The festivities are also lousy with special guests who sign autographs and share stories about their experiences with the group. One day, while I am browsing the goods at a gift shop next to the Hard Days Night Hotel, I notice a line of Beatles fans waiting to meet Klaus Voormann, the German musician and artist who, along with Astrid Kirchherr and Jürgen Vollmer, befriended the Beatles during their prefame days and helped them develop their style. No gathering of Beatles worshippers would be complete without Voormann’s august presence.
The following day, I again run into Voormann, who’s before another group of eager fans awaiting autographs. The slight gray-haired, white-bearded man is sitting in the front row of a dark conference room, where he will be screening the new documentary about his career, titled A Sideman’s Journey. He confers in hushed tones with a couple of aides before addressing the awaiting crowd as images of McCartney and him flash on a lowered screen. In a way, it almost feels like a religious experience. For Beatles aficionados, in a way, it is.
“My first contact with rock and roll was with the Beatles,” Voormann tells me as he shakes my hand. “And I got the bug.”
Across the way is Allan Williams, the Beatles’ first manager, who after having a falling-out with the band over commissions, famously told his successor, Brian Epstein, that the group would let him down. Williams eventually patched things up with the band, and the now-79-year-old white-haired diminutive man, who wears a permanent wicked grin, seems to enjoy basking in the Fab Four’s afterglow.
“In the late ’50s, nobody wanted the Beatles,” he says. “When I look around and see people from all over the world here, it makes me very proud.”