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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Dandysweets presents … Stuart Sutcliffe Day *

* (restored)
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I don’t know enough about art to know if Stuart Sutcliffe was an especially talented artist or not, but I do know that I like some of his paintings and collages.

 


Untitled, Hamburg Series

 


Hamburg Painting No. 2

 

 


Untitled (1961-62), exhibited at Victoria Gallery and Museum, University of Liverpool

 

 

Just as importantly to me I was always interested in this guy who was once a part of what was to become the most famous pop group in the world – that would be The Beatles – before they became famous.

Also I’m fascinated with ‘pop culture personalities’ who are not captured on moving images because in our day and age EVERYONE is on video and EVERYTHING is captured and uploaded to YouTube. But not Stuart Sutcliffe. No film footage exists of Stuart Sutcliffe that I’m aware of and that to me makes him even more special somehow.

By all reports he wasn’t a very good musician and he was very aware of that, which was also one of the reasons why he left The Beatles. Another major reason for him leaving the band was meeting the love of his life, a German art student and photographer Astrid Kirchherr.

 


Stuart and girlfriend Astrid

 

They met in Hamburg when The Beatles were playing there in the early 60’s. Kirchherr later became known for having taken some of the most iconic early pictures of The Beatles. Like this one:

 


Pete Best (the drummer in The Beatles until he was sacked and Ringo Starr joined), George Harrison, John lennon, Paul McCartney, Stuart Sutcliffe.

 

Stuart Sutcliffe was born in 1940 – same year as John Lennon – in Edinburgh but he grew up in Liverpool from 1943 onwards. He met Lennon as a teenager at art college, they became close friends and Lennon persuaded him to join his band when Sutcliffe won a cash award for a painting he’d done. John’s band needed a bass player – and a bass – and figured Stuart’s money would be well spent on a bass for their band. Thus Stuart joined though he couldn’t play (kinda punk) and he was part of The Beatles when they were booked to play in Hamburg in 1960.

 


Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon on beach near Hamburg, early 1960’s.

 


Stuart on the beach

 


Stuart and George Harrison on stage in Hamburg

 

The Beatles played on and off in Hamburg night clubs and strip bars (Indra, Kaiserkeller, Star Club, and the Top Ten) for the next couple of years but Stuart left the band in the summer of 1961 (a little more than a year before The Beates released their first single, Love Me Do in autumn 1962). Instead he stayed in Hamburg with Astrid when The Beatles returned to Liverpool and decided to pursue a career in art, like he’d always wanted. In Hamburg he studied under future pop artist Eduardo Paolozzi and he intended to stay to marry Astrid.

Unfortunately Sutcliffe began having violent headaches also resulting in temporary blindness. He went to the hospital in Hamburg as well as in Liverpool for tests but the doctors didn’t find anything wrong. As The Beatles got more and more popular back home in Liverpool, Stuart got increasingly ill in Hamburg. On April 10, 1962, shortly before The Beatles were to return to Hamburg for yet another stint, Stuart collapsed and tragically died of an brain haemorrhage, aged 21.

 


Stuart Sutcliffe in his atelier, Hamburg, 1961 or 62.

 

Many years later there have been some speculation that Sutcliffe might have got his head injured in a fight with Lennon previously and that the injury led to his death a few years later.

It has also been speculated that Lennon and Sutcliffe had been lovers. In fact Sutcliffe’s sister Pauline wrote a book where she states she thinks that Stuart may have been homosexual though a lot of people dispute that. One thing’s for sure, according to the many letters Sutcliffe wrote home, he appears to have been very much in love with Astrid.

The Beatles remained friends with Astrid Kirchherr and two other German friends, Jurgen Vollmer and Klaus Voormann – in fact Voormann did the cover art for one of The Beatles later records Revolver and also played bass on some of John Lennon’s solo records. The picture that is used on the cover of John Lennon’s Rock ‘n’ Roll album from 1975 was an old picture taken by Vollmer in the Hamburg days.

 


Rock ‘n’ Roll, 1975. The 3 blurry people in the foreground are Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Stuart Sutcliffe.

 


Klaus Voormann, Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe at party in Hamburg, early 1960’s.

 

Stuart Sutcliffe was ‘immortalised’ when he became one of the many faces bracing the cover of The Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. In an homage to their old late friend they included him on the cover among some of the other people they had been inspired by over the years.

