BeatleSongs and Tell Me Why have nothing to say about this album, as it is an unofficial release. Well, that’s now quite true. Tell Me Why does mention the album once in passing, and refers to the period a couple of times, but doesn’t discuss the album, the recording, or its history. No, it’s not a bootleg, it was legal at the time, but the audio quality is questionable (at best) and the group at the time didn’t have the rights to their performances. After the group obtained the performance rights globally, Live At The Star Club In Hamburg, Germany left the market, never to be seen again. It wasn’t necessarily easy to find in the first place.
I used to have an original pressing, which looked like a bootleg. Well, in a manner of speaking, the album is a bootleg. It sounds like it even. Simple white typeface on a black background for the album cover, and the record itself sounds like it was done in the middle of the audience by a single microphone. I’ve long since lost that pressing somehow, but was able to replace it with a Japanese import version that includes even more songs than originally available, so I’m happy with what I have and don’t feel the need to find another copy of the original.
The version I have includes 31 songs, and is (like the original pressing) a double album of the group performing live. This gatefold album includes a picture on the inside spanning both sides of the group performing – at Liverpool’s Cavern Club. There is also a 45 inserted of two songs from the album, and a paper insert with lyrics in both Japanese and English. I’m sure this would violate a number of copyright laws here were it to be released as it is today.
Live At The Star Club In Hamburg, Germany is one of my favorite Beatles records, even though there are only two Beatles songs on there out of the 31. This is a great showcase of what the band was like, not just as a document of their live performance and how the simply rrocked in their early days, but also gives a very concise presentation of their influences. While many of these songs would get recorded for albums over the next few years, this document of how the band sounded at the end of 1962 is also a great slice of rock and roll history. There are songs by Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Carl Perkins, Phil Spector, Little Richard, among others.
Besides being a snapshot of the Beatles at this early stage (pun not intended) in their career, it is also simply a raucous live set of early rock and roll classics. The fact that the group in question altered the face of popular music only helps to provide depth to the set.
One other live album has been released, the poorly compiled Live At The Hollywood Bowl, and that cobles together a couple of songs each from two different tours. It was a half-hearted attempt to satiate the market, and while it does have some big hits, it lacks the impact the set at the Star Club offers. While the audio quality is lacking, Live At The Star Club In Hamburg, Germany is a far superior document of the Beatles live.
There are other live performances that deserve to be released in an official capacity. Here is what I know off the top of my head that have been recorded in some manner and should be included in a box set of Beatles live recordings:
1962 Star Club
The two shows from the Hollywood Bowl (1964 & 1965)
Shea Stadium in 1965
1966 Candlestick Park performance (penultimate live performance)
1969 Apple rooftop performance
1964 Washington D.C. Coliseum
1963 Royal Variety Show (performing for the Queen – includes the famous “rattle your jewelry” line)
Budokan 1966 (saw a film of the whole concert and it was great)
And I’m pretty sure there are more recordings of the group at the Cavern Club. I would also be interested to see if there are any tapes of the group on tour with Jimmy Nicol for those two weeks in 1964.
I decided to put in the track listing for this album. It’s just too good. Track it down if you can.
Introduction/”I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry (Over You)”
“I Saw Her Standing There”
“Roll Over Beethoven”
“Hippy Hippy Shake”
“Sweet Little Sixteen”
“Lend Me Your Comb”
“Your Feet’s Too Big”
“Twist and Shout”
“A Taste of Honey”
“Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey”
“Where Have You Been All My Life?”
“Till There Was You”
“Nothin’ Shakin’ (But the Leaves on the Trees)”
“To Know Her Is to Love Her”
“Falling in Love Again (Can’t Help It)”
“Ask Me Why”
“Hallelujah I Love Her So”
“Red Sails in the Sunset”
“Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby”
“I’m Talking About You”
“Long Tall Sally”
“I Remember You”