Go to Hamburg


The Beatles might have hailed from Liverpool, but the band got its big break in Hamburg.

The band had secured a bid to play the Indra, a seedy strip joint complete with a neon-lighted elephant beckoning the passersby in Hamburg's infamous red-light boulevard.

This August marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' debut of a 48-night stint at this "musical venue."

The band’s contract required the five of them (John, Paul, George, drummer Pete Best and bassist Stuart Sutcliffe) to perform for 30 hours, six nights a week. Each one received the generous sum of about $51 in those days.

The Indra’s owner was generous and provided the group free lodging.

The Beatles slept behind the stage in two dark, dank, cramped storage rooms with small beds, folding cots, and a couch. The nearby men’s room, where broken toilets often overflowed into their rooms, served the group’s personal hygiene needs.

The days of Hamburg are a far cry from Paul McCartney's concert riders of today.

McCartney now has an amusing list of plant demands - yes plant demands: "No trees please! We want plants that are just as full on the bottom as the top such as palm, bamboo, peace lilies, etc. No tree trunks!"

Also, of course, the rider requires a pre-show sweep by some bomb-sniffing dogs.

Paul has come a long way from a pre-show neon-lighted elephant.

However, playing Hamburg was essential to the band's success.

After two months of incessant playing, Indra's owner Bruno Koschmider promoted The Beatles to his flagship club, the Kaiserkeller.

“We had to learn millions of songs because we’d be on for hours,” George Harrison later said. “Hamburg was really like our apprenticeship, learning how to play in front of people.”

This apprenticeship, learning millions of songs, and how to properly play in front of people was essential.

Where is your Hamburg?

Where is the place you can work on your craft, build your skills, and harness your talents regardless of the environment?

Marc Ross

Based in Washington, DC, I specialize in thought leader communications and global public policy for public affairs professionals working at the intersection of globalization, disruption, and politics.

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