 


Stuart is on the far left, number three from the top (and three from the bottom)

 

A fitting tribute to an old friend who never became a star in his own right but then again he didn’t need to. Despite becoming famous by association there was clearly more to Sutcliffe than his superstar mates. And the fact that he didn’t become as famous as his friends and the fact that he died young, makes him less accessable and a little mysterious – and that, in many ways, makes him even more special.

 

‘Fifth Beatle’ died after fight with Lennon, sister claims
from The independent

Pauline Sutcliffe, who believes her brother was beaten up by Lennon in the months before he died, is to sell off a huge archive containing a sketchbook that indicates a rapid decline in his mental health after the alleged incident.

The timing of the pad’s entries will bolster her case that the brain haemorrhage that killed Sutcliffe at the age of 21 was caused not by a street brawl, as has long been supposed, but by a blow to the head from his closest friend.

The black book – dated to October 1961, after the alleged Lennon fight – contains a series of barely legible scrawls and pained exclamations apparently reflecting Sutcliffe’s gradual mental collapse.

The pages of the book are peppered with cries for help. Words and phrases such as “torment”, “shout”, “explode” and “the bloody brain” appear in shaky handwriting, often surrounded by exclamation marks and accompanied by unsettling abstract designs. Elsewhere, Sutcliffe uses sketches to “dissect” his brain and tries to rationalise his condition while comforting himself with details of the help he can expect from medical specialists.

“I believe that the cerebral haemorrhage that cost Stuart his life was caused by an injury inflicted by John in a jealous rage,” Pauline Sutcliffe writes. ‘A postmortem revealed Stuart had a dent in his skull, as though from a blow or kick. And a few months earlier, John had viciously kicked my brother in the head in a sustained, unprovoked attack.”

 

Is Stuart Sutcliffe Andy Warhol?
from Piece of Mindful

My assertion is that Stu Sutcliffe was an Intelligence asset who faked his death in 1961, and was reassigned the role of artist Andy Warhol. To understand this is useful to understand the context of both the Beatles, with whom Sutcliffe was supposedly the first bass player, and the art scene of that era, which was infiltrated by Intelligence to remove meaningful content from it.

We know now of at least five Beatles, that is, the “McCartney” twins, John, George and Ringo. TBNE insists on more than one George and Ringo as well. We’ve not done any research here on the matter, but we have spotted two Paul’s and a few body doubles too. Since we have tied this to their photographs as children, we think the evidence strong. (Note: I do not assume with any of these people, the Beatles or Sutcliffe, that we know their real names.)

Now take it back to Hamburg, when Stu Sutcliffe was a Beatle too. The group trained in Hamburg for 29 months, from August of 1960 to December of 1962. He was not just a guy trying to make a rock band with some other guys. Something much larger was in play. The people who formed this group, according to some, can be called “Tavistock,” but that has that undefined “Illuminati” sound to it, faceless people operating to control our lives without our knowledge. It is, in my view, unduly mysterious. There is such an institute as Tavistock, but it is claimed to be merely a group that studies group and organizational behavior. I will let others worry about that.

I prefer to keep things a little simpler. The Beatles were a planned phenomenon, in my view. Their early “fans” were girls hired to act for cameras, to get the ball rolling. Their music, supposedly written by John and Paul, was catchy. Of course, we don’t know which Paul, if either, actually penned those tunes. In Hamburg and before, when the group formed in Liverpool, we are told they merely met and decided to play together, but knowing as we do now that there were two sets of twins involved, some larger game was surely afoot. Otherwise, why the secret?

I am making a connection here because later in this article we will see very strong evidence that Stu Sutcliffe became avant-garde artist Andy Warhol. He became famous – remember, he had those 25 prestige magazines to promote him.

(read the entirety)

 

 

See/read more:

Stuart Sutcliffe, The Lost Beatle

 

Backbeat – film ft. Stephen Dorff as Stuart Sutcliffe

 

Kirchherr interview:

 

Fab4Cast interviews Rod Murray (close friend of Stuart Sutcliffe)

 

They Trippers – Why, an Elegy for Stuart Sutcliffe

Stuart Sutcliffe page:
http://www.stuartsutcliffeart.com/

Short video about exhibition of Sutcliffe’s art:
http://lifeofthebeatles.blogspot.com/2009/05/beatle-people-stuart-sutcliffe.html

