Astrid Kirchherr: Fab Photos

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
May 10, 1996

Although she was the subject of the film “Backbeat” and was engaged to a member of arguably the most famous band in rock history, Astrid Kirchherr is a relative unknown in America. But Beatles fans worldwide equate her name with the German beauty who stole Stuart Sutcliffe’s heart and who took enigmatic photos of the Fab Four when they were still a scrappy quintet.

Once engaged to Sutcliffe (who preceded Paul McCartney on bass), Kirchherr and photojournalist Max Scheler have put together a 32-piece Beatles photo collection that is on exhibit through May 19 at the 900 North Michigan Shops. The two collaborated on the behind-the-scenes photo book Liverpool Days (Genesis, 1994).

Besides documenting the group before Beatlemania hit the world, Kirchherr is directly responsible for the Beatles’ trademark mop-top hairdos.  When she was introduced to the band in Hamburg, Germany, in 1960, the lads were sporting slicked-back hair like Elvis’. Sutcliffe was the first to mimick her bowl haircut. George Harrison quickly followed. McCartney and John Lennon caved in. The only holdout was drummer Pete Best. (When Ringo Starr replaced him, Starr happily traded in his DA for the mop-top.)

When the band returned to Liverpool, it was without Sutcliffe, who wanted to pursue his art career and start a life with Kirchherr. After  Sutcliffe, who had been experiencing blackouts, suddenly died in 1962, Kirchherr remained close to the  group that would become legend.

For more information about the free exhibit, call (312) 915-3916.

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