“It was when Cynthia visited John and I had the idea to take them out to the Baltic Sea for the day. We went in the morning and came back at night because they had to play then. It was just a beautiful day and they enjoyed it very much. That was the first time John and Cynthia had been to the Baltic Sea and they were having a lot of fun playing in the sand and having a swim in the sea and they were just like children enjoying themselves. Stuart and John played in the sand building little castles and things by the sea.”
The sixth Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe met photographer Astrid Kirchherr when The Beatles were in Hamburg. They fell in love instantly and became each other’s muses. In 1960 they got engaged but it was short-lived. Stuart died in Astrid’s arms on April, 10, 1962 of a brain hemorrhage. To this day, Astrid still loves Stuart immensely. He was her soulmate.
“Eventually Stuart and Astrid got off with each other; Astrid was really cute—so was Stuart, you can see from their pictures that they were.” - George Harrison.
“[Their relationship was] like one of those fairy tales.” - Pete Best.
“They always looked magnificently cool—black polo-neck sweaters, narrow tailored jeans. Stu was our James Dean and Astrid was a waiflike figure who looked like Mia Farrow.” - Mike McCartney.
“I love you Astrid, with all my heart and soul.” - Stuart.
“I love you forever and always. You are the love of my life.” - Astrid.
On 21 November 1960, George was deported from Germany after the police discovered he was only seventeen years old, and, as such, not allowed out past the legal curfew.
“We would be sitting up on the bandstand, while all this [ID check] went on. The Kontrolle would turn on all the club lights and the band would have to stop playing. Men would go around the tables, checking IDs.
It went on for two months before the penny dropped as to what they were actually saying: ‘Everybody under eighteen years old get out.’ I was only seventeen and I was sitting with the band and getting worried, and eventually somebody did find out; I don’t know how. We didn’t have any work permits or visas, and with me under-age they stated closing in on us; then one day the police came and booted me out.
I had to go back home and that was right at a critical time, because we’d just been offered a job at another club down the road, the Top Ten, which was a much cooler club. In our hour off from fhe Kaiserkeller we’d go there to watch [Tony] Sheridan or whoever was playing. The manager had poached us from Bruno Koschmider and we’d already played a couple of times there. There was a really good atmosphere in that club. It had a great sound-system, it looked much better and they paid a bit more money.
Here we are, leaving the Kaiserkeller to go to the Top Ten, really eager to go there - and right at that point they came and kicked me out of town. So I was moving out to go home and they were moving out to go to this great club.
Astrid, and probably Stuart, dropped me at Hamburg station. It was a long journey on my own on the train to the Hook of Holland. From there I got the day boat. It seemed to take ages and I didn’t have much money - I was praying I’d have enough. I had to get from Harwich to Liverpool Street Station and then a taxi across to Euston. From there I got a train to Liverpool. I can remember it now: I had an amplifier that I’d bought in Hamburg and a crappy suitcase and things in boxes, paper bags with my clothes in, and a guitar. I had too many things to carry and was standing in the corridor of the train with my belongings around me, and lots of soldiers on the train, drinking. I finally got to Liverpool and took a taxi home - I just about made it. I got home penniless. It took everything I had to get me back home.
I had returned to England, on my own and all forlorn, but as it turned out, Paul and Pete were booted out at the same time and were already back ahead of me. It seems Bruno didn’t want The Beatles to leave his club and, as there had been an accidental fire, he has got the police in.
Bruno said that they were burning his cinema down and they took Pete and Paul and put them in the police station on the Reeperbahn for a few hours and then flew them back to England. Deported them. Then John came back a few days after then, because there was no point in him staying and Stuart stayed for a bit because he’d decided to get together with Astrid. It was great, a reprieve, otherwise I had visions of our band staying out there with me stuck in Liverpool, and that would be it.” - George Harrison, The Beatles Anthology
Paul: ‘Astrid was a photographer and took really nice photos of us. And Jurgen was a photographer, brilliant photos. They were more interested in Stuart and John, they had the more teddy-boy faces. I was a little bit too baby-faced and didn’t attract them as much.’
