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'Hello Goodbye' for Hamburg's Beatles museum

BERLIN -- A Beatles museum in the Hamburg red-light district where the Fab Four first exploded on to the pop scene five decades ago is shutting its doors this month, it said Thursday.

Beatlemania, which boasts a giant Yellow Submarine mock-up jutting out from its five-storey facade, has failed to draw enough paying customers since it opened three years ago, the museum said in a statement.

“We set forth in May 2009 full of enthusiasm and with a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make Beatlemania the next, long-overdue step toward a lasting tribute to the Beatles in the city that shaped their style and success,” managing director Folker Koopmans said, announcing a closing date of June 30.

“Now we have to recognize that despite the overwhelmingly positive feedback of our visitors and the media, the interest in the Beatles in the city where John Lennon said he 'grew up' is not as great as we had hoped.”

The museum displays 1,000 relics from the Beatles' career and had featured exhibitions on topics such as fan culture in the former Soviet Union as well as concerts and special events.

Koopmans said that the museum had drawn about 150,000 visitors since its opening, too few to cover its overhead costs without financial support from the city, which was not forthcoming.

The northern German port city of Hamburg nurtured the Beatles as young performers in its seedy St. Pauli district off the Reeperbahn main drag, long before they would become superstars.

The then unknown band from the English city of Liverpool played their first gig in Germany at a moth-eaten strip joint called the Indra Club on Aug. 17, 1960.

When Paul McCartney staged a sold-out show in Hamburg a few months after the Beatlemania opening, he told a German newspaper that Hamburg was the city where the band earned its chops, playing night after night for more than two years.

“The city opened our eyes,” he told the Frankfurter Rundschau.

“We went there as children and came back as ... old children. On the Reeperbahn we quite quickly had our baptism of fire when it came to sex — it was like we were let off our leashes. It was a wild time.”

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This May 28, 2009 photo shows a little girl walking past a giant cover of the album “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” during a press preview of the “Beatlemania” exhibition in Hamburg, northern Germany. (AFP)

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