The Beatles

In Germany 1966 [DVD]

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When the Beatles played in Munich on June 24, 1966, for the first show of their world tour (and final tour ever, as it turned out), the concert was filmed for, and the majority of it included in, a West German television broadcast. That footage has circulated on numerous bootleg videos (and some parts have surfaced in above-board productions), and at a glance this bootleg DVD looks like a definitive visual document of the event. Its core is the original 45-minute TV special of the event aired on July 5, 1966, which only included about half of the Beatles' actual set, as well as several songs each by three support acts (Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers, Peter & Gordon, and the German band the Rattles). There are also excerpts of German television newscasts on the Beatles' Munich appearance; silent color and black-and-white footage of the concert, also including other event-related glimpses of the Beatles; German and Danish TV reports on the Beatles' concert in Hamburg a couple of days later; black-and-white silent footage of the Hamburg concert; and a documentary-like segment titled "Star-Club Memories," where a few people who knew the group in the early-'60s Hamburg days talk about their memories.

All jolly good on the surface, except that there are intermittent wavy lines on the screen image throughout the DVD (though the sound is very good). As these appear in most of the segments, they're likely faults of the transfer, rather than in the original film sources themselves. It's enough to significantly spoil unhindered enjoyment of what is otherwise a fairly neat archival document for serious Beatles fans. As far as the content, the Beatles' Munich concert segment is at times ragged, though not nearly as bad as some accounts of their final live performances would have it. At times they struggle to improve the mike placement; Paul McCartney mixes up the verses to "I'm Down" (not an isolated occurrence in the Beatles' live performances of the song); they attempt to speak some basic, awkward German in the between-song announcements; and George Harrison introduces "Yesterday," mistakenly, as a song from Beatles for Sale. As flawed as the more widely bootlegged color TV broadcasts of two Japanese shows a few days later are, those are much preferable to this more fragmentary document of their live mid-1966 show.

Again leaving the image imperfections on this particular disc aside, the footage of the support acts is rather interesting, as none of them were that widely filmed in the '60s. Peter & Gordon (accompanied by a small orchestra) also struggle with the sound on their vocal mikes, Gordon Waller at one point giving up on the pretense of playing his guitar; Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers offer unremarkable white horn soul; and the Rattles go through their workmanlike British Invasion-like rock with real energy, the lead singer making some truly bizarre mouth noises and gesticulations during their cover of "Shout." The period newscast footage is not graced by English subtitles, which makes it hard to follow for non-German (or non-Danish, for that segment) speakers. Nor is the "Star-Club Memories" portion subtitled, which is unfortunate as it seems like it might actually be really interesting, with its talking head interviews of people who worked at the clubs where the Beatles played in Hamburg in the early '60s. So on the whole, the DVD is a good idea that really could have been done much, much better.