[…] Unfortunately for Paul, the Exis were not all that interested in him.
PAUL: They had a particular love for Stu; John was number two, which is understandable. George was number three, which was a little bit miffing, because I had expected at least to get third… Life is very like that. I came fourth, just before Pete Best. Stuart was entering the good-looking period. Earlier than that he looked a bit pimply and art-studenty. He had never been number one in our pecking order. Pimply and small, but onstage in Hamburg his stature grew. He wore his James Dean glasses, a nice pair of RayBans, and he looked groovy with his tight jeans and his big bass. Suddenly there was this transformation, and with his shades and haircut Stu became a complete dude. It was great.
It was inevitable that there should be a mutual attraction between the Beatles and the Exis. Of all the British rock 'n’ roll bands of the time, the Beatles were the most intellectually inclined and appreciative of art. The Exis seemed like an extension of a scene with which they were already familiar.
PAUL: So we were very into them and they were very artsy. They were not the first artsy people we’d seen, but they were the first unique artsy people we’d seen. The rest seemed like students copying each other and just doing paintings. Astrid fell in love with Stuart. He and I used to have a deadly rivalry. I don’t know why. He was older and a strong friend of John’s. When I look back on it I think we were probably fighting for John’s attention. He was older and John was a year older than me, and that year makes a hell of a lot of difference at the age of eighteen. So I wasn’t such a big friend of Stuart’s. I was always practical, thinking our band could be great, but with him on bass there was always something holding us back.
paul mccartney: many years from now, barry miles
You know what I have written- carved- on a church in Hamburg? ‘John loves Cyn.’ That was my first going out with her at that time. A church that overlooks just outside the Reeperbahn. But out right in town, and it’s got a big green tower, that you can walk up in. And we all carved our names on there. You can have a look. There will be John & Cyn, Stu & Astrid, Paul & what the hell was the girl at that time?…I think Stu and Astrid is up there but I know John & Cyn is. We stuck our names up there with whoever we were hanging on then.
John Lennon, 1975
It was Dorothy Rhone who dated Paul McCartney at the time.
I wonder if they are still there in 2014?
ASTRID: Stuart just played in the band because John persuaded him to be in the band. And the first painting Stuart sold, John persuaded him again to buy a bass for that, to be in his group. So, actually all Stuart wanted was to become a good painter.
INTERVIEWER: Why did John want him in the band so much knowing he didn’t know how to play?
ASTRID: Well, John always said when Paul was moaning about, you know, how Stuart didn’t practice and all of that, but John always said: “It doesn’t matter. He looks good.”
The cream leather wallet with ‘Stuart’ written in blue ink inside and ‘Stuart .F.V. Sutcliffe’ written in Stuart’s hand in black ink on the inside flap, contained in the wallet is a portrait photograph of Astrid with a note on the reverse written in Astrid’s hand “I love you for ever and always. You are my love of my life.”
A small clipped photograph portrait of Stuart taken by Astrid, a colour transparency of Astrid wearing a black swimming costume, a British Railways Harwich-Hook Of Holland Night Service leaflet advertising reservations, written twice on the reverse in Stuart’s hand is the name of his art tutor E Paolozzi, with a South Kensington address, and three abstract doodles, a newspaper clipping listing 'Elvis’ latest single’, a certificate of posting receipt dated 1962, a German telephone number and German stamp.
On 13 April 1962, Astrid met the group at Hamburg Airport, telling them that Stuart had died a few days before. Stuart’s mother flew to Hamburg with Brian Epstein, and returned to Liverpool with her son’s body.
After Stuart’s death, Astrid wrote a letter to his mother, apologising for being too ill to attend his funeral in Liverpool and saying how much she and John missed him:
“Oh, Mum, John is in a terrible mood now, he just can’t believe that darling Stuart never comes back. He’s just crying his eyes out … John is marvellous to me, he says that he knows Stuart so much and he loves him so much that he can understand me…”
Stu would have been 76 years old today. Happy Birthday Stuart Fergusson Victor SutcliffeStu.