The Beatles: John Lennon ‘collapsed laughing’ over band’s iconic style

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In 1961 The Beatles were still finding their feet in terms of style and music. At the time the band was made up of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison. They were joined by the band’s original drummer Pete Best and former guitarist Stuart Sutcliffe. After finding moderate success in 1960, the Fab Six were hired in a residency slot at The Top Ten Club in Hamburg, Germany, where they played nightly for more than 90 days.

During this time The Beatles met photographer Astrid Kirchherr, who went on to get engaged to Sutcliffe.

Astrid hung out with the band constantly and helped them develop their style over the years while taking candid photos of them during their everyday lives.

Speaking about the musicians’ style in Anthology, Astrid said: “The Beatles were dressed like teddy boys, with these very, very pointed shoes which we in Hamburg had never seen before.

“We were fascinated with those, just like they were with our things. And their very tight trousers and little tiny grey jackets. They didn’t have many clothes, of course. And their hair was combed back with sideboards.”

Sound familiar? The band’s look was of course styled on the famous Elvis Presley, who John and Paul had worshipped from a young age.

John was once quoted saying: “Without Elvis, there would be no Beatles.”

Although their greaser look in Hamburg was striking, it didn’t quite fit in with their growing style.

Eventually, the time came that the band needed haircuts, so Stuart volunteered Astrid to give him a trim.

Astrid Kirchherr discusses comic about The Beatles in 2010

What came of the haircut was the iconic moptop hairstyle that The Beatles were somewhat known for.

Astrid recalled: “All my friends in art school used to run around with this sort of… what you call Beatles haircut. And my boyfriend then, Klaus Voormann, had this hairstyle, and Stuart liked it very, very much.

“He was the first one who really got the nerve to get the Brylcreem out of his hair, and asking me to cut his hair for him.”

After getting his hair cut Stuart travelled to The Top Ten Club for his daily gig, where John was stunned by his transformation.

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John is said to have “collapsed laughing” when he first saw Stuart’s new hairstyle, condemning it as the most ridiculous thing he had ever seen.

Just days later, George asked Astrid to cut his hair in the same style, leaving John and Paul with their greased hair.

Shortly thereafter, the band took a trip to Paris, France, to visit their friend and photographer Jürgen Vollmer.

Before they set out John and Paul finally agreed to receive a trim, uniting all of The Beatles’ members under the same haircut.

Months later, on April 10, 1962, Stuart died of a cerebral brain haemorrhage aged just 21-years-old.

Astrid broke the news to the rest of the band when they arrived at Hamburg airport after returning to Liverpool, UK, for some time.

They were all devastated. Astrid penned a letter to her mother explaining how upset John was over the news.

It read: “Oh, Mum, [John] is in a terrible mood now, he just can’t believe that darling Stuart never comes back. [He’s] just crying his eyes out … John is marvellous to me, he says that he knows Stuart so much and he loves him so much that he can understand me.”

The Beatles later dismissed Pete from his role as drummer, in favour of Ringo Starr, but never replaced Stuart.

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