From The Desk Of Doug Gillard: Bambi Kino In Hamburg (Part 1)

Doug Gillard is known (rightly so) for his guitar wizardry in bands such as Guided By Voices, Cobra Verde, Death Of Samantha and, for the last few years, Nada Surf, but that notoriety sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s an accomplished solo singer/songwriter. With his third LP, Parade On (Nine Mile), Gillard continues to show off his virtuosity—solos like the one on “On Target” are just ridiculous—as well as his knack for catchy, folk-inflected power pop. Gillard will be guest editing all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him. To see more photos corresponding to these entries, go here


Gillard: Bambi Kino was formed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first trip to Hamburg to play in residency at the Indra in 1960. In August 2010, we set out to the Reeperbahn to play four consecutive nights at the original Indra club at 64 Große Freiheit. The band consists of Mark Rozzo (vocals, guitar), Ira Elliot (drums, vocals), Erik Paparozzi (bass, vocals) and myself (guitar, vocals). We all come from well-known indie-rock bands through the years, so, naturally, the Germans wondered, “Who are these Yanks playing the cover the Beatles used to fill their sets with in Hamburg?” Mark and Ira toured through Hamburg in the band Maplewood the previous year and saw that there was nothing planned anywhere to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fabs’ life-changing first run in Germany. So they brainstormed and came up with the Bambi Kino concept. Let’s play the covers they played in Hamburg, and in their style, nothing written past 1962, and we’ll wear leather jackets and Beatle boots, use period-correct gear and play four sets per night.

Months of rehearsals in New York yielded the resulting set lists. There were the Star Club recordings, BBC sessions and various bootlegs and documentation of the songs they learned for us to go on.

We arrived at our residence: the legendary Hotel Pacific in St. Pauli, and that’s where our Hofner guitars arrived (at “artists” prices). I got a Hofner Verithin, a 335-styled semi-hollow with a super-thin width. Erik got a traditional Violin bass, which serves him well to this day. Ira, the stalwart Nada Surf drummer, made sure his kit was period-correct with thin ’60s stands and Ludwigs with a Ringo-shell finish. His transitioning between Pete Best’s and Ringo’s styles is astonishing. Next door to the Hotel Pacific is the music store Paul got his Hofner bass from; still owned by the same family. Yeah, the Beatles stayed here when they played Hamburg, and the hotel staff were so honored to display our promo poster for the Indra shows, that it is still in the lobby to this day. Horst Fascher claims he once rescued Ringo from a mauling Little Richard when he heard the cries for help.

We were booked into a live afternoon broadcast concert with NDR, the German equivalent of NPR. Lots of older folks attended, and we had an audience with Horst Fascher, the Hamburg bouncer for the Beatles at the Top Ten & Star Club. Horst was the guy who supplied them with the Prellies and general accompaniment during their Hamburg visits. His brother sang Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” with them on the Star Club recording, and Horst regaled us with Little Richard stories. (“He had a thing for Ringo becauss of his big nose”).

The first night of our four-night run was filmed for Arte’, the French/German arts TV channel. Tons of cameras and lighting came into the Indra to document this event.

We met an 80-year-old man in a Greek fisherman’s cap who won a dance contest at a 1960 Beatles show in Hamburg, Paul handing him a bottle of champagne as his prize.


Anything on a Beatles Hamburg setlist was fair game, whether it was recorded or not. As long as it was documented, we could do it with a clear conscience.

Duane Eddy’s “Ramrod” & “3:30 Blues,” myriad girl-group songs, cabaret songs such as Louis Prima’s “Sheik Of Araby,” Elvis’ “That’s All Right Mama” and, of course, the skiffle and rock ‘n’ roll songs they are known for: Joe Brown, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Carl Perkins rockers were all in the mix.

A few obscure originals such as “Cry For A Shadow,” “Catswalk” and “Ask Me Why” rounded out our set.

We played generally from 8 p.m. until 12 a.m., taking short breaks between sets. We tried to fuel ourselves with only Astra beer and pretzel sticks, much the way the guys did back in ’60. Ira even removed the toilet seat in the men’s room and wore it around his neck just like Lennon for our version of “The One After 909.” Hey, we had to “Mach Schau.”

The Indra is very much in the same location, but the club had expanded a bit since 1960. Located across the street was the place where they slept in 1960—the back of a cinema called the Bambi Kino. They showed children’s films (Bambi) by day, and Hamburg promoter Bruno Koschmider convinced the owner to let the guys crash in the rear hallways of the place at night. We were even lucky enough to have our photos taken by Gunter Zint, the Hamburg photographer who took photos of them at the Top Ten Club and, later, great shots of the Rolling Stones, the Animals and striking pictures of Sonny & Cher in Hamburg. Gunter used the same camera to take our LP cover photo that he used for the Beatles!

On the second day of our residency, we set up onstage to record the backing tracks for our first album, Bambi Kino, on Hamburg’s Tapete Records. Our engineer Carsten set up a few mics in the Indra to try and capture our live Cavern-ish sound for 10 songs. We performed the vocals later in NYC, but were pleased with the results we got on the Indra’s stage for the instrumentals.