Article, John causes Stu’s death?
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/fifth-beatle-died-after-fight-with-lennon-sister-claims-586684.html
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*

p.s. RIP Jim Steinman, Monte Hellman. ** Dominik, Hi!!! It’s more sort of boring and irritating than horrible, I guess. Well, okay, it’s horrible  too. I’m just trying to stay all ‘chin up’ about it. It’s weird I’ve never seen ‘QaF’ since everybody I know watched it, but it’s just one of those odd, inexplicable things. Well, like a lot of American kids, the movie I’ve seen the most times in my life is easily ‘Wizard of Oz’ because they used to show it on TV every Xmas basically since I was born. And I would totally watch it again, so maybe it. Huh, strange. I love your Love. I want to be his musical advisor. Love self-publishing his 10,000 page Collected Love Poems book and only one person buys it, G. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Ah, of course you know Kirsaoff’s work. Few seem to these days. The songs Shudder to Think provided for ‘Velvet Goldmine’ are wonderful, so there was that bonus to the Bowielessness. ** Misanthrope, It’s not that heavy. I don’t remember getting shoulder or back aches or anything. And I looked like a god, even though I played like a dunce. 15 rejections, well, sorry, yeah, although ‘Closer’s’ rejections still have yours beat. ** Tosh Berman, The first two or three Kirsanoff films are exquisite especially. Very excited to get to do the talkshow with you! Based on what my friend CB, who was one of the stars of ‘VG’, told me, your story of why Bowie said no is the correct one, yes. ** _Black_Acrylic, Yes, RIP Jim Steinman, rock/pop auteur genius! ** Billy, Hey, Billy. Exactly, re: the sort of line, and well put. You’re a lifelong Londoner. Wow. Or, well, why not? I think when we get our restrictions lifted in, dear god, please, three weeks supposedly, it’ll be much the same hereabouts but without, you know, pix of Prince Phillip, although you never know. You’re a very lovely describer, and, hence, writer, if you don’t know. No, I don’t do a diary. I have a kind of ledger/doc thing where I note what I’m supposed to do and did do at the appointed times, but that’s it. When I was a young teen, I kept a diary, and my mom used to secretly sneak into my room when I was at school and read it, and she eventually told me and busted me for being a gay boy with a bizarre imagination and made me go to a psychiatrist, and I think that indignity or whatever warded me off diary keeping forever. Or that’s my guess. Do you ever write things thinking the public might or even should see them? At the risk of sounding old fashioned, you write very well, even here, so maybe that’d be an  idea if you don’t? Or not. I probably prioritise books and stuff just because that’s what I do. ** Steve Erickson, Like I said to Tosh, I would start with his first two films. They’re kind of his masterpieces. I’m going to try to hunt down those two films you referenced. Thanks. ** Brian, Hi, Brian. Yeah, he’s been a bit forgotten. I love ‘Mars Attacks!’ One of the very best T Burton films in my estimation. Oh my god, yikes, that’s scary about your mom, but thank god it was a temporary scariness. It sounds like you bailing on work for a day was perfectly acceptable and a kind of appropriately self-ascribed balm. Cool about your brother. He’s an artist, or at least an aspiring artist? Awesome. Yes, first I hung with my friends Stephen and Kali, which was lovely, and then I hung with my friend Michael, which was also lovely. And I managed to stay awake long enough to see the reading of the very relieving Chauvin verdict, so it wasn’t a bad day at all. Did you sleep in, buckle down? ** Shane Christmass, Hi, Shane. I just saw that. It was interesting — only to me –that yesterday I was debating whether to make a Monte Hellman Day or a Lindsay Anderson Day, and I ended up making Lindsay Anderson Day, which feels kind of sad now. Whoo-hoo about the release and the post! Thanks! ** Right. Today I give you a until-now defunct old post made by another long lost blog d.l. Dandysweets about Stuart Sutcliffe, of all people. See you tomorrow.

9 Comments

  1. Poor Stu. So beautiful. Gone when the prie was within reach.

    I adore “Mars Attacks!” too. It’s Sylvia Sidney’s last film.

    “ACK! ACK!”

  2. Hi!!

    I can’t wait to finish work for today and give my full attention to this post! Thank you for resurrecting it!

    To balance things out, I have to admit that I’ve never seen “Wizard of Oz.” I’ve read the book but haven’t seen the movie. Maybe our loves’ “Queer as Folk” binge will have to include “Oz” as well to be complete. Oh, and please! Consider yourself my love’s musical advisor!

    Oh no! Your poor love, haha. I’m afraid I’ll be that single person who buys his book? Love sending you 10,000 jumping beans, Od.

