And so we say goodbye to one of my favorite parts of the Beatle story, the complex and talented Astrid Kirchherr. Though their influence is impossible to quantify, Astrid, Klaus and the “Exis” are foundational to what John, Paul, George and Ringo became. It was in Hamburg that the Fabs transformed from a group of English teenagers playing sloppy covers of American R&B tunes into a artistic unit with a coherent aesthetic that would take over the world.
The Beatles are so BIG a cultural phenomenon that it can be difficult to see the artistic outlines of other people in their orbit. But Astrid’s talent is obvious in every photo; had there never been a Beatles, Astrid would still have left a mark. And her relationship with Stu has always seemed like equal partnership; of all the relationships in the Beatle story, it’s probably the closest analogue to what John was aiming for with Yoko.
Also, Astrid’s family, whenever it’s mentioned, seems to have played a nurturing role to everyone in the story. What happened next makes this difficult to perceive, but dropping John, Paul, George, Pete, Ringo into the Reeperbahn could’ve had disastrous effects; somehow they managed to have that experience—to take from it, and be changed by it—without long-term damage. People like Astrid and Klaus were probably the reason why, and for that we all owe them a debt of gratitude.
Ave atque vale, Astrid Kirchherr. I always meant to send you Barry Trotter in German. 🙂