Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
The first interesting thing about the Beatles for our purposes is how long they had already been together by the time they reached the United States. Lennon and McCartney first started playing together in 1957, seven years prior to landing in America. (Incidentally, the time that elapsed between their founding, and their arguably greatest artistic achievements – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beatles [White Album] – is ten years.) And if you look even more closely at those long years of preparation, you’ll find an experience that, in the context of hockey players and Bill Joy and world-class violinists, sounds awfully familiar. In 1960, while they were still just a struggling high school rock band, they were invited to play in Hamburg, Germany.
“Hamburg in those days did not have rock-and-roll music clubs. It had s***p clubs,” says Philip Norman, who wrote the Beatles biography Shout! “There was one particular club owner called Bruno, who was originally a fairground showman. He had the idea of bringing rock groups to play in various clubs. They had this formula. It was a huge nonstop show, hour after hour, with a lot of people lurching in and the other lot lurching out. And the bands would play all the time to catch the passing traffic. In an American red-light district, they would call it nonstop striptease.
“Many of the bands that played in Hamburg were from Liverpool.” Norman went on. “It was an accident. Bruno went to London to look for bands. But he happened to meet an entrepreneur from Liverpool in Soho who was down in London by pure chance. And he arranged to send some bands over. That’s how the connection was established. And eventually the Beatles made a connection not just with Bruno but with other club owners as well. They kept going back because they got a lot of alcohol and a lot of s*x.
What was so special about Hamburg? It wasn’t that it paid well. It didn’t. Or that the acoustics were fantastic. They weren’t. Or that the audiences were savvy and appreciative. They were anything but. It was the sheer amount of time the band was forced to play.