By Mark Rocco
Although you might not be familiar with her name, Astrid Kirchherr was very pivotal figure in the history of pop music. Through her relationship with Stuart Sutcliffe, she was the central figure that transformed The Beatles, then a struggling British band playing clubs in Hamburg's Kaiserkeller, into the band that would revolutionize popular music.
When Astrid first heard The Beatles playing in the Kaiserkeller, she was drawn to the rebellious new type of music they were playing, rock n roll. She would visit the Kaiserkeller every day to be near them, eventually asking them if they would to have a photo session, with her as photographer. Since all the other bands they knew only had snapshots taken by friends, they saw it as an opportunity. Astrid saw it as a chance to get close to their bassist, Stuart Sutcliffe.
The images of The Beatles in a rundown fairground were the result of this first session. They capture all the ambition and innocence of The Beatles, all in their late teens, and early twenties. But beyond recording the early years of the most influential band in history, Astrid Kirchherr also influenced their style, through her relationship with Stuart Sutcliffe.
Stuart Sutcliffe an artist friend of John Lennon's, had earlier joined The Beatles in an effort to enhance his bohemian image. In Hamburg, he was immediately drawn into their bohemian art community of 'exis' (existentialists), which included photographer Astrid Kirchherr. As a result, Stuart asked Astrid to cut his hair in the same style as the German youths of the time. Seeing and liking Stuart's new look, the other Beatles had their hair cut in a similar fashion, and the infamous Beatles 'mop top' was born.
Now dating Astrid, Stuart begins to borrow some of her bohemian styled clothes. Fortunately they are similar in height and a close fit. Some of Stuart's favorites are the black leather jacket, leather pants, and a collarless jacket. These in turn would be assimilated into the well known Beatle suits.
Astrid's final influence on The Beatles, is directly on the group itself. As a result of his growing relationship with Astrid, Stuart Sutcliffe leaves The Beatles to remain in Hamburg. This decision moves Paul McCartney to bass, and Stuart is not replaced. The Beatles are now, or as they are soon to be known, The Fab Four.
Tragically, Astrid's relationship with Stuart ended with his sudden death in 1962. She remained close friends with The Beatles and would again photograph them during their filming of A Hard Days Night. Although most widely known for her early photographs of The Beatles, her greater influence on their image, is equally timeless.
I'm Mark and I'm a big Beatles fan. I already have my 8 yr old twins requesting that I upload Beatles songs on to their iPods. I especially get a kick out of hearing them sing along to their hits in the back of the minivan as we drive to soccer practice.
If you love The Beatles as much as I do, stop by and learn more about Astrid Kirchherr, and my favorite Beatles movie A Hard days Night.
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