Four days after the world première of A Hard Day’s Night in London, The Beatles arrived in Liverpool for the first northern England screening.
We weren’t really apprehensive abut going back to Liverpool, for the other premiere. We’d heard one or two little rumours that people felt we’d betrayed them by leaving, and shouldn’t have gone to live in London. But there were always those detractors.
The Beatles flew to the city from London, and were greeted upon their arrival at Speke Airport by 3,000 fans. They gave a press conference and a series of interviews for the assembled press and film crews.
We landed at the airport and found there were crowds everywhere, like a royal do. It was incredible, because people were lining the streets that we’d known as children, that we’d taken the bus down, or walked down. We’d been to the cinema with girls down these streets. And here we were now with thousands of people – for us. There was a lot of, ‘Hello, how are you? All right?’ It was strange because they were our own people, but it was brilliant.
The Beatles were driven to Liverpool Town Hall in a police cavalcade, with an estimated 200,000 people – roughly a quarter of the city’s population – lining the route. Hundreds of police officers attempted to restrain the crowds, but several times the cordons were breached by screaming fans.
We couldn’t say it, but we didn’t really like going back to Liverpool. Being local heroes made us nervous. When we did shows there, they were always full of people we knew. We felt embarrassed in our suits and being very clean. We were worried that friends might think we’d sold out – which we had, in a way.
At 6.55pm they arrived at the Town Hall, 25 minutes behind schedule, and were welcomed by Elizabeth Braddock, the member of parliament for Liverpool’s Exchange Division. Also present were friends and family of the group, plus Lord and Lady Derby and the Bishop of Liverpool, and various invited local musicians.
Following a meal The Beatles appeared on the balcony where they waved to the gathered fans, while the Liverpool City Police Band performed Can’t Buy Me Love. John Lennon gave a Hitler salute, although it was barely commented on.
John got away with his Hitler bit on the balcony. Nobody seemed to pick up on it. John was always like that, a bit irreverent. Anybody in nerve-racking situations tends to do things to relieve the tension.
Back inside, the Lord Mayor, Alderman Louis Caplan, gave a speech from the Minstrel’s Gallery to the 714 guests present in the ballroom. The Beatles were each presented with the keys to the city. Afterwards they drank tea in the Lord Mayor’s parlour, while on the council chamber on the ground floor the City Council passed a resolution that confirmed the honour of Freemen of the City on The Beatles.
What really delighted us more than anything is that everybody from the top nobs down to the humblest Scouser, has been so nice and friendly and sung praise after praise, which I’m sure we really don’t deserve.
Just before 9pm they left in an Austin Princess limousine and travelled to the Odeon Cinema for the charity première of A Hard Day’s Night. The Liverpool City Police Band performed the theme from Z-Cars and a medley of Beatles hits. Upon their arrival The Beatles were introduced by compère David Jacobs to screams from the audience members.
After the screening the group returned to Speke Airport, from where they flew back to London.