John Lennon leaves Hamburg

Ten days after Paul McCartney and Pete Best had been deported from Germany, John Lennon travelled back to England by train and boat.

George Harrison had been deported on 21 November, and Stuart Sutcliffe went into temporary hiding with Astrid Kirchherr in Hamburg, leaving Lennon to travel alone.

They were all deported and I was left in Hamburg, playing alone with another group of musicians. It was quite a shattering experience to be in a foreign country, pretty young, left there all on my own. We’d spent our money as we went along. I didn’t have any to spare and being stuck in Hamburg with no food money was no joke, especially just around Christmas. It was terrible, setting off home. I was feeling really sorry for myself and it was a pretty hungry business working my way back to Liverpool. I had my amp on my back, scared stiff I was going to get it pinched. I hadn’t paid for it. I was convinced I’d never find England.

When I did get home, I was so fed up I didn’t bother to contact the others for a few weeks. A month is a long time at eighteen or nineteen; I didn’t know what they were doing. I just withdrew to think whether it was worth going on with. I thought, ‘Is this what I want to do?’ I was always a sort of poet or painter and I thought, ‘Is this it? Nightclubs and seedy scenes, being deported, and weird people in clubs?’ Nowadays they call it decadence but those days it was just in Hamburg, in clubs that groups played at, strip clubs. I thought hard about whether I should continue. Now, when George and Paul found out, they were mad at me, because they thought, ‘We could have been working now.’ But I just withdrew. You see, part of me is a monk and part of me is a performing flea. Knowing when to stop is survival for me.

Anyway, after a while I got to thinking that we ought to cash in on the Liverpool beat scene. Things were really thriving and it seemed a pity to waste the experience we’d got, playing all those hours every night in Hamburg.

John Lennon
Anthology

For several days Harrison, McCartney and Best remained unaware that Lennon had returned to Liverpool. He finally contacted them again on 15 December.

Sutcliffe’s continued stay in Hamburg, meanwhile, effectively signified the end of his time in The Beatles. He flew back to England on 20 January 1961.

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