In this fine article, Pete Houston, recalls his experiences of gigging in Germany.
"I wrote this article a couple of years ago & have just 'rediscovered' it. Realised that I hadn't mentioned the name of the group I was with, where we were from or where the club was that we played at, although that information is on the photo of the flyer.
The group was called Dene Wayne and the Exiles & we were from Crewe in Cheshire. The club was at number 60 Grosse Freiheit, just two doors up from the Indra where The Beatles first played in Hamburg. Back then, we knew The Beatles had played at the Star and Top Ten Clubs but didn't know about the Indra and Kaiserkeller. So although we must have walked past the Indra (to & from our digs) at least twice a day, and we might even have been in the place (we went into most of them at least once) I don't remember it at all!
The places we frequented most were the Star & Top Ten Clubs, the Mambo Cafe (where they did the best pancakes I've ever tasted), the Seamen's Mission (where you could get a good English type meal & a decent cup of tea at a very good price) and Zur, or Der, Holle, a cellar bar where you didn't pay for drinks as you got them, the waiter came round when you were leaving (usually long after the sun was up) & counted the bottles on your table which you then paid for - a system open to much abuse as I'm sure you can imagine!
So we never made it big but we had a lot of fun and We Were There! And it certainly beat working in an office or factory.
In Manchester we played at the Oasis, the Twisted Wheel, Princess & Domino Clubs plus others I can't remember the names of, and in the late 60s/early 70s we regularly played at Warmingham Grange Country Club, owned by Tony Stuart & mentioned elsewhere on this site. In fact, I married one of the Go-Go dancers from there.
"Getting to Germany was quite a saga. A Birmingham agent had been asked to book 2 bands at the Hit Club for the whole of May 1964. He had one Birmingham band, Danny Burns and the Phantoms, but was struggling to find another. That may sound strange but there were a lot of bands that had members who either wouldn't or couldn't go for various reasons.
Anyway the Brum agent contacted an agent in the Potteries who immediately contacted us. We were all keen and we were already full time but this was either Friday 24th April or Saturday 25th and we were due to start at the club at 5pm on Friday 1st May! None of us had passports and work permits were required for Germany.
A mad rush followed. First the lead guitarist was due to be married in just a couple of weeks so that had to be brought forward to Wednesday (the baby wouldn't wait!). A flurry of phone calls ensued on the Monday to find out where to go & what to take to get the passports & work permits. We were told we needed to go to the passport office in Petty France, London with birth certificates & application forms signed by our parents (we were all under 21) and then to the German Embassy for the work permits.
Tuesday morning we drove down to London, about a 4 & a half hour drive each way. (Only after we returned from Germany did we discover we could have done all this in Liverpool where there was a passport office & a German Consulate - this would have been less than an hours journey). Got to Petty France & hit a snag. Myself, drummer & vocalist, no problem. It turned out that the lead guitarists mother & natural father had split up when he (the
guitarist) was still a baby. His stepfather had signed the passport application papers but, although the guitarist had his stepfather's surname, he had never been legally adopted. Therefore he required his natural father's signature on the form. There had been no contact for years, nobody knew where he was so that was it, we're not going to Germany.
Then the passport office clerk said "Unless you're married, then you don't need a parent's signature". Yeeeessss!! He's getting married tomorrow, does he need to come back here with the marriage certificate? No said the clerk, fill in all the details on this form & anyone can bring the marriage certificate and we'll process the application & hand over the passport.
Great, we were going to Germany after all!
We then went off to the German Embassy where we met the guys from the Brum band getting their work permits. We filled in the applications, explained the situation about the guitarist and again found he didn't need to come back. As long as he'd signed the form we could bring the passport back & get it stamped. We talked to the guys from the other band & decided which equipment to take. We were going to be travelling over together in the one van, only playing at the one club so we took enough gear for just one band.
Wednesday morning - drummer & I didn't attend the wedding, we were sitting outside the registry office in the van!.
As soon as the marriage certificate was signed someone came running out with it & we shot off to London. No problems this time, we got the passports & work permits & headed back to Crewe arriving back at about 8.30pm. At 10pm the guitarists stepfather drove us down to Birmingham (it was a short honeymoon!!) where we met up with the other band and the Brum agent and sidekick who were going to be driving us over.
We all piled into a Commer van, 5 of them, 4 of us, driver & co-driver, enough gear for one band + all our suitcases.
As you can imagine, it was a bit of a squeeze!
The group onstage at the Hit Club, Hamburg in May 1964
Thursday morning we're in Dover getting on to a ferry to Calais. Crossed the Channel and drove along the coast through Dunkirk & into Belgium. Right across Belgium passing through Brussels & remember seeing the Atomium.
Arrived at the German border near Aachen sometime late Thursday afternoon where there was another UK band who'd been held up there all day as one of the members didn't have the right documents or was too young or something.
Carried on into Germany, crossed the Rhine at Cologne (the cathedral was very impressive).
Sometime Thursday evening we ran out of petrol on the Autobahn - don't remember all the details here as I'd been awake since about 7am Wednesday morning - but we stopped on a bridge over a road. Our drummer went & flagged down a guy on a scooter who took him off to get some fuel. While he's gone the police arrive & tell us we can't stay parked on the autobahn (no hard shoulders) so they made us push the van about a mile up the road.
We were already stuffed from lack of sleep so this didn't help! Of course the drummer gets back with a can full of petrol & we've gone. His first day in Germany (first out of the UK in fact) and he's abandoned! Anyway he did the obvious thing & walked up the autobahn (not the safest of things to do) & eventually found us.
All this had taken 3 hours or so & we weren't going to make Hamburg so about midnight we stopped at a hotel/beer house/pub whatever (I was really stuffed by now) and went in to stay the night.
Having come from a place where the pubs shut at 10.30pm & by 11 most people were in bed, entering this place gave us quite a surprise - it was jammed to the doors with people drinking!
This was where we all became acquainted with the continental quilt or duvet. On the beds in our rooms were these things that looked like giant pillows but being so stuffed we soon got under them & I was an immediate convert - it was great, so much better than sheets & blankets.
Late Friday morning (we slept well & long) we continued on our way arriving at the club at about 3.30pm. The Brum band were put up in rooms in the club over the stage, we had a hotel a few hundred yards away.
So we set up the gear & they said they'd take the first spot while we were taken to the hotel. The club was open from 5pm until 4am and we took it turns doing one hour sets and alternated starting so we did 5 hours one night & 6 hours the next.
It was tough, the guitarist & myself had blistered fingers & the vocalist lost his voice after the 3rd night so I had to do some singing but we wouldn't have missed it for the world."
Ticket to the Star Club