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The Beatles in Hamburg: The Stories the Scene and How it All Began Hardcover – 14 Nov 2011
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"Spencer Leigh has succeeded in conveying the spirit of the period with great accuracy. He writes in an authentic, sensitive, and honest manner, as though he had been there himself--and all with a good touch of British humor. This is not only the story of the Beatles in Hamburg--it is also a historical document of an era that left a lifelong impression on people like me and the Beatles." --Klaus Voormann
About the Author
Spencer Leigh is an acknowledged expert on Mersey Beat and has a wealth of unpublished interview material spanning 25 years. Leigh has more interviews about the Beatles - all captured on tape - than anyone else in the world.His 'On The Beat' programme has been broadcast on BBC Radio Merseyside for over 25 years and has contributed to many BBC documentaries. He writes for The Independent, and Record Collector. Mojo describe him as 'rock music's most enthusiastic amateur historian.'
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However, he is a great writer in where he goes to great lengths to seek out the information bound between these covers for the reader. It cannot be easy to try and track some or all the people who were there when the Beatles played there, so that is a task in itself as you can only then rely on what has been written in other books, which, while well intended are not always accurate, therefore the same mistake gets repeated, but not in this case!
Worth buying for the Beatle maniac in your life!
The book has a basic history of Hamburg, a potted history of rock and roll generally and also some background on how the Beatles came to play in Hamburg. There are sections on Stuart Sutcliffe, Pete Best and lots of quotes from musicians who played at the same time the Beatles were in Hamburg - such as Mike Pender of the Searchers and Howie Casey of Derry and the Seniors (later with Wings of course). It is amazing that some of the musicians from that time still live in Hamburg - Tony Sheridan and Kingsize Taylor having made their homes there.
Some of the statements in the book I disagreed with strongly. For example, there is a glib comment about "John, Paul, George and Ringo" sounding clumsy in any other order and being "the order in which they joined and arguably the order of their talent as well." As a Beatlefan I think all the members of the band had equal importance, their personalities complementing each other perfectly. There are other 'facts', such as Pete Best playing with the band onstage more than Ringo, which is unsurprising as Ringo was in another band at the time! Obviously, the Beatles enjoyed playing with him and liked him personally, leading to them later asking him to join the band. Pete Best had only been asked to join the group two days before the band left for Hamburg, as they were desperate for a drummer at the time. There are many, many arguments about how and why Pete was sacked, but nevertheless, he was in the band at that time.
This is a nice, coffee table book, packed with great illustrations and memorabilia. Some of the quotes and stories about the bands time in Hamburg are interesting, but it is not an in-depth look at the Beatles time there. However, it is evocative of the period and would be fascinating, especially for the newer fan. For those of us who have read everything on the band, there is little that is new, but it was still an interesting read.
Hamburg was, without a doubt, the crucible of the Beatles development as a group. This is apparent from the reception they received on their very first gig back in Liverpool after their initial Kaiserkeller stint. This was the start of their success, which made them firstly, the number one group in Liverpool, and then, the world.
For me the best part of the book was the numerous photos, many taken by Jurgen Vollmer while they were performing at the Top Ten Club. Also, of course, there are the now famous shots taken by Astrid.
Spencer Leigh has combined these photographs together with first-hand accounts from other Liverpool musicians, their German friends, and club owners to produce an impressive account of a very significant time in the story of the most famous band in the world.
I didn't actually learn much from this book, but there were a few photographs of the people around the group during their time in Hamburg that I had never seen before.
Would certainly recommend it to anyone new to the Beatles, and also tell them to search out for other Spencer Leigh books.
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