Astrid Kirchher, the pale, blond beatnik once engaged to "fifth Beatle" Stuart Sutcliffe and the first to photograph the Beatles when they were but a lowly Hamburg, Germany, bar band, takes her role as Beatles authority seriously. Says Kirchher, 56, about her work as a consultant on BackBeat, the movie about those early days: "I felt a tremendous responsibility to be accurate, especially about John [Lennon] and Stuart, since they are no longer with us." Now Kirchher continues her role as Beatles chronicler with Liverpool Days, a lush, limited-edition book of 100 previously unpublished black-and-white photographs of the lads and their hometown's music scene taken by Kirchher and Max Scheler.
The pictures were shot in 1964, shortly after the Beatles' historic appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show and at the height of Beatlemania. Kirchher was in England with Scheler, a Stern photographer, to provide access to her famous friends, who were shooting A Hard Day's Night. She ended up resuming her little-known duties as the Beatles' cook "I could only make steak and potatoes, which is what they liked anyway" and got to shoot some pictures of her own.
Kirchher's and Scheler's images portray Liverpool and the four young men themselves transformed in different ways. According to Kirchher, "Liverpool had a very high crime rate. But after the Beatles boom, it went way down. Every little kid wanted to be a musician." These aspiring rock stars are the subjects of many of Kirchher's photos. As for the Beatles, now superstars: "They had changed too, of course. They were more mature, and more sad as well. They had to deal with their loss of privacy, which they took very hard."
Liverpool Days, which costs $185, may be purchased through the Govinda Gallery in Washington, D.C.