  3. Stu just has that “IT” quality. Has he ever taken a bad photograph? I have a book somewhere published by The University of Liverpool that focuses on his art. It may be a catalog to a show in Liverpool? Thinking about it now, since Lennon was such a reflective songwriter, for example writing a song about his mom, it is odd that he didn’t approach the subject of Stu in a song? Or maybe he did – and I just don’t know the song. There are two narratives here: Stu leaves the Beatles, and the fab four become god-like figures for the 20th-century, while Stu is left behind. It is interesting that they didn’t replace him – they became a four-piece band. Perhaps in their mind, he was unreplaceable. The other (imagined) narrative is that Stu makes it as an artist and becomes a major figure in the art landscape. I would prefer that story, and therefore his death is REALLY sad. The Warhol/Stu is a stretch but I’m OK with it.

  4. @ Dandysweets, thank you for this! SS was always the coolest Beatle and that speed-fuelled Reeperbahn era is the one that holds up best imo… just throwing out a controversial view to bait any Merseybeat fanboys.

    There was me thinking I’d be having my 2nd Covid jab today but it’s been detected I have a urinary infection so the vaccination’s been delayed for a week. Was unaware there was anything wrong and annoyed as it means I’m here for even longer but hey, at least they picked up on the problem and it’s for my own good after all.

    Anyway life in the hospital goes on pretty much as normal. Been reading and enjoying Harry Sword’s Monolithic Undertow drone music history, plus following news of this aborted European Super League project. A little bit of writing here and there. Honestly, the days are all beginning to blur into one at the moment, sigh.

  5. I thought Schoenbrun’s A SELF-INDUCED HALLUCINATION was available for public viewing on Vimeo, but I just looked for it and could not find it. WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR has US distribution, but that may be delayed as long as next year as it tours festivals.

    Have you heard the new Cheap Trick album? I listened to the first half and thought “this is fine, but not particularly exciting,” but it’s gotten much more attention than their recent albums. In fact, it would’ve hit the Billboard top 10 if that chart was based entirely on sales.

    Now I need to take pretty pictures of my newly clean apt. to send to my landlord, despite a serious lack of cell phone photography chops!

    New conspiracy theory: Sutcliffe was actually a CIA asset who introduced the Beatles to marijuana and LSD, so they could later fulfill the agency’s mission of promoting drugs to ’60s youth. They had him killed before the band became popular to hide the evidence, and the “Paul is dead” stuff is really a coded reference to his murder. (Seriously, if someone made a video on that theme, I’m sure the QAnon/”everything is Illuminati confirmed” crowd would embrace it.)

  6. PS: I meant to include a link to this song I wrote today, “The Great Cop in the Sky”: https://callinamagician.bandcamp.com/track/the-great-cop-in-the-sky. (The spoken word sample comes from an interview with Claire Torry, the singer on Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky.”) I made very heavy use of processed samples of wind and fans, and I was going for an effect of the melody, mostly played on harpsichord, slipping in and out of those louder droning noises.

  7. I didn’t read the title of this post very well and for a hot second I thought that Peter Sutcliffe had done some knock-off Hundertwassers. For what it’s worth they don’t seem particularly good to me, but he was much prettier that the rest of the Beatles. The late work is better. I may simply be ignorant on this point, but Warhol, as far as I can tell, is about the only mainstream American post-war cultural figure who wasn’t getting government money (was it CIA or FBI that sponsored Ab-Ex and Arendt? Someone knows.) Apparently the Warhol museum in Pittsburgh has all the old wigs in envelopes so the DNA’s all there…

    I think Men in Black 3 (which I somehow watched) had Warhol as an asset. Now I think of it there is something of the spy about Warhol -the obvious connection being voyeurism, but also the long tapes of people preening then cracking up… mother’s milk to a born interrogator. And the tape recorders he carried. The mugshots. Myra Breckinridge would have seen his scoping out the Empire State Building for what it was. Poor old Tony Kushner missed a trick.

    What’s wow about the idea of being a life long-Londoner? Rather provincial, I suppose, but I am only twenty-eight.

    They may well have Phyllis up in Paris. He seems to have been more broadly, deeply loved than anyone recognised.

    That’s very kind of you to say. Though (and I don’t mean this as a rebuke) I often hate writers who describe very prettily- the Updikes, the ‘master stylists’ and so on, who never have anything to say. It is often as unconnected with actual writing as Singer-Sargent’s great facility is with painting. Charming but not enough. Henry James thought the whole idea of ‘art-for-art’s-sake’ preposterous, as though ‘art’ were something that ‘came out of a great blue bottle’, somehow distinct from and perhaps inessential to the whole creative process. I don’t have anything against beautiful prose, provided it is ‘functional but as if gratuitous’, as Thom Gunn put it. Maybe that’s an old-fashioned view of writing? As though there were some sort of organic whole to be achieved… Grinding my own axe.

