The Beatles in Hamburg
by Spencer Leigh
Chicago Review Press
There's no feeling like being young and broke and rooming in the back of a Pornokino off the Reeperbahn, Europe's greatest redlight district. That's the life Pete Best, Stu Sutcliffe, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Paul McCartney lead as they learned their chops playing five or six hours a night in German strip clubs. Yeah, Ringo was a latecomer, and according to Mr. Sleigh, who assembled this amusing collection, Pete Best has clocked more Fab Four hours on stage than Mr. Star.
The material in this book is all from Hamburg's "Beatles Museum" and it's a worthy collection for diehard fans or the casual reader. There's an even split between text and pictures, and even if you're not the biggest Beatles fan in the world this photo essay captures a place and time that doesn't get much documentation. There're tons of fun facts: the boys got busted for being underage the first time they worked, the name of the band rhymes with a common German slang term for "penis," and they were signed with Burt Kaempfert for a year until he dropped them to focus on Tony Sheridan. That's rock and roll.
Leigh captures the atmosphere of the era -- the sex, the goons, and the vigor of English language music in the country recovering from a disastrous war. The writing is breezy, there are plenty of pictures for the short attention span reader, and the occasional breast appears, just to make you think you got your money's worth.