Skip to Content

Staff Picks Category: 1950s rock music

Live at the Star Club Hamburg by Jerry Lee Lewis []



Live albums are always tricky; sure, a lot of your favorite songs appear on the track listing, but often the magic isn’t quite there. Artists often issue live recordings as an inexpensive way to fulfill contracts with their record labels. A certain magic can be missing from the original studio recording or you’re just left with poor sound quality.

Live at the Star Club Hamburg happens to be one of the exceptions to this trend. Backed by the Nashville Teens, Jerry Lee Lewis delivers one of the fiercest live concerts that has ever been captured on tape. The piano, much like the drums, is an instrument where physicality can be a variable. A musician’s force has much to do with the overall sound. Jerry Lee, sounding possessed (and possibly a little in the bag), pounds like a piano with fury and rage like it’s his last night to raise hell on Earth.

For some context, it’s 1964 and the the British Invasion is in full force. The Beatles had taken Hamburg by storm a couple of years back. Army stints, jail time, religious conversion and death put an end to most of the original 1950’s rockers. The Killer also had his share of controversy when he married his 13 year old cousin while still legally bound to another woman. The days of chart topping hits probably seemed like a distant past.

What does Jerry Lee do then? Well, he heads out to a small stage in Hamburg and plays one of the most aggressive sets ever heard. The crowd is in a frenzy throughout his set chanting “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!” while he rolls over songs that were personal hits like “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and popular favorites of his contemporaries such as “Long Tall Sally”, “Matchbox” and “Hound Dog”. Essentially, he’s delivering a similar song selection as the Liverpudlians brought with them to Germany; only Lewis is far more aggressive and is perhaps trying to prove that he’s an original rocker.

Fans of 50’s rock n’ roll will certainly enjoy this record. I also feel comfortable recommending Live at the Star Club Hamburg to fans of more raw groups like the Stooges or the MC5.

Tagged: ,