Walking In The Beatles’ Footsteps

Visitors to this year’s Reeperbahn Festival will be given a free tour of the parts of Hamburg where The Beatles lived and played in the early ‘60s.

It’s another initiative that’s supported by the city’s marketing department to raise Hamburg’s worldwide profile by plugging its links to music.

Apart from supporting the new Reeperbahn Festival and the German Live Entertainment Awards, an annual event held in the city’s Fliegende Bauten venue in February, Hamburg Marketing GmbH also managed to drop a million euros on the July 7 Live Earth concert and – in terms of the international media attention the event attracted – put up a good case for saying it was money well-spent.

The Reeperbahn area – roughly the square mile around the city’s docks – was arguably the world’s biggest red light district until the advance of technology upset the socio-economic balance.

Basically, a massive growth in container shipping and the development of cranes that can unload them in hours (rather than days) meant that visiting merchant seamen were no longer spending a week in port.

Neither was there a need to have so many dockers working shore-side and consequently the area has hit an economic slump.

Many of the sex shows closed down and the brothel business that rode on the back of them was decimated.

In the early 1990s, the city government attempted to gentrify the Reeperbahn’s St Pauli district by building scores of apartments for high-income earners. It seems the new residents showed scant interest in strip shows and brothels.

It’s taken more than 40 years for the city to do anything about capitalising on The Beatles’ legacy, but now it sees value in reminding tourists of the connection with the U.K.’s Fab Four and also that the north German port plays an active role in international live music.

After all, John Lennon was once reported to have said, "I didn’t grow up in Liverpool. I grew up in Hamburg."

The Reeperbahn Festival is co-produced by Hamburg promoters Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion and Alexander Schulz’s Inferno Events, and is spread across more than a dozen mainly club-sized venues – including Grosse Freiheit 36, Docks, Molotov and the Fliegende Bauten – that are all within walking distance of each other.

This is its second year and, despite the first one losing money through poor attendance, the reaction from the Hamburg area papers and the national music press was so positive that nobody involved in the event ever thought of anything other than continuing it.

The first acts for this year’s September 27-29 bill have just been announced and include The Pigeon Detectives, Young Soul Rebels, Architecture In Helsinki, Say Hi To Your Mom, Fertig Los! and Der Fall Böse.

There’s also a huge Scandinavian contingent led by Sweden’s The (International) Noise Conspiracy and young Norwegian singer-songwriter star Maria Mena that also includes Shout Out Louds, Friska Viljor, Franky Lee, Bjørn Berge, Figurines, The Kissaway Trail and The Floor Is Made Of Lava.