Although the poor sound quality limits its commercial appeal, the album provides historic insight into the group’s club act in the period after Ringo Starr joined but before the emergence of Beatlemania. The Beatles were unsuccessful in legally blocking the initial release of the album; the recordings were reissued in many forms until 1998, when The Beatles were awarded full rights to the performances.
A new Hamburg music venue, the Star-Club, opened on 13 April 1962, with The Beatles booked for the first seven weeks. The Beatles returned to Hamburg in November and December 1962 for their fourth and fifth engagements there, which had been booked for the Star-Club many months in advance. Unlike their previous three trips to Hamburg, their drummer was Starr, having replaced Best in August. The Beatles were reluctant to return for their final two-week booking, which started 18 December, as they were gaining popularity in Britain and had just achieved their first charted single with “Love Me Do”.
Portions of The Beatles’ final Star-Club performances (along with other acts) were recorded by the club’s stage manager, Adrian Barber, for Ted “Kingsize” Taylor. Barber used a Grundig home reel-to-reel recorder at a tape speed of 3¾ inches per second, with a single microphone placed in front of the stage. Taylor, leader of The Dominoes (who were also playing at the club), said that John Lennon verbally agreed to the group being recorded in exchange for Taylor providing the beer during their performances.
The tapes captured The Beatles performing at least 33 different titles, plus some repeated songs. Of the 30 songs that were commercially released from the tapes, only two were Lennon–McCartney compositions. The others were an assortment of cover versions, seventeen of which would be re-made by The Beatles and appear on their various studio albums or Live at the BBC. The arrangements played at the Star-Club are similar to the versions recorded later, albeit less refined, although there are a few cases with distinct differences. For example, “Mr. Moonlight” has a much quicker tempo, a guitar-based instrumental break, and an intentionally altered lyric with Lennon proclaiming he is on his “nose” instead of his “knees”; “Roll Over Beethoven” was described as “never taken at a more breakneck pace”.
The recording equipment and method resulted in the tapes being unmistakably low fidelity. The vocals, even in the best cases, sound “somewhat muffled and distant”. The vocals on a few songs are so indistinct that labelling and liner notes on early releases gave incorrect information about who was singing and the exact song being performed. Much of The Beatles’ dialogue between songs is audible, which includes addressing the audience in both English and German, as well as repartee among themselves. The banter is irreverent and coarse at times, an aspect of their stage act that would soon cease under the influence of manager Brian Epstein.
When the existence of the tapes was first publicly reported in July 1973, Williams was planning to ask Apple for at least £100,000. Williams said he later met with George Harrison and Starr to offer the tapes for £5000, but they declined, citing financial difficulties at the time. Williams and Taylor teamed up with Paul Murphy, head of Buk Records, to find an outlet for the tapes.
Booklet from the original double album from 1977
After an unsuccessful attempt by The Beatles to block it, the 26-song Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962 was released by Lingasong. The album first appeared in Germany in April 1977 in association with Bellaphon Records, and was released in the UK the following month. For the album’s June 1977 US release (in association with Atlantic Records), four songs were removed and replaced with four different songs from the tapes.
Over the next two decades, the recordings were licensed to several record companies, resulting in numerous releases with varying track selections. In 1979, Pickwick Records performed some additional audio filtering and equalisation of the songs on the Lingasong US version, and released it over two volumes as First Live Recordings; the set included the song “Hully Gully” that was mistakenly credited to The Beatles,but was actually performed by Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers, another act on the Star-Club bill. In 1981, Audio Fidelity Enterprises released Historic Sessions in the UK, the first single package with all 30 Beatles tracks from the original Star-Club releases. Several additional songs from the Star-Club tapes have appeared on Beatles bootleg records over the years.
Another alternate front+backcover
The release of the recordings on two CDs by industry giant Sony Music in 1991 sparked renewed legal attention by The Beatles (as represented by Paul McCartney, Harrison, Starr, and Yoko Ono). Sony also produced a version specifically for their Columbia House music club, but Sony withdrew the titles in 1992 as a lawsuit was progressing. Lingasong’s CD release of the original set prompted another lawsuit from The Beatles in 1996; the case was decided in 1998 in favour of The Beatles, who were granted ownership of the tapes and exclusive rights to their use. Harrison appeared in person to provide evidence in the case, and his testimony was cited as an important factor in the judge’s decision. Harrison characterised the claim that Lennon gave Taylor permission for the recording as “a load of rubbish”, and added: “One drunken person recording another bunch of drunks does not constitute business deals.”
01. Introduction/I Saw Her Standing There (Lennon/McCartney)/I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You) (Thomas/Biggs) 5.18
02, Roll Over Beethoven (Berry) 2.14
03. Hippy Hippy Shake (Romero) 1.43
04. Sweet Little Sixteen (Berry) 2.46
05. Lend Me Your Comb (Kay Twomey/Wise/Weisman) 1.49
06. Your Feet’s Too Big (Benson/Fisher) 2.20
07. Where Have You Been (All My Life) (Mann/Weil) 1.45
08. Twist And Shout (Medley/Russell) 2.09
09. Mr. Moonlight (Johnson) 2.09
10. A Taste Of Honey (Scott/Marlow) 1.41
11. Bésame Mucho (Velázquez/Skylar) 2.02
12. Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby (Perkins) 2.22
13. Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey (Leiber/Stpller/Penniman) 2.12
14. Nothin’ Shakin’ (But The Leaves On The Trees) (Fontaine/Colacrai/Lampert/Gluck) 1.21
15. To Know Her Is to Love Her (Spector) 3.03
16. Little Queenie (Berry) 3.55
17. Falling in Love Again (Can’t Help It) (Hollander/Lerner) 1.59
18. Sheila (Roe) 1.57
19. Be-Bop-A-Lula (Vincent/Davis) 2.29
20. Hallelujah I Love Her So (Charles) 2.09
21. Ask Me Why (Lennon/McCartney) 2.26
22. Red Sails In The Sunset (Kennedy/Williams) 2.02
23. Matchbox (Perkins) 2.34
24. I’m Talking About You (Berry) 1.50
25. I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate (Piron/Smith/Goldsmith) 2.19
26. Long Tall Sally (Johnson/Blackwell/Penniman) 1.45
27. I Remember You (Mercer/Schertzinger) 1.55´
28. Complete show (uncut) 1.05.041