Sold for £137,750 inc. premium
Submit your item online for a free auction estimate.How to sell
Our Popular Culture specialists can help you find a similar item at an auction or via a private sale.Find your local specialist
The Beatles' first visit to Hamburg, in 1960, came about thanks to Liverpool promoter Allan Williams, who had connected with Bruno Koschmider, owner of the Kaiserkeller night club and other venues in Hamburg's red-light district. Williams had sent several Liverpool groups over to Hamburg and Koschmider needed another to play at a new club he was opening, the Indra. Williams offered the Silver Beatles (as they were known then) the opportunity to fill the bill. However, they lacked a permanent drummer, but just two days before they were to leave for Hamburg, they offered Pete Best the job. On the 15th August, the newly-christened Beatles left for Germany with all their equipment in Allan Williams' van, arriving in Hamburg some 36 hours later. John's passport had had to be hastily obtained and this was issued on the 15th August, as is recorded on several of the documents offered here. The arrangement of work-permits had been left to Koschmider, who apparently overlooked this formality, and thus were applied for after the Beatles had arrived in Hamburg, as documents in this lot attest.
The Beatles' contract with Koschmider originally ran from 17th August to 16th October. They were required to play for 4 1/2 hours every weekday night and six on both Saturday and Sunday, a pretty gruelling schedule. This contract was then extended to 31st December. However, at the end November George was ordered to leave the country after it had become clear to the authorities that he was under 18 and, according to German law, was not allowed to stay or work in a night club after midnight. At the same time, Paul and Pete went to the squalid 'digs' provided by Koschmider, two tiny rooms just behind the screen of a small cinema he owned, and in order to provide some light in the darkened, closed premises, the two Beatles set light to a wall hanging. They packed their belongings in order to take up the offer of new employment and accommodation in a rival club, the Top Ten, and left the smouldering tapestry. Koschmider was then informed that the Beatles had tried to set fire to the cinema and he went to the police. Paul, Pete, John and bassist Stuart Sutcliffe were soon arrested and put in the cells. When it was clear that John and Stuart were innocent, they were allowed to go but Paul and Pete were deported on a flight back to London on 1st December. John and Stuart visited the police station on 6th December, to provide statements regarding their plans to remain in Germany, as reflected by the document with the overpasted section included in this lot.
Underneath John's declaration, there is a handwritten note by Stuart which reads: I have been informed that I may no longer work in this country. I intend to stay here from this day, as a tourist by Mrs. Kirchherr, Hamburg, Altona Eimsbüttelerstr45A, Hamburg 6th December - Stuart Sutcliffe. Mrs. Kirchherr was the mother of a local girl, Astrid, whom Stuart had met and fallen in love with previously and it was planned that he would stay at her family home (eventually returning to Liverpool in February 1961). It appears Stuart mis-spelled the street name, which was crossed out and re-written in a German hand, likely by the attending police officer. Stuart also had trouble with the spelling of Astrid's mother's surname. A possible explanation for this document's format is that John and Stuart were erroneously presented with each other's paperwork. Stuart's statement was written on John's document before the error was discovered and presumably John's statement had already been written on Stuart's document. John was asked to re-write his statement on a blank piece of paper which was then glued onto the form, covering Stuart's statement.
Whilst Stuart stayed on, John left Hamburg on the 7th December, undertaking the somewhat arduous journey by boat and various trains back to Liverpool, complete with his amplifier, and arrived there in the middle of the night on the 8th. He returned to his home at his Aunt Mimi's and had to throw stones at her bedroom window to let her know he was there.
Despite the troubles of a few months earlier, the Beatles returned to Germany to take up a three-month residency at the Top Ten Club in April 1961. Stuart had already returned to Hamburg, to continue his romance with Astrid and enrol in the city's State College Of Art. He was a very promising student but became ill and, after a series of increasingly-severe headaches, suffered a violent convulsive fit on 10th April 1962. He went into a coma and died a few hours later. It was two months short of his 22nd birthday. That same day, John, Paul and Pete had arrived yet again in Hamburg ahead of a seven-week residency, this time at a new venue, the Star-Club.
In all, the Beatles made five trips to Hamburg between 1960 and 1962. Their final appearances at the Star-Club in December 1962 brought their stage time in the city to around 1,100 hours. Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn sums up that experience: Quite how valuable the work tied up in this remarkable statistic was to prove was, at this point, beyond comprehension. The Beatles had served their apprenticeship, and served it the hard way. They were now ready to take on whatever the world could throw at them.
In an interview in 1969, John described their time in Hamburg thus: "We went in young boys and came out old men."
Ex-Lot 237, Rock & Roll Memorabilia, Sotheby's London, 22nd December 1982.
Lewisohn, Mark, The Complete Beatles Chronicle, Pyramid Books, London, 1992.
Lewisohn, Mark, All These Years Volume 1: Tune In, Little, Brown, London, 2013.