The Beatles’ first performance in Hamburg

8.00pm, Wednesday 17 August 1960 (53 years ago)

The Beatles arrived in Hamburg, Germany in the early evening of 17 August 1960, for the first of 48 nights at the Indra Club on the Grosse Freiheit street.

The group performed at the venue for 48 nights, ending on 3 October 1960. The venue was owned by Bruno Koschmider, a local club owner who also owned the Kaiserkeller.

The Beatles at the Indra Club, Hamburg, 17 August 1960

Pictured here (l-r): John Lennon, George Harrison, Pete Best, Paul McCartney, Stuart Sutcliffe.

The group’s contract was to run for two months, from 17 August to 16 October. The Beatles were to receive 30DM (£2.50) per person each day, paid every Thursday. Koschmider also paid their manager Allan Williams a commission of £10 each week.

The Beatles at the Indra Club, Hamburg, 17 August 1960

They were expected to perform for four and a half hours each weekday night, from 8-9.30pm, 10-11pm, 11.30pm-12.30am and 1-2am.

They also had to play for six hours on Saturdays, from 7-8.30pm, 9-10pm, 10.30-11.30pm, 12-1am, and 1.30-3am. Sunday hours were 5-6pm, 6.30-7.30pm, 8-9pm, 9.30-10.30pm, 11-12 midnight and 12.30-1.30am.

The tired and hungry Beatles played to just a handful of spectators on this first night, mainly prostitutes and their clients. The band were also forced by Koschmider to turn down their amplifiers, following a complaint from the woman who lived above the venue.

The Beatles at the Indra Club, Hamburg, 17 August 1960

Feeling cowed by their unfamiliar surroundings, on this opening night The Beatles played the entire four and a half hour show huddled together and stock still. Afterwards they slept in Bruno Koschmider’s flat. Compared to what followed, it was a positive luxury.

Pete Best at the Indra Club, Hamburg, 17 August 1960Of course, on the first night we got there there weren’t arrangements for anything. The club owner, Bruno Koschmider, drove us round to his house, and we ended up staying, all in the one bed. Bruno wasn’t with us, fortunately, he left us to stay in his flat for the first night and went somewhere else. Eventually he put us in the back of a little cinema, the Bambi Kino, at the very end of a street called the Grosse Freiheit.

Bruno wasn’t some young rock’n’roll entrepreneur, he was an old guy who had been crippled in the war. He had a limp and didn’t seem to know much about music or anything. We only ever saw him once a week, when we’d try to get into his office for our wages.

The city of Hamburg was brilliant; a big lake, and then the dirty part. The Reeperbahn and Grosse Freiheit were the best thing we’d ever seen, clubs and neon lights everywhere and lots of restaurants and entertainment. It looked really good. There were seedy things about it, obviously, including some of the conditions we had to live in when we first got there.

George Harrison
Anthology

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