To many, Paul McCartney is one of the deities of popular music. His time with the Beatles permanently cemented his place in entertainment history, but it hasn’t always been fun and games for the talented musician. There was once a time when he felt nothing was going his way, which led him to (accidentally) set fire to the dingy room he was staying at in Hamburg. The result was he and Pete Best both getting arrested and deported back to the United Kingdom.
Less-than-desirable living conditions
The blaze occurred on November 29, 1960. The band was upset over losing George Harrison to an earlier deportation when local authorities discovered the musician was just 17 years old and too young to be playing in bars after the local 10:00 PM curfew. At the time, the Beatles were playing in the Indra and the Kaiserkeller, which belonged to Bruno Koschmider.
Paul McCartney was tangling with Koschmider, who’d canceled the band’s contract. They had to move their belongings out of the building they’d been staying at, as the club owner also owned it. Their living conditions hadn’t been too great at the location. The lodging consisted of gloomy, unheated and windowless rooms located next to the toilet, and only one wash basin was available to them.
McCartney said in a later interview, “We lived backstage in the Bambi Kino, next to the toilets, and you could always smell them. The room had been an old storeroom, and there were just concrete walls and nothing else. No heat, no wallpaper, not a lick of paint; and two sets of bunk beds, with not very much covers. We were frozen.”
Setting the room ablaze
They lit a condom on fire to better see what they were doing and nailed it to a wall, which the flames wound up burning. Aside from a burn mark, there was no serious damage, and the fire eventually extinguished itself. However, when he saw the damage, Bruno Koschmider was so furious he went to the police.
“He’d told them that we’d tried to burn his place down and they said, ‘Leave, please. Thank you very much but we don’t want you to burn our German houses,'” McCartney recounted in Many Years From Now. “Funny, really, because we couldn’t have burned the place even if we had gallons of petrol – it was made of stone.”
Paul McCartney and Pete Best were deported
When Paul McCartney and Pete Best were let out of jail, they went to their new lodgings and collapsed, exhausted. However, a banging on the door awoke them just a few hours later. Two plainclothes policemen stood in the doorway and told the pair they had to leave the country by midnight.
Given they spoke very little German, McCartney and Best weren’t entirely sure why they’d been deported. Their request to call the British Consul was also refused. John Lennon, stuck behind in Hamburg, later found his way back to the United Kingdom, too.
After George Harrison turned 18, the band went back to Germany. Their standing among the many groups playing in Hamburg rose and they were booked at the Star-Club in November 1962. For the first time, the band could stay in proper hotel rooms. The tapes of the performance were released as Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany, 1962.
The rest, as they say, is history.