High Times: Hamburg – Part 2 ‘Journey into the 70’s’
Continued from ‘The Star Club and the Swing Kids’ (http://www.newuntouchables.com/nutsmag/?p=789)
… Anyway by the early 1960’s it wasn’t all about the Star-Club, of course. The Hamburg scene revolved around the Kaiserkeller, Indra and Top Ten way before the Star-Club opened its doors. Then came the Beer-Shop, Mambo, Holle, Wagabond and the Pacific Hotel, as well as the less popular clubs like Grannies, the Ice Cream Shop, Chugs, and Sacha’s. The Beatles also played at the Kaiserkeller and Top Ten Club. 60’s legends, the Monks, a band of G.I.s who were originally stationed near Frankfurt, were the ‘house band’ at the Top Ten Club all through 1965 and ‘66 and recorded a complete album plus three 45s before disbanding in the late 60’s and going back to the States. They were quite successful in the north of Germany but the south would have liked to hang them up on their nooses that were used as neckties in their black monk uniforms. But also in Hamburg they sure weren’t everybody’s darling. Tony Sheridan hated the Monks and never got tired of telling everyone the Monks were completely free of any talent. Luckily that didn’t stop them from gaining cult status. Sadly the band never became successful during their existence and were forced to play other songs by their record company, Polydor. The album was a total flop, the 45s sold poorly too and the band were made to play much more mainstream songs by their record company Polydor.
Of course there were plenty of local groups to be heard as well. The Rattles were probably the best known group from Hamburg at that time and there was constant rivalry between them and Berlin’s the Lords. The Rattles had a charismatic front man in Achim Reichel – a blonde guy that on stage looked like momma’s darling gone wild on amphetamines. After he left the band to serve in the army the Rattles lost their popularity and never really recovered. They continued to play and record songs but only had one last hit with ‘the Witch’ that was also covered by bands from the UK and USA. Achim Reichel and other members of the group had numerous side and solo projects like Wonderland, Herbet & Birgit or A.R. & Machines and drifted more and more into psychedelia and progressive rock.
Other great groups from the Hamburg area were the Blizzards who came from a small place called Stade just across the river Elbe. They formed in 1961 and during their career recorded some of the best Beat songs to come out of Germany. Their version of the Het cover “Hab keine Lust heut aufzustehn” is a classic and they also recorded great versions of Yardbirds songs in german along with brilliant self-penned tracks. Then there were the German Bonds who released the german mod anthem “We Are Out of Sight!” or the Bats of “Got a Girl” fame. The sheer number of bands that emerged around Hamburg in the 60s is well worth their own article that might follow in the future.
The year 1967 saw Hamburg’s first ‘official’ love-in with hippies handing out flowers to everyone in the middle of St. Pauli. By that time flower power had taken over quietly just like in London or New York and San Francisco. The Ones recorded their legendary psychedelic single “Lady Greengrass” for the Star-Club label and the Monks released their last piece of evidence on Polydor. John’s Children with Marc Bolan played at the Star Club on a stage that was decorated to its maximum with flowers of every kind. It was their self declared ‘Love & Peace’ gig that ended in a fist fight between some band members.
Jimi Hendrix played in Hamburg in 1968 and after his gig, everything changed. The Beat Boom was over. Psychedelia, Heavy and Progressive Rock were the new sounds of the day. People got tired of ‘old’ Rock’n'Roll like Elvis or Little Richard. Now the Stones, Beatles, Cream and Hendrix were ‘where it’s at’. Also the drugs changed from Coca Cola and sometimes Schnapps to pills, pot and acid. As Kuno Dreysse of the Star-Club band the Rivetts once said in an interview, “It all changed when the VIP’s arrived. Their Sound was different to all the others – more heavy and black. The singer Mike Harrison sounded more grounded than Ray Charles. But also their lifestyle was another. When you came to their room in the Pacific, there was always a big glass for candy in the shelf that was filled with Mandrax, Preludine, Purple Hearts, Romela, Cappies and so on. They took it to function during the daytime but also ‘tripped’ alot. They were the first to put me in contact with Pot or Acid.”
The trends were the same almost all over the globe and the music changed with it. The music became more ‘mind oriented’ and less dance friendly. People used to smoke joints during the concerts and sit down to relax and enjoy the music. Also the sales of drinks in the clubs were going down because everyone was already high or turned on some way or the other and when people got thirsty they simply drank water from the washing basins in the rest rooms. On the other hand the cost to have a band playing was going up more and more. The equipment got bigger, heavier and took more and more space. As a result the club owners had to calculate higher prices for the shows and therefore less people were coming.
So, one day our hero Klaus found himself in front of his favourite ‘Beatschuppen’ just to discover that his Club would have to close its doors forever on new year’s eve 1969/70. He took a long deep breath, fished a cigarette out of his pocket and let a few memories of the last years stream by. Then he walked up the Grosse Freiheit to the corner of Simon-Von-Utrecht Straße and went inside the building Grosse Freiheit 58. The Gruenspan had opened here in 68 and immedeately turned into the new ‘Hot Spot’. The outside of the house was decorated with great Pop-Art paintings by Hamburg based artists Dieter Glasmacher and Werner Nöfer. Inside it was hippie heaven – brilliant sound system, Go-Go Girls in cages hung from the ceiling, a state of the art lightshow with effects, oil slides and stroboscope and everything else a psychedelic space ship needs for a life long trip through inner space and into the 1970s!
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