Klaus Beyer, the ‘fifth Beatle’

By Theresa Mallinson 5 September 2011

Klaus Beyer has made it his life's work to record every single Beatles song – in German. Last month, his magnum opus was complete, with the release of “Das Weisse Album” (The White Album). The results are truly disturbing. By THERESA MALLINSON.

Back in the early 1980s, Beatles fanatic Klaus Beyer began translating the lyrics of his favourite band so that his non-English-speaking mother could understand them. By the mid-80s, he was performing The Beatles in German, and in 1988 released his first “Beatles” album – “Klaus Beyer sings The Beatles”. It’s taken him 13 years to record the Beatles’ complete catalogue; “Das Weisse Album” was released in August.

In 1994 film maker George Maas made a documentary “Das Andere Universum des Klaus Beyer” (The Other Universe of Klaus Beyer), focusing on Beyer’s obsessive project. And listening to Beyer’s rendition of “Hey Jude” on YouTube, it really is as if you’ve been transported into  a parallel universe – one where John, Paul, George, and Ringo are transmogrified into a single German-speaking composite who is unable to carry a tune (and that’s putting it kindly).

Watch Beyer’s rendition of “Hey Jude” on YouTube:

Translation isn’t an easy art, especially for someone armed only with basic English and a dictionary. A writer for Sign and Sight commented: “The idiosyncrasy of the lyrics mean that his recordings are really Klaus Beyer’s variations on a Beatles theme.” On translating “I am the Walrus”, Beyer told Spiegel: “With that one I had to give free rein to my imagination.”

Even without factoring in Beyer’s caterwauling, something will always be lost in translation. Running German text from Beyer’s website back through Google translate, one learns that his White Album features: “Bonus songs with arsonists and the stars.”  Guess you need a German sensibility to get that one. Or to want to listen to Beyer in the first place. DM



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