Astrid Kirchherr (187): “Our philosophy then, and remember we were only little kids, was wearing black clothes and going around looking moody. We knew of Sartre and we were inspired by all the French singers and writers as that was the closest we could get. England was far away and America was out of the question. We dressed like the French existentialists. We wanted to be different and we wanted to look cool, although we didn’t use that word then.”
Hans Olof Gottfridsson (188): “Paul made more in Hamburg than his father did or his teachers at school and they bought new clothes and new instruments, but when you’re a teenager, money tends to roll away fast. They got 35DM a week and this was more than an average German worker. They earned more in Hamburg than they did in England and they played every night in Hamburg, something they did not do in Britain. Before they went to Hamburg, they were looking for jobs. They had some gigs at the Grosvenor Ballroom, but they had problems getting work. Going to Hamburg was a big break for them.”
Derry and the Seniors were replaced by Rory Storm and the Hurricanes at the Kaiserkeller. Johnny Guitar (189) recalled, “Allan Williams sent us out and Bruno Koschmider booked the Beatles into the Kaiserkeller with us. It was a twelve-hour stretch split between two groups. Each group did an hour and a half on, an hour and a half off. When they give you a contract in Germany, you’ve got to stick to it. If you deviate in any way, they take away your work permit. If Koschmider says that a five-piece group is to appear on stage, then a five-piece group must appear. It doesn’t matter that one might be a singer and doesn’t sing all night. Koschmider would rush up and say, ‘Where is the fifth man?’ The singer might have gone to the toilet but he’d tell us to get him back.”
The residents complained of noise at the Indra and even though Koschmider shut it early, the authorities told him it must revert to being a strip club! He decided to present Rory Storm and the Hurricanes with the Beatles every night at the Kaiserkeller. Johnny Guitar (190) remembered some collusion between the Hurricanes and the Beatles. “Germans like you to mach schau, which means ‘stamp your feet and clap’. The rickety stage was very dangerous, so we came to an arrangement with the Beatles that we’d wreck it. First, they’d go on and stamp their feet and then we’d go on and jump up and down. Koschmider would say, ‘Very good, boys, you mach good schau.’ Little did he realise that this was a deliberate effort to destroy the stage. The club was packed one Saturday night when Rory got on top of the piano for ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ and the whole stage collapsed. The orange boxes supporting the planks couldn’t take the strain. Koschmider went berserk and dismissed Rory for breach of contract. Rory was wandering about Hamburg like a waif because he had no money. At that time, the Beatles were sleeping in a room by the side entrance to a cinema and we were living in the luxury of the seaman’s mission down by the docks.”
Günter Zint (191): “Bruno Koschmider did not like to spend much money and the stage was very old. The microphone stands and the drums sometimes fell off the stage because it was so rotten. One night they said, ‘Now we make such hard music and we stamp with our feet on the stage and we will break it.’ They did that, and that, I think, was the night that the beat was born.”
Brian Griffiths (192): “One Saturday morning at about eight o’clock we were sitting in a bar after we’d been paid at the Kaiserkellar. A guy came by with a wheelbarrow and dumped a pile of old clothes in the street. We were pretty high so Lennon, myself and Derry Wilkie dressed up and went jigging around the streets. The Germans thought we were weird with the rock’n’roll and now they thought we were crazy.”
There was trouble after the Beatles had jammed with Tony Sheridan at the Top Ten. When Peter Eckhorn asked them to leave Koschmider and join him, Koschmider was furious. Allan Williams (193): “When the Beatles decided that they were not going to play for Koschmider and go to a competitor, he turned nasty and tried to get them into jail. He said that they had set fire to the cinema and that they didn’t have permits but fortunately for me, he was supposed to get the permits. That’s how we got into Germany the second time. The contract said that they could not perform within 70 miles of Hamburg within six months, and because he didn’t give me my commission, didn’t put the lads in decent accommodation and never got them work permits, the German Embassy gave me the work permits. It was harder to get them into Germany the second time because they had been deported the first.”
Well, it sounds as though the embassies were kept busy. Howie Casey (194): “Allan Williams and Bruno Koschmider hadn’t got us work permits. Allan said, ‘Just tell them you’re tourists’ and when Peter Eckhorn offered us work at the Top Ten, he told us to go to the Embassy and get them. They took our passports off us and we were repatriated. We had the shame of being skint and dishevelled, dirty and tired and getting this piece of paper in place of passports. We had no money for food and we were treated like scum on the way back. When we did get back to Liverpool, we were seen as returning heroes. It sorted the group out – the ones who said, ‘Bugger that, I’m not doing that again’ and the ones who wanted to be musicians and would keep on being ripped off.”
