Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"B" Day for Germany

August 17,1960

They slept uncomfortably on the ferry on the way across the channel.  The van had been lifted via crane onto the deck of the boat which left on schedule for the Hook of Holland.  On arrival the van was unshipped and its passengers climbed back into its cramped interior for the drive across Holland and into Germany.  At Arnhem, they paused for a break from the road.  It seems that Allen Williams wanted to visit the WWII British military cemetery there. An amazingly prophetic photo shows most of them gathered in front of a memorial inscribed "Their name liveth for evermore". What!?

They arrived that evening in Hamburg and drove straight to the Kaiserkeller Club in the Reeperbahn district just as the night was coming alive.  Neon lights blazed forth to banish the dark.  Hookers and their pimps took to battle stations.  Allen Williams found the club manager and former circus clown named Bruno Koshmider there.  Another Liverpool group, Derry and the Seniors, were preparing to take the stage and gave the Beatles a rather cool reception, but not because they were afraid of the competition.  In fact, just the opposite, they were convinced the amateurish Beatles might ruin the scene for everybody.

The venue for the Beatles performances was a much seedier place, a recently converted strip club called the Indra Club. (Has anyone else noticed the similarity between the name of this club and the Indica Gallery where, six years later, John Lennon would meet an experimental artist named Yoko Ono?)  Their contract stipulated that they would play four and a half hour every weekday night and six hours on Saturday, not including periodic breaks.  As anybody who has ever performed in public knows, this is a grueling schedule, indeed.

They were allowed to bed down in a nearby movie theater called the Bambi Kino, a movie house whose better days were far behind it.  There were a couple of filthy rooms behind the movie screen that would serve as the musicians dormitory.  No showers or hot water.  The "artists" would have to make do with the public toilet for their personal hygiene needs. 

Well, the contract states that they start on August 17th, so start they must (at 150 pounds a week!)  Despite little sleep or food over the last 36 hours, they set up and played their first sets on the continent of Europe that night.  The audience consisted of a few disaffected strip club patrons, who hadn't been apprised of the change of featured entertainment, and an angry old woman, tenant of an upstairs apartment.  Oh, what would I give to have been there that fateful and momentous night!

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