05/11/2012 08:26 am ET Updated Jul 09, 2012

The Beatles As You've Never Seen Them

It's such a tragic story, an early sixties rock'n'roll melodrama of young lovers in black leather, destiny, departure and -- yes, death. This story has to be told in black and white.

When Astrid Kirchherr met Stuart Sutcliffe in Hamburg in 1960, she fell in love with an artist - not a bassplayer of a Rock'n'Roll Band -- and certainly not a member of the same Beatles that would become a mass phenomenon a few years later. When she saw these five young men on the stage of a dark and seedy cellar club, they were just Teddyboys, John and Paul were jumping around, shouting and screaming, imitating Little Richard and striking rock poses.

It was a good show, entertaining, and surely none of the young Germans could tell these Englishmen apart from the American prototypes whose songs they were covering. But for Astrid, who was into jazz, French chansons and classical music, it was Stuart, the "cool" guy in the group, standing with his back towards the audience, wearing sunglasses, who grabbed her attention. His attitude was exactly what she was looking for and what would fit perfectly into her own black and white, existentialist world.

Stuart had always been more of a painter than a musician, and he was only part of the group because his art student fellow John Lennon had talked him into buying a bass guitar and come with him to play in Germany. But only half a year later, with the perspective of living a romantic, bohemian life with his new love, and encouraged by his new art school friends to follow his path in art, he finally left the band - and merged with Astrid's environment.

Astrid's and Stuart's story is a story of unfulfilled dreams, of two people who didn't get to prove the world what they had in store. We're left with Astrid's strong black and white imagery, photographs of their young androgynous faces frozen in time, looking moody, wearing black cloths and long scarfs. As if they knew they would become part of pop mythology.

Arne Bellstorf is the author of Baby's in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles in Hamburg [Macmillan, $24.99].