Still, even if the Beatles had not been allowed back, there were plenty of other groups to choose from. They were now prepared to give up their day jobs. Allan Williams (195): “The first group that went over was Howie Casey’s and when they came back and told everybody what Hamburg was like, they all wanted to go over there. I was the kingpin, ‘Get us over to Hamburg, Allan.’ Gerry Marsden kept calling me in the Jacaranda and asking me if Hamburg had been fixed up.”
IV. 27 December 1960
The Beatles returned early from Hamburg in December 1960, but it should not have been a problem. Allan Williams had opened his own Top Ten club in Liverpool. He had asked Bob Wooler, a railway employee, to give up his job and become the full-time manager and organiser. Allan Williams (196): “The first group who played at my Top Ten club was Howie Casey and the Seniors and they blew the place apart. The only snag was that it was in a tough area known as the Four Squares and the locals said it was their club. I didn’t want that, and I don’t know how it would have developed, whether they would have grown weary of it. The premises were fantastic. It was like a barn with big thick wooden beams and we had to write notices, ‘Please mind your head’.”
Bob Wooler (197): “It was in 1960 that I decided to go pro. I would say to my fellow clerks on the railway, ‘This is not my station in life’, and so on, and they would say, ‘Wooler’s gone off the rails.’ All very funny, but they couldn’t believe I would pack in my job for the precarious business of disc-jockeying. I was given a job at the Top Ten club in the roughest area in Liverpool. Allan Williams, who launched the club in Soho Street, took the name from a similar establishment in Hamburg. It lasted five days and then someone got careless with the Bryant and May’s. At one Beatles Convention, I said it was a torching job and I glared at Allan. He said, ‘What are you looking at me for?’ I was to learn about incinerations as that was not the only place in Liverpool to go up in smoke.” Indeed not, I was in a pub with a Merseybeat group a few years back and one of them said to me, “That’s Tommy the Torch. He’s done more damage to Liverpool than Adolf Hitler.” However, in this instance, although the insurance company was suspicious and took Allan Williams to court, the allegation was not proved.
Allan Williams (198): “I had absolutely no reason to burn down the club and it loused up my plans. I had even selected Bob Wooler as the right person to run it. I had persuaded him to give up his day job, and five days later the poor feller was out of work. History would have been altered if the Top Ten had not caught fire. That would have been my Cavern club. The Cavern was only doing jazz at the time and there wasn’t a venue in the centre doing rock’n’roll. Still, I opened the Blue Angel and that was a luxurious night club.” Strangely perhaps, I find myself agreeing with Allan Williams. He had no reason to burn down the place.
Bob Wooler (199): “Allan was preoccupied with the demise of his Top Ten club and the opening of his new club, the Blue Angel, which wasn’t for beat music. The Beatles would have played the Top Ten on their return but, in the event, they had come back early with no work on offer. Allan said to me, ‘You get them work. Try Brian Kelly. He has a string of dance halls and you have some connections with him.’ The Beatles asked me about bookings and they didn’t want to play Allan’s coffee-bar, the Jacaranda. I agreed with them – it was a former coal cellar and had no stage, no lights and no microphones. It was totally unsuitable for showcasing a group. It was also very small, and I doubt if you could get 50 people in there. On the other hand, Litherland Town Hall, Lathom Hall, Aintree Institute and Hambleton Hall had stages and there could be some impact in sweeping the curtains open and saying, ‘Here they are, the Beatles.’ Presentation is very important.”
A turning point in the Beatles’ career was an appearance at Litherland Town Hall, on 27 December 1960. Bob Wooler (200) continues: “You can write your entry for Who’s Who and Paul McCartney has written, ‘Made first important appearance as the Beatles at Litherland Town Hall near Liverpool in December 1960.’ Mona Best had given them some work at the Casbah but she couldn’t sustain them with a residency and I am pleased to say that I got them onto Brian Kelly’s circuit. The first booking was on 27 December 1960 when they were added to the bill of a BeeKay (Brian Kelly) dance. Brian Kelly nearly collapsed when I asked for £8 because he was a tight-wad, but most of the promoters were. He offered me £4 and we compromised on £6, which is a £1 a man, five Beatles, and £1 for the driver. I didn’t take my 10 per cent.”
