To complement Radio 2's celebration of 25 years of Brian Matthew's Sounds of the Sixties, 6 Music presents a season of documentaries about Brian's friends the Beatles.
In a programme first broadcast in 2009, Holly Johnson visits Hamburg to explore how marathon sessions in smoky cellars, and friendships with local teenagers, helped create the incredible chemistry that turned a British beat group into the all-conquering Beatles.
The invasion of British bands into the red light district of Hamburg began in 1960 when German promoters realised that British rock 'n' rollers were cheaper to hire than American ones. The Beatles were a five piece group when they arrived in the Reeperbahn in the back of manager Allan Williams' van in August 1960. John, Paul and George were accompanied by Stuart Sutcliffe on bass and Pete Best on drums.
From August to October 1960, the Beatles were the house band at the Indra Club where they played four hour sessions every night and slept in a tiny room above a local cinema. From October to the end of the year, they were promoted to the nearby Kaiserkeller.
It was an unlikely collision of young people from different cultures that would create a world-beating chemistry. Where The Beatles had the sound, the Exis had the style. Exis always wore black, with white collars or ruffs and their hair was "pilzen kopf" - "mushroom head" in style. "The Beatle haircut was in fact a Jurgen haircut" says Paul McCartney.
The impact of Hamburg on The Beatles and the friendships they made there would endure. And as far as John Lennon was concerned, the band were never better than when in the thick of an all night session on the Reeperbahn.