Monday, November 8, 2010

Beatles @ Der Dom

November 1960

If you are a Beatles fan at all, you've seen the pictures.

Astrid Kirchherr, captivated by the Beatles rough sound and natural charisma, has been braving the dark atmosphere and coming to the Kaiserkeller for a week or so, and bringing other friends, as well.  A growing clique of college educated artistic types is forming around the Liverpool groups.   To differentiate them from the usual crowd of tough customers, they will be called the "exis".  That term is a reference to the ascendant  intellectual movement of that time called existentialism, often associated with beatniks.  (Astrid later revealed that she and her friends were not up on the latest philosophical trends, but somehow the label stuck.  Probably much like "rocket scientist" is applied to really smart people, today, even if they don't know the first thing about how to design and build an extra-terrestrial vehicle.)

Astrid, as a budding art photographer, summons up the courage to ask the boys if they will pose for some photographs.  They agree immediately.  They don't begin playing music until after dark and she needs available daylight, so the schedules are not a problem. 

She chooses as her location, the nearby fairgrounds, called the Hamburg Dom.  Astrid imagines that the thrill ride machinery and transportation vehicles will  provide an appropriate backdrop for her new working-class friends.  Since it is getting colder in northern Germany, the fairgrounds are mostly deserted.  Could anything be more inspired!

The pictures are the earliest of the Beatles that can be considered something more than the usual keepsake snapshots.  They show John with his newly acquired Rickenbacker 325 guitar and Paul holding John's cast-off Hofner Club 40 with the strings reversed for left-handedness.  George, the youngest and looking on the verge of exhaustion, is still using his cheap Futurama.  Stu holds his Hofner bass, obtained with the proceeds of a Liverpool art show award.  Pete Best brought along his snare drum and a pair of drumsticks.  For a Beatle fan these pictures conjure rich imaginings of what it must have been like to be there on the chilly November day in 1960, exactly 50 years ago.

     Pete, George, John, Paul and Stu         Copyright Astrid Kirchherr

An amazing art book from this time - Hamburg Days by Kirchherr and Voormann

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