Tony Bramwell (201): “George Harrison worked as a butcher’s delivery boy in Hunts Cross on Saturday. He delivered our meat and he used to borrow our records as I had two older brothers who had a fair collection of rock’n’roll. Gerry Marsden went out with Pauline, who lived about four houses away and to get into the dances, I would carry Gerry’s guitar for him. I got on the 81 bus one day to go to Litherland Town Hall and I saw George Harrison with his guitar. He said, ‘We’re playing Litherland Town Hall’ and I said, ‘Can I carry your guitar so I can get in for free?’ He said, ‘Sure’ and when I got there and saw ‘Direct from Hamburg – The Beatles’, I said, ‘You’re not from Hamburg’ and he said, ‘Of course not. It’s a cock-up in the adverts.’ I carried George’s guitar around until Neil Aspinall got his van. When I saw them, I recognised John because he was a teddy boy – he had set fire to the roof of our local hall once and I kept away from him. I found that the Beatles were playing the stuff that I had lent to George.”
Bob Wooler (202): “They were billed as ‘Direct From Hamburg’ but too much has been made of this. There wasn’t any deceit in trying to present them as a German group, although I did mention they’d been playing in Hamburg when I announced them. It was an amazing night. When I did hear the Beatles, I was fab-ergasted. Other groups were playing what was in the charts – they felt reassured that way. The Beatles liked obscure R&B stuff. They were only on stage for 30 minutes, but they put everything into their performance and rocked the joint.”
Although there was by now a healthy beat scene on Merseyside, most groups had a matching-tie-and-handkerchief approach and played versions of the pop hits of the day. Opening the show was Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes. John Kennedy (203) sang with them. “We used to open and close those shows. We’d do our spot and then go to the pub for a few pints. We never got to the pub that night. We’d just reached the door when the Beatles started off and that was it. We stayed there all night and watched them. They were brilliant. There was something raw and animal about them.”
Another Domino, Bobby Thomson (204), also remembers that night. “The place went bananas. I’ve never seen a reaction like it. You could see that they were going to be big and I wanted them to be big. It was a funny feeling for blokes to want that. You can understand hero worship from girls, but the blokes felt the same. Everybody loved them.”
Joe Fagin (205): “My first sight of the Beatles when they came back from Germany amazed me. Prior to going, they were just another band but now they had a totally different drive, much tighter guitar licks and a format that really worked. Both John and Paul were wonderful singers and I had the impression that Paul was the biggest influence on the band at the time. They were much better without Stuart Sutcliffe because he didn’t contribute anything musically.”
Dave Forshaw (206): “I couldn’t believe how loud they were and that they wore leather jackets and jeans. Most venues on Merseyside would not allow jeans as they were seen as cheap working man’s gear. In most places, you had to wear a tie. Everybody looked at them, everybody listened to them. We couldn’t believe that they had so much confidence. I loved what they were doing and in spite of what Bob Wooler says, I had no trouble in getting into their dressing-room and booking them for three dates. It was £6.10s. (£6.50) for the first night and then £7.10s (£7.50) if they were all right. Lennon did the most talking and he was the one who would answer back.”
Tony Sanders (207) played drums for Billy Kramer and the Coasters. He saw the Beatles a few days later. “A friend of mine told me about this fabulous group at Litherland Town Hall. He said, ‘They’re all German. They wear cowboy boots and they stomp on the stage.’ A week later, we were coming off stage at Aintree Institute and saw these guys coming on next. Lennon wore a leather jacket and McCartney had a jacket that looked as though he’d been sleeping in it for months, but when they kicked off, it was unbelievable. They were all smoking cigarettes and that tickled us because it went right against convention. They were so cheeky with it. Instead of trying to look good, they didn’t give a damn. They played ‘Wooden Heart’ with Pete Best on bass drum and hi-hat. He was only using one hand and he was smoking with the other. We thought this was tremendous. We were all smoking the next time we went on stage, but it didn’t go with our short haircuts and clean boy-next-door image.’
Sam Leach (208): “I had seen the Beatles as the Silver Beatles before they went to Hamburg and I didn’t think they were very good. I was coaxed into seeing them after they came back at Hambleton Hall. There was a lot of fighting and I was going to go but then I heard Bob Wooler say, ‘It’s the Beatles’ and they played ‘The William Tell Overture’. I thought, ‘Why are they wasting classical music on this lot?’ I could not believe what I was seeing – I was hooked immediately. John did ‘Slow Down’, Paul ‘The Hippy Hippy Shake’, George ‘I’m Henry The Eighth I Am’, Stu ‘Wooden Heart’ and Pete ‘Matchbox’. I followed them into the dressing room and told them that they would be as big as Elvis. John said, ‘We’ve got a nutter here, Paul’ and Paul said, ‘Yes, but a nutter with bookings.’ I booked them for 12 gigs at £10 a time which was top money at the time.” The record used to introduce the Beatles was ‘Piltdown Rides Again’ by the Piltdown Men.
