Released: April 1977
John Lennon: vocals, guitar, harmonica
Paul McCartney: vocals, bass guitar
George Harrison: vocals, guitar
Ringo Starr: drums
Horst Fascher (Star-Club owner): lead vocals on Hallelujah I Love Her So
Fred Fascher (Star-Club waiter): lead vocals on Be-Bop-A-Lula
Roll Over Beethoven
The Hippy Hippy Shake
Sweet Little Sixteen
Lend Me Your Comb
Your Feet’s Too Big
To Know Her Is To Love Her
Falling In Love Again (Can’t Help It)
Ask Me Why
Hallelujah, I Love Her So
One of the best-known semi-official Beatles releases, Live! At The Star-Club In Hamburg, Germany; 1962 was first released on 8 April 1977. The songs give an insight into the sound of The Beatles prior to their commercial breakthrough, when they were playing lengthy sets containing mostly cover versions.
The recordings were made by the Star-Club’s stage manager Adrian Barber, during The Beatles’ third and final residency at the venue. Barber used a 3¾” per second Grundig home tape machine to record the group, with a single microphone placed at the front of the stage.
Although commonly believed to have been recorded on New Year’s Eve 1962, the songs were actually taped on more than one night during the residency, which took place from 18 to 31 December 1962. The Beatles’ early booking agent, Allan Williams, claimed that around three hours of performances were recorded between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Barber gave the recordings to Ted ‘Kingsize’ Taylor of Liverpool group The Dominoes. Taylor attempted to sell them to Brian Epstein in the 1960s, but Epstein considered them of little commercial value and offered just £20. Taylor kept the tapes at his home until 1973, when he began to look into marketing them.
Allan Williams claimed that when Taylor returned from Hamburg he left the taped with a recording engineer. The project remained unfinished and the engineer relocated, leaving the tapes behind. In 1972, Williams said, he, Taylor and the engineer returned to the abandoned building to recover the tapes “from beneath a pile of rubble on the floor.”
In August 1973 Williams met Harrison and Starr at Apple, and offered to sell the Star-Club tapes for £5,000. The former Beatles declined, and Williams and Taylor joined forces with Paul Murphy, the head of Buk Records, to find another buyer.
Murphy eventually bought the tapes himself, and set up a new company, Lingasong, for the project. The worldwide distribution rights were sold to Double H Licensing, which spent over $100,000 on audio processing and mixing to make the recordings more commercially viable.
The Beatles attempted to block the 1977 release of Live! At The Star-Club In Hamburg, Germany; 1962, a 26-song double album. On 1 April Apple’s lawyers served a writ demanding the album be shelved, but Taylor countered that at least one of The Beatles had granted permission for the recording to be made.
John Lennon typed a letter about the album, in which he noted: “The sleeve note, apart from being inaccurate, seems to have been written with a court case in mind.” A handwritten postscript simply stated: “THIS IS A FUCKING FAKE!”
The High Court rejected Apple’s attempts to block the release, with the judge accepting Taylor’s reasoning and noting Apple’s delay in taking action to suppress the recordings. Live! At The Star-Club was first released in Germany in April 1977, and in the United Kingdom the following month.
The album was issued in the US in June 1977, by Lingasong in association with Atlantic Records. Four songs – I Saw Her Standing There, Twist And Shout, Reminiscing and Ask Me Why – were replaced by four others from the same tapes: I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You), Where Have You Been, Till There Was You and Sheila.
The recordings were licensed to a number of other record labels over the next two decades, and reissued in a range of albums. One version – Pickwick Records’ two-volume 1979 release First Live Recordings – erroneously included a performance of Hully Gully by Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers.
A total of 30 songs have been commercially issued on a range of different releases. Just two songs – I Saw Her Standing There and Ask Me Why – were Lennon-McCartney originals. Of the remaining cover versions, 17 were later recorded by The Beatles and issued on studio albums, EPs or Live At The BBC.
A CD reissue by Sony in 1991 led to The Beatles and their company Apple taking legal action to halt further sales, and the album was swiftly withdrawn. Another CD version by Lingasong in 1996 resulted in another lawsuit, which was one by The Beatles in 1998. George Harrison appeared at London’s High Court in May that year as the group’s representative, telling reporters outside: “I got the short straw and was the one who had to got to court for Apple.”
The 1998 Copyright Act had recently been passed, and Apple’s lawyers were able to prove that the Star-Club recordings were made while The Beatles were under contract to EMI. In the witness box Harrison described the tapes as “the crummiest recording ever made in our name, and said that “One drunken person recording another bunch of drunks does not constitute a business deal.”
The judge ruled that Apple should be granted ownership of the tapes, and the rights to issue the recordings. Although the company has declined to release them, the 20 years that they were on sale prior to the court case meant they remain widely available on the second-hand market and via bootleg sources.