Backbeat | 1993
Although this story of Stu Sutcliffe (a founder member of the Beatles, who left the group and died of a brain haemorrhage before they hit the bigtime) is.set in Liverpool and Hamburg, many of the filming locations were found around London.
There’s a brief establishing scene atop a roof in the real Liverpool, the northern port where the members of The beatles grew up, but the opening scene, where Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff) and best pal John Lennon (Ian Hart) get involved in a fight at the ‘Anchor Pub, Liverpool’ was filmed on the familiar cobbles of Cheney Street, London NW1, behind Kings Cross Station – a location seen in many films including Ealing’s original The Ladykillers, Chaplin and Richard III, now extensively redeveloped for the St Pancras International terminal. The ‘pub’ exterior is the old 1904 German Gymnasium, named for the continental city workers who once used it, still remains, though the surrounding area has been developed beyond recognition.
The Hamburg trip takes the boys to the notorious Reeperbahn, the street of clubs and strip joints where the band started out playing cruddy basements. Interiors, though, are largely London again.
The ‘Top Ten Club’ is The Dome, Dartmouth Park Road, Tufnell Park, N19, on Junction Road opposite Tufnell Park tube station. A music venue, part of the Boston Arms pub, it’s still going strong. The ‘Kaiserkeller’ filmed in a sidestreet off Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill, W10; while the deco-ish ‘Polydor Record Company’, where the band signs a record deal, is a private residential block in Highgate, High Point, North Road, N1
Success, after Sutcliffe’s death, takes the boys to the ‘Star Club’ for the Twist and Shout number, which filmed in the National Club, 234 Kilburn High Road, London NW6. Built as the Grange Cinema, seating 2,310 patrons, it was the largest cinema in Europe. It went on to become a music venue, playing host to such legendary rock bands as The Smiths, Nirvana and Blur. In 1999, it was closed after legal battles over noise levels, and became an evangelical church, though this too was closed down in 2002. It’s currently vacant.
The remote lighthouse the band escapes to for a little r&r can be seen at Point of Air, three miles east of Prestatyn off the A548, on the coast of North Wales.