Hamburg 2

By Mike Hart of the Roadrunners  

Mersey Beat: February 13 1964

Hamburg does not inspire me to write a humorous article. It is not a humorous place although we had so many laughs that I cannot remember them all. But these laughs were all to do with people and events. People and events are funny, and humorous articles can and will be written about them, but places are really funny and Hamburg certainly not. Yet I like that city so very much. The rest of the band only agree with me in what I say to a greater or lesser extent, that is why I use my own name.

St. Pauli is not very beautiful. It consists of high buildings of various ages and in varying states towering over streets unevened by the bombing under which run shattered sewers which shrink after heavy rain. The Reeperbahn, Grosse Freiheit and allied streets are covered in neon light, and half clad posters advertising the shows within.

Each club has a doorman who does his best to entice your wallet inside. We learnt fast with one experience. We got away with paying only £1 for a bottle of wine, which was Babycham, for a fast-talking hostess. If we had not been Star Club staff with assistance when we shouted it would have been £5. Most places the bands stay out of.

The scene revolves around six places - the Star Club, the Beer-Shop, the Mambo, the Holle, the Wagabond and the Pacific Hotel. There are a few other places: Grannies, the Ice Cream Shop, Chugs, Sacha's, but these are less-used.

The Star Club performs a service to music which I estimate is inestimable. It provides a way of diverting money from a large number of people who want to drink to a large number of people who want to play music. The people who want to drink couldn't care less about the music; the people who play music could not care less about the people who drink. It allows a musician to develop to an enormous extent, to grow to love his music and be paid for it.

There is no worry about transport, pay, amplifiers, mics as in England. All a person has to do is be there at the right time, ready to play. There is nowhere else where the Roadrunners could have a guest guitar, saxophone, trombone and organ playing because they want to, to an audience who mostly don't listen and those that do are the friends of the bands who always tend not to drink and who have free passes to the clubs. If a band cannot get this spirit they will have a miserable time. The Big 6 have it, Kingsize has it, Tony Sheridan has it, the All Stars have it, I think we got it. These bands develop in Hamburg, others do not.

Where else can Baron von Rooter (Johnny Kidd's road manager) spend hours on stage with a bass guitar not plugged in, miming to all the songs? Where else can George from the All Stars and John from us play a full Hammond organ worth over £1,000? Where else can a complete musician get the facilities to sing and play to his full like Tony Sheridan who sings songs here that no-one would listen to on a rock show as happened a Kiel which was an out-of-town show we did?

Off-stage hours are spent doing absolutely nothing but always feeling something was happening or about to happen. The Beer-Shop was where most people sat. The British bands tend to have a circle of their own which includes German girls but few German males. These girls are a strange mixture as well. A few are so grotty, while some are so nice it isn't true. Later at night (or earlier in the morning I should say) the people move from the Beer-Shop to the Holle and Wagabond where every musician seems to be from Germany.

I think Hamburg is a place for people who want to think and learn to play and get paid for it. It has a vitality that rubs off on the bands if they have any soul, and if they get this vitality they keep it when they get back to England, like Gerry, the Searchers, Cliff Bennett, the Beatles.


Editor's Note: What I tried to achieve in Mersey Beat was to present an inside few of the musicians world for the reader. An intimate look at the music scene from the musicians point of view, which is why I went out of my way to encourage the musicians to write of their experiences themselves. If they were reluctant to write articles I encouraged them to write letters to me. The music was to be listened to, I didn't want a critics stance of giving an individual assessment of a person's music. The listener could judge for themselves. I wanted them to be able to live and breathe and experience the musician's world, the excitement, the hazards, the fun, the disappointments - and to have the musicians themselves express their world to the readers.

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