Friday 27 October 2017

Help! Beatles Tour of Hamburg (With Ukulele)

On this trip I was hosted by the German National Tourist Office.

"There's nowhere in the world they played more than Hamburg," says Stefanie Hempel as we stand in the German city's Beatles-Platz. "Here the foundation stone was laid for their career."

She's right. Hamburg was where the Beatles got their start, playing a huge number of gigs - Hempel estimates it as 300 concerts over two years.

Her tribute to their German residency is a specialist tour of the St Pauli neighbourhood around the Reeperbahn, the spine of Hamburg's famous red-light and entertainment district.

She punctuates stops at the sites of Beatles venues past and present, by playing Beatles songs - on her ukulele.

It may be a far cry from the Beatles' guitars or even George Harrison's sitar, but it seems to work. The compact instrument allows Hempel to belt out a tune, vocals included, with little preparation. Then we're off along St Pauli's dingy daytime streets to the next stop.

At Beatles-Platz itself, she sings In My Life. Then at the former Top Ten Club (see photo top right), she rocks a version of sea shanty My Bonnie, which the early Beatles performed with Tony Sheridan.

In a back street courtyard, we locate the doorway which John Lennon leaned against for the cover of his 1975 Rock 'n' Roll album...

... then we pause by the site of the former Bambi Kino, a cinema where the Beatles were boarded within a shabby storeroom between gigs:

One of the nearby places they performed at was the Indra, where they first used the Beatles name and initially acted as the backing band for a stripper (Hempel performs the Chuck Berry number Rock and Roll Music here):

Next is the Kaiserkeller, perhaps the Hamburg venue most linked with The Beatles in popular memory. It's still rocking:

And finally, we stand behind the site of the long-vanished Star Club, to admire this plaque listing the impressive array of talented artists who took the stage during its short life:

This is where Stefanie goes out with a bang, belting out I Saw Her Standing There. I join in the "Ooooh" bit in the chorus, of course. All you need is love, right?

Find out more and make bookings at Hempel's Beatles Tour website.

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