Peter Cook (209) of the Top Spots: “In the early days, I played with the Beatles virtually every week at the Grosvenor Ballroom in Wallasey. Paul was on rhythm then and he used to have a Lucky 7 guitar. They were a very very average band and I used to think that we were far better. Paul did have a brilliant voice for singing ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’, but they were nothing special. They went away to Germany and then there was a buzz going round, ‘Have you heard the Beatles?’, and I pooh-poohed it. We then played Lathom Hall and the Beatles were on and I was with my arms folded on the dance floor, thinking, ‘Let’s see how good you are’, and the curtains opened and they started off with ‘Lucille’ and they were so tight and so good that every hair on my neck stood up. It was a completely new sound and I had never heard anything like it. I know now that they had the drums miked up, they had a mike in the bass drum, so I know what the secret was. I was in awe of them.”
Harry Prytherch (210): “Anybody who has played at Blair Hall will remember that the stage was on a slope. I had some string which I tied to my bass drum pedal and then tied to my drum seat so my weight would stop the drum from sliding. The first time we saw the Beatles was at Blair Hall and the curtains opened and this awful mighty sound came out. Pete Best hit his bass drum eight to the bar and really hammered it, and the first time he did that, the bass drum started sliding and I could see he was going to be in trouble. I ran backstage and I took the string off mine. He was hanging onto his bass drum with one hand and playing it with a stick in the other and between us we wrapped the string around his bass drum pedal and around his seat and every time he played at Blair Hall, he took a piece of string with him.”
Alan Stratton (211): “The Beatles were the first band to have harmonies and they would change the lead vocalists – John would sing one, then Paul and then George. It was interesting to watch as a lot of the bands only had one singer. They also had that deep throbbing bass with Pete Best. The exciting thing for me with the Beatles was watching Pete Best set up his drums. They knew exactly what they were doing. They would speak to the audience a lot, and if they snapped a string as Paul did once, he would smile and continue playing: he wouldn’t go off and change his string.”
Not everyone was convinced that the Beatles were a change for the better. Don Andrew (212) of the Remo Four nursed doubts: “We were shocked that they had such an attraction and commanded such a following when they looked dirty and made such a horrible deafening row. We were intent on making our guitars sound as nice as possible and Colin Manley changed his strings religiously. He got the real Fender sound out of his guitar and they came along with big amplifiers and a big throbbing noise.”
Colin Manley (213) recalled, “We were flabbergasted at what we saw, but I wasn’t impressed musically. They improved when they went down to four with Paul on bass, but it was a long time before I could appreciate what they were doing.”
Sam Leach (214): “George was playing ‘Moonglow’ and it was romantic with the lights down. I saw that Stu’s jack was on the floor and he was bashing away but nothing was coming out. I stuck the jack in and a sound like ten cats being run over by a lorry came out. Paul leapt across and yanked out the plug. He said, ‘You’re a fool, Leachy, don’t you know he can’t play?’”
Lewis Collins (215): “My favourite memory of the Cavern is of steam coming off the ceiling and watching the original Beatles. The sound used to vibrate off the walls and they all wore leather gear. To this day I have in my possession Paul McCartney’s leather jacket from the original Beatles. I’m very proud of it. I suppose some mad American might want to buy it.” So now we know where it is. Portions of Paul’s leather jacket have been offered for sale for years and if they were all genuine, he would have been the size of the Incredible Hulk or Kingsize Taylor.
Every group realised that things would never be the same again. Johnny Sandon (216) was the lead singer with the Searchers. “We thought we were near the top of the heap and we were pretty popular around Liverpool. Gerry and the Pacemakers were the leading group and Johnny Sandon and the Searchers weren’t far behind. We were doing a show at St. John’s Hall in Bootle and we’d heard about this group called the Beatles who’d come back from Germany. We were copying Cliff Richard and the Shadows and they were doing something new altogether. As soon as they started playing, I knew it was the beginning of the end for us.”
John McNally (217), also of the Searchers, recalled, “This was the first time I heard a drummer playing fours on a bass drum. It was a wall of sound and these were the days before you had your big PAs. They did rock’n’roll stuff just like the Americans, but with more rawness to it and in a Liverpool accent. There was no way we could follow them effectively with our tinny sound.”
These groups had not yet been over to Germany and so they had no understanding of what had caused this transformation.