THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
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Reeperbahn Festival 2018
September 19 to 22, 2018
By Michael Burland
Much like another major European waterfront city, Edinburgh, Hamburg has established itself as a great festival town, covering everything from classic cars to Christmas Markets, LGBTQI Pride to Europe's largest motorcycle church service, and street theater to music. Lots of music.
The Reeperbahn Festival is particularly interesting. To pigeonhole it, it's a kind of German version of Austin, Texas' South By South West. The music industry gathers for many trade events and conferences, but of more interest to music fans are the hundreds of gigs in 90-plus venues including everything from evocative dive bars to the stunning new Elbphilhamonie concert hall.
The Reeperbahn is famous for being the rough and ready dockland area where The Beatles and many other Liverpool bands cut their teeth playing to drunken sailors and ladies of the night in mammoth six hour sessions. While it may not be quite so 'colorful' nowadays, Hamburg is proud of its past and keen that the area doesn't suffer too much over-gentrification.
Meet Klaus Voormann at Reeperbahn Festival
If the name sounds familiar, it should! Voormann was one of the young Germans who befriended The Beatles in Hamburg. He and his photographer girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr (who later dated original Beatle bassist Stuart Sutcliffe) were influenced by the band, and in turn influenced them – the floppy Beatle hairdo and collarless suits came directly from Klaus and Astrid's style. Klaus gave up graphic art for music, but later John Lennon asked him to design the sleeve for their new album, Revolver. The iconic line drawing of the fab four's faces is probably Voormann's most famous piece of work.
At a press event in London, the genial, twinkly-eyed Klaus said it was a real challenge, as the band's music was evolving rapidly. "The new LP would have to appeal to fans of both Love Me Do and Tomorrow Never Knows" he laughed. He told how '60s supermodel Twiggy and her agent-turned husband Justin de Villeneuve got him a commission with British Vogue magazine, and his graphic art and music careers (he was a member of Manfred Mann and a session musician for Lou Reed, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Harry Nilsson and many, many more) have happily coincided ever since.
Voormann has remained the greatest of friends with the former Beatles, appearing on their solo records and they on his. In fact when Paul McCartney left the band, which then split up, there were rumors of a new group which was to consist of Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Voormann on bass.
At the Reeperbahn Festival 2018 Voormann will be presenting a exhibition of his work, along with his retrospective book which charts his award winning career and extraordinary life. "It was a present from my son and daughter for my 80th birthday" he said. "They collated the images and my wife Christina wrote the text".
Appropriately enough, Voormann's book is entitled It Started In Hamburg. It can for you too. To get the Hamburg experience, hear great bands and maybe meet Klaus himself start at https://reeperbahnfestival.com/en/