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Geoff's Articles

Shoeless in Hamburg
Get Back Premiers With A Scream

A Paul McCartney film premier is no everyday event. Geoff Baker bears his sole, toes the line and socks it to Sandwich with account of The (New) Hamburg Experience

It’s not often that you loose your shoe working for P & L.

I’ve lost my senses a few times. Lost consciousness once (Milan). I’ve lost control. I lose my patience (daily). There was even that one night in Rio when I thought there was some serious danger (hope) of losing my trousers. And there’s a considerable body of opinion that I lost my marbles years ago. [This isn’t going to be one of your long rambling “theme” pieces, is it? – Ed]

Anyway, back to the shoe.

I lost it.

The left one. Black brogue, size eight, lace-up. $100 a pair but pretty worthless as a right-foot solo act.

I was outside the Passage Kino – the cinema chosen for the European premiere of Get Back – at the time. Couldn’t see the damn thing anywhere. This was on account of the fact that I’d also lost my spectacles.

I just stood there and silently prayed – please God, let me not hear the sound of breaking glass, please no-one tread on them. I would have asked, politely, “Excuse me, can you see a pair of specs… and a shoe?” but that would have been futile. No-one would have heard, on account of the deafening roar of “WHAAAAAAAA-PAUL-PAUL-YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-PAULI” from the screaming crowd of German fans who’s seconds earlier mobbed Macca – and in the process – bowled me and me specs ‘n shoe over.

A cop went down as well. Knocked flat like a skittle. Big chap he was, but – splat – he ate the sidewalk as all attempts to hold back the baying throng waving autograph books were useless.

Welcome to Hamburg, home of hysteria.

“Is this where they invented the hamburger?” asked Linda.

Yep. The grand old Earl of Hamburg invented it. Blame him.

It was also, naturlich, where the Beatles invented themselves. (Yes, I know it all began in Liverpool, but it was down in the Kaiserkeller, Indra, Star-Club ‘n stuff, where during six-hour sets, they honed the act.) And consequently the Hamburgers like to celebrate this fact with what appears to be the local specialty – viz. near-rioting.

P, L, Robbie, Wix, and Blair were in town to promote Get Back – Richard Lester’s movie record of the World Tour (Part One).

“We’ll have a little press conference,” said Richard Ogden, managerially, “and a few interviews for TV, and then Paul and Linda and the band can go to a reception for the movie.”

Easy, right?

Nope. It was Nightmare on Elm Strasse.

The Macs were meant to arrive at the press conference quietly, slipping in around back. This however, proved improbable on account of the back strasse being crammed – and we are talking sardine-tin time here – with what appeared to be the entire population of Germany.

Peep peep. Paul arrives. The Merc door opens and – WHAP, the arm-linked line of local security is broken asunder by the wildly-shrieking fans. Scuffle scuffle scuffle. Thumbs aloft. Paul grinning. Band lost in the mob. Where’s Blair? Security sweating. Management losing 2lbs-per-second from stress. Scuffle, scuffle, scuffle, scuffle. Elbow in the eye time. SLAM. Sigh. Relief. Got ‘em in.

The little press conference was obviously lost in interpretations; unless you consider a battery of 49 photographers, 14 TV crews and 350 journalists to in any way qualify for littleness (as in the little Pacific ocean, the little Sahara Desert, the little matter of the Gulf War, ect.)

However, it did provide the vehicle for a certain left-handed quick-fire comic to exercise himself.

Nervous Press Conferencer: “Do you think your film will be succ… succ… succ… succ-success… succ- succ- success… successful?”

Macca: “I think it will be more successful than your question.”

Clever-Dick Press Conferencer Hopelessly Failing In Attempt At Humour: “Do you wear a wig?”

Macca: “Yes, they’re on sale in the foyer.”

Optimistic Press Conferencer Who Doesn’t Read His Cuttings: “Are the Beatles going to re-form?”

Macca: “That’s an original question.”

