01 marzo 2011

Boquitas Pintadas recupera a...

vía Dandysweets (DC's)

I don't know enough about art to know if Stuart Sutcliffe was an especially talented artist or not, but I do know that I like some of his paintings and collages.

Sin título (1961-62), exhibido en Victoria Gallery y Museum, universidad de Liverpool

Hamburg Painting nº 2

Untitled, Hamburg Series

Just as importantly to me I was always interested in this guy who was once a part of what was to become the most famous pop group in the world - that would be The Beatles - before they became famous.

Also I'm fascinated with 'pop culture personalities' who are not captured on moving images because in our day and age EVERYONE is on video and EVERYTHING is captured and uploaded to YouTube. But not Stuart Sutcliffe. No film footage exists of Stuart Sutcliffe that I'm aware of and that to me makes him even more special somehow.

By all reports he wasn't a very good musician and he was very aware of that, which was also one of the reasons why he left The Beatles. Another major reason for him leaving the band was meeting the love of his life, a German art student and photographer Astrid Kirchherr.

Stuart and his girlfriend Astrid

They met in Hamburg when The Beatles were playing there in the early 60's. Kirchherr later became known for having taken some of the most iconic early pictures of The Beatles. Like this one:

Pete Best (the drummer in The Beatles until he was sacked and Ringo Starr joined), George Harrison, John Lennon, paul McCartney and Stuart Sutcliffe

Stuart Sutcliffe was born in 1940 - same year as John Lennon - in Edinburgh but he grew up in Liverpool from 1943 onwards. He met Lennon as a teenager at art college, they became close friends and Lennon persuaded him to join his band when Sutcliffe won a cash award for a painting he'd done. John's band needed a bass player - and a bass - and figured Stuart's money would be well spent on a bass for their band. Thus Stuart joined though he couldn't play (kinda punk) and he was part of The Beatles when they were booked to play in Hamburg in 1960.
Stuart on the beach

Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon on beach near Hamburg, early 1960's
Stuart and George Harrison on stage in Hamburg

The Beatles played on and off in Hamburg night clubs and strip bars (Indra, Kaiserkeller, Star Club, and the Top Ten) for the next couple of years but Stuart left the band in the summer of 1961 (a little more than a year before The Beates released their first single, Love Me Do in autumn 1962). Instead he stayed in Hamburg with Astrid when The Beatles returned to Liverpool and decided to pursue a career in art, like he'd always wanted. In Hamburg he studied under future pop artist Eduardo Paolozzi and he intended to stay to marry Astrid.

Unfortunately Sutcliffe began having violent headaches also resulting in temporary blindness. He went to the hospital in Hamburg as well as in Liverpool for tests but the doctors didn't find anything wrong. As The Beatles got more and more popular back home in Liverpool, Stuart got increasingly ill in Hamburg. On April 10, 1962, shortly before The Beatles were to return to Hamburg for yet another stint, Stuart collapsed and tragically died of an brain haemorrhage, aged 21.

Stuart Sutcliffe in his atelier, Hamburg, 1961 or 62

Many years later there have been some speculation that Sutcliffe might have got his head injured in a fight with Lennon previously and that the injury led to his death a few years later.

It has also been speculated that Lennon and Sutcliffe had been lovers. In fact Sutcliffe's sister Pauline wrote a book where she states she thinks that Stuart may have been homosexual though a lot of people dispute that. One thing's for sure, according to the many letters Sutcliffe wrote home, he appears to have been very much in love with Astrid.

The Beatles remained friends with Astrid Kirchherr and two other German friends, Jurgen Vollmer and Klaus Voormann - in fact Voormann did the cover art for one of The Beatles later records Revolver and also played bass on some of John Lennon's solo records. The picture that is used on the cover of John Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll album from 1975 was an old picture taken by Vollmer in the Hamburg days.

Rock 'n' Roll, 1975. The 3 blurry people in the foreground are Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Stuart Sutcliffe

Klaus Voormann, Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe at party in Hamburg, early 1960's.

Stuart is on the far left, number three from the top (and three from the bottom)
Stuart Sutcliffe was 'immortalised' when he became one of the many faces bracing the cover of The Beatles' album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. In an homage to their old late friend they included him on the cover among some of the other people they had been inspired by over the years.
A fitting tribute to an old friend who never became a star in his own right but then again he didn't need to. Despite becoming famous by association there was clearly more to Sutcliffe than his superstar mates. And the fact that he didn't become as famous as his friends and the fact that he died young, makes him less accessable and a little mysterious - and that, in many ways, makes him even more special.

See/read more:
The Lost Beatle - video (watch trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8CtVD1_D6Y)

Backbeat - film ft. Stephen Dorff as Stuart Sutcliffe (watch trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrLGwxh47pM)

Stuart Sutcliffe page:

Short video about exhibition of Sutcliffe's art:

Article, John causes Stu's death?

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