'Harrison was by far best musician': Beatles friend in Hamburg remembers Fab Four


    George Harrison was “by far the best” musician in The Beatles during their seminal stint playing on Hamburg’s Reeperbahn, a German friend of the band has said. Meanwhile John Lennon was still learning, while former drummer Pete Best was still glum about his departure almost 30 years after he was replaced by Ringo Starr, Hans-Olaf Henkel added.

    The 82-year-old former MEP told Express.co.uk he got to know The Beatles thanks to an old flame – photographer Astrid Kirchherr.

    Ms Kircherr had introduced Mr Henkel to Stuart Sutcliffe, Lennon’s art school friend who was the band’s bass player, and whom she was later engaged to before he died at the tragically young age of 21 of a brain haemorrhage.

    Mr Henkel said: ”During 1961 I went to the Top Ten Club located on the Reeperbahn many times to hear the Beatles – and see Astrid.

    “There were quite a number of other British Bands performing at the Top Ten Club and later at the Star Club at that time, among them Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Undertakers, Tony Sheridan“ (who played as the lead singer being supported by The Beatles).”

    Most British rock bands of the time were from Liverpool, Mr Henkel pointed out.

    He continued: “My brother-in-law, Horst Ansin, sometimes offered a beer to the Beatles in return for John Lennon to sing Ain‘t She Sweet which he did with great response along with My Bonny Is Over The Ocean. 

    READ MORE: Queen Elizabeth spoke of her fondness for the Fab Four

    “Astrid was a gifted photographer who took many of the Beatles‘ famous photos during their time in Hamburg.

    “She was instrumental in convincing first Stu and later the others to change their greasy hair style to the ‘wigs’.

    “That was in my opinion a fundamental turning point in their career. Suddenly, they looked different from the many other rock groups.”

    The image change earned them the nickname Pilzkoepfe, translating into Mushroom Heads, Mr Henkel revealed.

    He added: “This is not to belittle their musical talent but the other (mostly British) rock bands showing up in Hamburg were in most admirers’ opinion as good as the Beatles.”

    Mr Henkel subsequently lost touch with Astrid, The Beatles, and in fact his hometown of Hamburg in order to pursue a career with IBM.

    However, he said: “In 1964, I was a host at IBM‘s pavilion at the New York World’s Fair and I saw them again at the Shea Stadium at Flushing Meadows as one of tens of thousands enthusiastic listeners.

    “Then Ringo Starr had replaced Pete Best and the Group was down to four.

    “About 12 years ago, I met a rather depressed Pete Best at a Beatles Revival in Berlin together with CynthiaLennon, her son and (for the first time since 1962) my old flame Astrid.

    “Astrid died about two years ago.”


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