It was April 4, 1964, and Jerry Lee Lewis had officially bottomed out. He hadn't charted a record in years, and now, on tour in England and Germany, he was getting paid so little that he couldn't afford to bring his own musicians. Instead, he was forced to use pickup bands in England, and then, when he arrived in Hamburg, a British band called the Nashville Teens was waiting for him. The venue was the Star Club, where The Beatles, who had just leaped into stardom in America, had played not long before. A producer for Philips Records Germany, Siggi Loch, decided that this would be a good chance to record Jerry Lee Lewis' show.
He opened up with "Down the Line," and the engineer wasn't ready, so the first few lines Lewis sang were lost. The audience, though, erupted as their hero hit the stage. He then proceeded to cut loose with a set that was mostly oldies — including, of course, some of his own.
The resulting album, Live at the Hamburg Star-Club, is 37 minutes long and, because it features a man playing as if his life depended on it in front of a rioting crowd, is widely considered one of the greatest live rock 'n' roll albums ever. Smash decided not to release it. Instead, until it got an official U.S. release in 1980, imported copies were eagerly sought out. What Smash did instead was record another show, this time with Lewis' regular band, in July in Birmingham, Ala. The set list is almost identical, but with a bit more country.
Hip-o Select / Universal Music Group Art Direction: Vartan & Michele Horie