    I have always been paranoid, and as a child I wasn’t sure there weren’t cameras in my room, and that people would use the footage -to mock me, of all things,- and acted accordingly, so it’s hard to write anything without an awareness of the possibility of somebody seeing it. No one, to my knowledge, has ever pried into my diary. I don’t know what effect it would have had if I knew someone had. Did the experience ward you off therapy?

    The terror of exposure! How does fiction emerge in it’s wake…

    At school they would check our computer accounts and found some silly nonsense I’d written when I was 12 (this was when I was seventeen, but they kept it all), and a huge nude drawing covered in obscenities (very Bourgeois -in every sense- the art of teen angst). They told me I was nut-house bound, but being a vaguely arty teen the idea sounded impossibly romantic, so out I swanned. Of course they were only teachers so it didn’t feel like any great violation. Had I listened they might have saved me a great deal of bother.

    If I’d ever been able to get through Sartre I’m sure I’d have got a relevant insight about writing to people as opposed to writing for oneself. Perhaps an absurd notion. I’m sure someone’s done a lot of work on when bad-faith meets paranoia. I used to be convinced I was absent-mindedly talking to myself and that people were looking. The awful thing with covid is I am, and they are, and I don’t wear my mask in the street so it’s very visible. I think a ledger-type thing sounds more useful than a mémoire-fleuve (sp?).

    Anthony Blunt was once described as preferring ‘things to people’ (not the first or last sour queen to be so-described, I’m sure) and making things for people would only confuse matters. I do appreciate your saying so, though.

  8. Shane Christmass

    April 22, 2021 at 6:51 am

    That ‘Cockfighter’ movie is based on a Charles Willeford novel. I have it on the bookshelf but I should read it. I found the VHS in the back of a newsagent about 15/17 years ago not knowing what is was. Also not knowing much about Monte Hellman.

    I get that chapbook to you ASAP. I assume your address is the same. I sent you the PDF a few weeks back via email, but probably got lost in the 100s of emails you get. Anyway the layout has changed since then, so hold tight for a physical copy.

    I was thinking of Stuart Sutcliffe the other day. More about that film ‘Backbeat’ and the odd ways that grunge ended up permeating the pop culture. Just that soundtrack. Came about as I watched that film ‘Reality Bites’. These type of films: Singles, Reality Bites, Backbeat. All quite terrible. Anyway – tangents.

    Actually just looked up the ‘Backbeat Band’:

    Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum): vocals
    Greg Dulli (The Afghan Whigs): vocals
    Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth): guitar
    Don Fleming (Gumball): guitar
    Mike Mills (R.E.M.): bass guitar
    Dave Grohl (Nirvana/Foo Fighters): drums

    Had a bit of dive into Jim Steinman yesterday. Two things:

    This film clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jujSbje7pZA

    And this film clip, turns into a real fever dream about 1:20: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DN12Emz4XfY

    That Air Supply clip is bonkers. I have a lot of questions.

  9. Hey. I haven’t posted on the new site yet. You’ve been missed. The Trump Years decimated the quality of my writing. After an overdose in 2014, I went properly insane, extolling of the benefits of experimental poetry madly through the streets, to the entertainment of cheering pigeons and my cynical cat, for hours at a time, daily, for years, completely infested with skin-burning delusions that I used to haunt all over downtown Portland. And the literature that came from it was only a half-surrealist cry for help… Like a sexless Naked Lunch if he was also being electrocuted with every new paragraph… Then I was hospitalized involuntarily at an insane asylum with two working showers in late-2018… I’ve been writing while on medicinal injections since and though the writing isn’t inscrutable word-slush anymore, it is also still inferior to my early books… It really eats at my heart that I have fallen off as a writer… I’m actually sort of happy with the new novel though… 320 pages in two months… I tell you this because I thought of you, tonight, and because you have one of the best blogs on the internet… Hopefully it will help me with An Czarbled Chateau, the new book… Here is the last book I finished and a 7 hour audio performance… Very trashy…

    https://www.mediafire.com/file/uaf2dap08iwfzf3/A_Pseudo_Pharmacy.pdf/file

    https://www.mediafire.com/file/osymgfx39332ud9/A_Pseudo_Pharmacy.m4a/file

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