the entrance of the street all those years ago.
What you wrote about the Beatles and the Hamburg connection brought back memories of the good old days! I remembered how much me and my son enjoyed the Beatles walking tour in London. Maybe I’ll take the one in Hamburg one day. Great post, Anil!
It’s funny how the walking tours go on during the hectic later hours on the Reeperbahn. You should come for one of the tours, you’ll certainly catch the atmosphere of the area 🙂
Not sure if you ever watch Amazing Race – but the Indra Bar is where they had their ‘pit-stop’ this week! As I was watching the show and the teams had to go to the red light district – they showed the Beatles ‘monument’ (your first picture) and I immediate thought of Foxnomad!
Great info here – I’m a huge Beatles fan!
I don’t but that’s cool to know, is it live? I just missed them it seems 🙂 I wonder if they were running around here during the past few weeks, it was Fasching (sort of the German Halloween) so everyone was dressed up adding to the flair of the Reeperbahn.
I’m a huge Beatles fan as well, one of the first things I remember listening to when I was a kid. My mom gave me a Little Richard and Beatles tape and I’ve loved them ever since.