Thirty minutes later, we announce “Sorry, Paul’s gotta go” and it’s Cue Craziness. The entire front eight rows of the Press rush the stage, knocking over microphones, glasses, tearing down commemorative posters, elbowing each other and us as they clamoured for autographs in a fashion remarkably similar to the frenzy that sharks thrash and gnash in those Jacques Cousteau documentaries.

Accommodatingly, Macca autographed his way through the shaking forest of albums, posters, CD sleeves, and tour T-Shirts that your average Euro rock writer appears to find essential tools of journalism, before a bewildered phalanx of local security – unused to such hysteria – rushed him out for a quick getaway.

Or not.

The Mercedes-Benz stretch limousine is capable of producing sufficient horse-power to belt it down an Autobahn at 150mph, ideal for quick getaways.

Macca’s Merc, however took two minutes to get from here …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. to here (three inches); it’s 150 mph belt slightly hampered by the 112 or so fans clinging to each wing.

Eventually, after a lot of barking in German, Paul, Linda, and the Hamish-les band got to the Atlantic Kempinski for more interviews with hard-bitten journos who smoked to steady their shaking in The Presence.

Back into town again for what was glibly described on the day’s itinerary as “a cocktail reception” at the cinema.

I know about receptions. Been to a ton of ‘em. You stroll in, idly, grab a bit of cheese on a cracker, snatch a glass of vino collapso from any passing tray and then mingle.

Not here, though. Here your nose was mingling with the wallpaper; crushed up against it by the invited great and good of Hamburg who – on spying Mr. and Mrs. Macca – all rush to their side of the room to gape (if we’d been aboard a ship at this point, the sudden rush to starboard would have capsized it).

“I think it would be good for Paul to meet some of the guests,” says Richard. “Can you cherry-pick some and bring them over?”

“But Richard, it’s packed. We can’t move.”

“Just bring some over.”

“Sure, whatcha want us to do – pass them over our heads?”

“Hmmm. OK, what time is Paul due on air at Radio Hamburg?”

“Any time now?”

“Let’s go then.”

GO: go, v.i. (going, pret. went, pp. gone). to move; to proceed; to depart; to be about to go; to circulate; to tend; to be guided.

Macca wasn’t tending to be guided anywhere. Nor was he moving, proceeding or departing much. Let alone circulating. The anaconda grip of Hamburg’s fascination was preventing that; at least until Richard led off with a neat demonstration of why his old school won all the inter-country rugby shields.

“Excuse me, fraulein, I work for Paul McCartney, pardon me while I scummage…”

Five more minutes of mobbing later and Paul, Linda mit band are sitting around a microphone inside soundproofed Radio Hamburg while most of the strasse outside are beating on the curtained window, mouthing for another look.

“Shall we open the blinds and let them see?” said the Radio Hamburg, naively.

“Not if you want any glass left in those window frames, son.”

Chat, chat, chat, chat. Dedication, dedication, dedication. Anecdote, anecdote (DJ: “It is a responsibility being a star?” Macca: “If we turn up as a place like this and there’s people cheering, that’s great. If you turn up and there’s no-one here, then that’s a responsibility.”) and it’s auf wiedersehen, Radio Hamburg, and back to the kino…

In which, in Screen Ein, 600 suited and glad-ragged ticket-holders (adults, not raving teenies) stood and applauded Paul and his party for a fill five minutes before Get Back even began.

Why is why the last word should fittingly go to Jake Eberts, executive producer of Get Back. Jake has been involved in movies since 1976. His films have received 60 Academy Award nominations and have won 26 Oscars, including four Best Picture awards. Among some you might have heard of are: Chariots Of Fire, Ghandi, The Killing Fields, Driving Miss Daisy and Dances With Wolves.

As the kino went dark and the opening titles rolled, Jake stood at the back and whispered: “Never – ever –­ in all my time in movies, have I seen scenes like today. Never.”

From Issue #60 of Club Sandwich
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