Flicking through a music magazine the other day, I came across an article: “The Beatles – the untold story”. ‘Surely nothing about them hasn’t already been told?’ I thought to myself, and wryly read the article expecting to remain unimpressed.
Actually, what followed was a very impressive and well-put together piece on The Beatles’ earliest days in Hamburg. The group’s debauched formative years in the Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s notorious red light district, are what truly forged the “Fab Four”.
Or rather the “Fab Five” as they were back then, with Stuart Sutcliffe on bass.
Some things in the article stood out. Firstly, that the late Stuart Sutcliffe – who died of a brain aneurysm in April 1962 – was perhaps a better musician than many people have since made out.
According to The Beatles’ first drummer, Pete Best, Sutcliffe’s cover of ‘Love Me Tender’ was always a highlight of the group’s sets.
Whatever negative things history says about Sutcliffe and Best’s musicianship, the pair played a crucial role in The Beatles’ evolution into a “savage” (as the term was often used back then) garage rock band.
Stuart Sutcliffe’s Handwritten Lyrics to Hippy Hippy Shake – we have them for sale priced at £15,000
Which brings us to the article’s other revelation: when the Fab Four emerged in 1962 with their debut single Love Me Do, many of their friends in Hamburg thought they had sold out!
More used to seeing their favourite band bash out heavy numbers like Hippy Hippy Shake on bills with Gene Vincent and Tony Sheridan, some Hamburg Beatles fans dismissed the tune as a teenybopper-friendly slice of country & western.
To this day, many witnesses of The Beatles’ Hamburg days still insist that the band were at their best during their Reeperbahn era. Whether fans of Rubber Soul or Revolver would agree with them is another issue…
Nevertheless, recordings of The Beatles’ earliest gigs at Hamburg’s Star Club and elsewhere are still notoriously hard to acquire. They remain unreleased aside from bootlegs, for whatever reason.
So, could the above lyrics to Hippy Hippy Shake penned by Stuart Sutcliffe be an artefact from The Beatles’ best era? Some people think so – but what do you reckon? Have you heard The Beatles Hamburg tapes? Leave your comments below.
Either way, these lyrics are a singular and very coveted artefact from the Fab Five’s all-too-brief time in the spotlight.