Mariel's Reviews > Baby's in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles

Baby's in Black by Arne Bellstorf
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's review
Aug 03, 2012

liked it
Recommended to Mariel by: eight cans deep in the same damn seat
Recommended for: something important died screaming
Read in August, 2012

Black turtlenecks. That's what I've got on this. Okay, cigarettes dangling from arms that dangle from turtlenecks that are plucked out of someone's idea of 1960s European cool. Stick your arms inside the hidey hole sleeves and wait it all out. Smoke chains and hair tendrils of girl chic short 'dos and dont's of Hamburg night life in the 1960s. Hooting and clubs you aren't going to. Yawn. That's what I've got. Okay, stretch your arms over the backs of the movie theatre seat and you can't cop a feel because the other seat is a long time cold. Astrid favored black a lot. Black as a scene, black as something to do. Black as waiting, endlessly. Mysterious and contained. That's my barely contained sigh. I like my black as a blanket. Arne Bellstorf fancies black and white pixie pixels, clearly. They float over your bar stool.

Boyfriend Klaus out the door. New boyfriend auditioning on stage with an instrument he can't play. (Murray on Flight of the Conchords called the bass "the dad guitar". Ha! Paul resumed the instrument and later, after the loss of Brian Epstein, the boys would rebel when he takes old Murray too seriously about being the dad.) Baby's In Black is a lot of the same look of Astrid looking up at Stuart Sutcliffe as he doesn't play the bass with The Beatles. Wait a minute! I thought they made Stuart turn his back so one would figure out he couldn't play. He must've had a terrific butt (Ringo wasn't around yet. We all know he followed the music from their bouncing buns like he was Helen Keller. Deaf from the screams, y'know). Anyway, it's hard work. The boys couldn't have played those marathon shows for those angry Germans without doping up on pills and booze. Stomach lining sic and it's all black and white drawings that don't pulse. Shirley Temple's good ship lollipop never had seas so rough. Wittle George was still the baby. Twenty-one, officers, really. Paul the devil on John's leather clad shoulder. John the devil on John's leather clad other shoulder. Too much burden to bear. Judy Garland had it so unwholesome. Stuart the art school buddy brought along. They weren't unlike Astrid and her former flame Klaus that way, I guess. Like minds clicking like a cuckoo clock on their same dots. A hard rock choir of little birdies (and plenty of chicks). Uniformed unisex unitards in unison. Bo-ring.

Personally, I found Klaus's discovery of The Beatles more exciting. He HAD to take the reeperbahn night after night to see the boys in that rat trap cellar filled with all of those unimpressed Germans. They'd probably break into a fight if John didn't honestly and truly mean it. What if one of them sobered enough to discover that Stuart couldn't properly play out of his ass? Huh? What then? But what was he thinking bringing along the girl he liked to watch these cute guys on stage (not Paul. He was kind of rodenty). Astrid thought Stuart was much cuter than James Dean! Cue one of MANY same stills of Astrid looking up at Stuart. She is looking up at Stuart even when she is not looking up at Stuart. You could ask her what she was thinking and you wouldn't know even if she told you. Cool girls. I never know what a groovy girl would think about. My staring problem had a problem here. Nothing to look at!

Astrid is the cool older sister who goes out every night without you. You want to come along. It's past your bed time. Get lost, runt! She falls in love without you. She plans her future without you. Sure, she was a pretty blond German girl. She always looked lovely in the photographs in Beatles books. You don't actually know her. She loved her mom. She wanted to make a life with Stuart and take photographs. I have no idea what made her tick. Author Arne Bellstorf worked closely with her in the making of his graphic novel. It can't be a case like anything made about The Runaways (a bunch of egos scrambling like roaches away from the light so that they, and only they, will look fab). She must have told him something. Made you look!

The future planned their future without Stuart. He died of a brain hemorrhage. Causes unknown. (The popular myth goes that John Lennon kicked him in the head with his Beatle boots.) This just in.... Causes unknown.

Astrid Kirchherr declined all offers for further Beatles association after 1964 because she was a friend to The Beatles and not the "mop tops' hairdresser". I gotta respect that (many made their bread and butter just for being at the right time and place when The Beatles were starting out). Personally, I never liked that look. It really isn't cute on child stars the world over. I'm sure many a disaffected and unemployed has-been cutie has cursed Astrid's name over empty containers of Rogaine. Barry Wom (doppelgänger to Ringo Starr in The Beatles spoof The Rutles, for the lay person. Astrid and Stu like the word doppelgänger. Me too) wanted to be a hairdresser. He would like to be two hairdressers. He hears their pain. It must be tough to stand beside the spotlight. I wouldn't know. Why not shine a different kind of light on things? Stage lights, dressing room lights, city lights, torch lights. There's more than just the stage. Who cares if Paul and John walk off into the sunset (for a time)? Baby's In Black wanted to carry the flame of Stuart and Astrid for a little bit longer. It could have done, a bit, like when Astrid wanders through those empty woods alone. Astrid in the woods with Stuart. Astrid seeing herself in those woods alone again, before Stuart is gone for good. Stuart could have been buried in a box made out of one of those pines, if they had seen it coming. Baby's In Black lost a little something because I did see it coming. Maybe something sweeter? Two kids who could barely speak each other's language being together. It's there, unfortunately dressed in cool black and cool sheets. Can I just say the art wasn't that good to sustain a love story? No slipping between these pages, no sir.

I don't know, if she didn't want to be their hairdresser shouldn't a story about their love story had been about their love story? That might be silly to say because no one would be talking about them at all without The Beatles. Still, a love story is a love story. Astrid was what Stuart had. He dropped out out of art school in Liverpool when he was so close to finishing to follow John to be in a band. He felt shame about not being able to play. Paul was a bitch about it. You fucked up a note, you fucker! He lost his closeness with John to the pull of something John was so good at. John and Paul had the creative spark between them. Stuart had his own art. Before he died he was making more work than ever. He couldn't turn it off even as his own legs couldn't support his weight. He wanted to go to Paris. He loved Astrid. They were going to have a life. He died. I knew all of that. How did it feel? When they didn't know they were going to lose it all? There's one panel of them sharing an umbrella (I know that's Romantic because my ex didn't share his). Stuart tells Astrid he doesn't regret a single day they spent together. Baby's In Black should have been days. The art was turtlenecks and smoke. I could have been choking in a bar, looking into stone faces of Germans. Are they angry? Does the music move them? Are they going to dance or is that bottle going over my head? No idea. I don't even own a turtleneck. My neck is cold from craning to see Love.

I do know that the Hamburg period was the Beatles favorite time. It was hard, it was grime under the nails. Scorch marks on the dirty cellar mental walls. They had each other, then. It felt like you could be there when reading them talk about in Anthology. That's love to me. Baby's In Black didn't have that. I'm not cool so I'm bitching (what do you expect? I don't own a single turtleneck, let alone turtlenecks for two). Wait for me? Fuck it, I'm sitting next to Klaus. I need it. Bring the bottle over my head. It is 1960. I'm in love. Music is my black blanket. Cover me.

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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Lauren (new)

Lauren When we do this tour in a year or so we are getting turtlenecks.
I always love your beatles knowledge.
Hey, Malkovich also wanted to be a hairdresser. He claims hairdressers love him because he hasn't got any hair. He never got to have a moptop. :(

message 2: by Lauren (new)

Lauren It'll be all over the place like the Staslland book was in the Berlin museum.

message 3: by Tuck (new)

Tuck it always makes me wonder, about this band in germany, and then worldwide domination. it jsut doesn;t seem to fit, the two.

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