Why was Paul McCartney arrested and deported from Hamburg?

Paul McCartney

When Beatlemania swept the nation, despite a few quips here and there, The Beatles’ reputation as straight-edge, well-behaved men tended to precede them. They wore suits, kept their hair neat, and always smiled. Later in their career, they stirred controversy when they made comments about Jesus and endorsed the use of certain drugs, which met with raised eyebrows and cynicism. But in those early days, they were good as gold, even for the most conservative of minds.

Turns of the Fab Four, before they were the Fab Four, had a string of troubles that would see three-quarters of them not only arrested but deported from Germany. They were living at the time. Authorities deported George Harrison after discovering he was under the age of 18. Paul McCartney and Pete Best were both deported for arson. Yes, Arson.

Before the Beatles conquered the world, they began their career in Germany. They all lived and worked in Hamburg between 1960 and 1962. There they taught themselves how to make music and perform live. The band had little experience before going to Germany, so doing the gigs they did and learning the number of songs they had to mean they had to learn quickly.

Before Hamburg, we didn’t have a clue,” George Harrison admitted in a 1992 interview. “We’d never really done any gigs.” We’d play a few parties, but never had a drummer for more than one night. We were just young kids, so we were very happy. I was the youngest. I was only 17 at the time, and you had to be 18 to play in clubs. And we didn’t have any visas. After our second year there, they deported me.”

The country expelled more than just Harrison. The Beatles’ run in Germany ended abruptly when Paul McCartney and the band’s original drummer, Pete Best, came close to starting a fire in one of the clubs they were playing in.

They were moving their belongings and couldn’t see very well. So they decided to nail a condom to a wall and light it on fire to provide light. The displeased venue owner called the police. Shortly after, the two were arrested and asked to leave the country.

When the band returned to the UK, despite arriving earlier than expected, they had gained a lot of live performance experience. They were ready to take on more gigs in the UK and, eventually, the world. If three members had not been deported, they might have grown bored with their gigs in Hamburg and decided to stay. We’ll never know, but you should be grateful for that burning condom just in case.

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