Billed as a ‘Welcome Home’ show following their first trip to Hamburg, The Beatles’ 27 December 1960 performance at Litherland Town Hall was a breakthrough show which cemented their name as Liverpool’s top live draw.
Suddenly we were a wow. Mind you, 70% of the audience thought we were a German wow, but we didn’t care about that. Even in Liverpool, people didn’t know we were from Liverpool. They thought we were from Hamburg. They said, ‘Christ, they speak good English!’ which we did, of course, being English.
It was that evening that we really came out of our shell and let go. We stood there being cheered for the first time. This was when we began to think that we were good. Up to Hamburg we’d thought we were OK, but not good enough. It was only back in Liverpool that we realised the difference and saw what had happened to us while everyone else was playing Cliff Richard shit.
It’s funny, the memories that come into your head. I think that was when I was doing ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ In the middle of the record, Elvis delivers this little soliloquy – “They say the world’s a stage…” So I tried this at Litherland. I glanced at the rest of the band and they were peeing themselves. That was the last time I did that number! I think we were advertised in the Liverpool Echo as “Direct from Hamburg!” – so the kids in the audience thought we were Germans. We had our hair forward, our leather jackets on, we looked different… They were quite surprised when we started talking Liverpool English.
Uncut, January 2021
The Beatles performed at Litherland Town Hall at least 20 times in all. While they always attracted fervent crowds to the venue, no other performance had the same significance for the group.
We got a gig. Allan Williams put us in touch with a guy called Bob Wooler, a compère on the dance-hall circuit. He tried us out one night and put an ad in the paper: ‘Direct from Hamburg. The Beatles’. And we probably looked German, too; very different from all the other groups, with our leather jackets. We looked funny and we played differently. We went down a bomb.
Bob Wooler was a 28-year-old disc jockey and compère who had briefly worked at Williams’ short-lived Top Ten Club in Liverpool, named after the Hamburg club where The Beatles occasionally performed. The Liverpool club burnt down a week after opening in mysterious circumstances, leaving Wooler without any work.
Wooler got talking to the group, who asked if he could organise any gigs for them. At the time The Beatles were despondent after their first trip to Hamburg ended badly, following George Harrison’s deportation and the arrest of Paul McCartney and Pete Best.
Wooler contacted promoter Brian Kelly, at whose Beekay nights he occasionally compèred. Kelly was reluctant to book The Beatles, as they had let him down without warning the previous May in order to go on tour with Johnny Gentle. Eventually, however, he agreed to pay the group £6 for a show at Litherland Town Hall. They were on a bill with The Del Renas, The Searchers and The Deltones.
As they were a late booking there was limited advertising for The Beatles’ appearance. Kelly announced them at his other shows at Lathom Hall, Seaforth and Alexandra Hall, and amended an existing poster with the words “Direct From Hamburg, The Beatles!”
We all wore black that we had picked up in Hamburg. All the Liverpool girls were saying, ‘Are you from Germany?’ or, ‘I saw in the paper you are from Hamburg.’
The Beatles were mostly unknown in north Liverpool at the time, and most of the Litherland regulars presumed they were a German group. This was also the third of four consecutive live shows for which they had Chas Newby as their temporary bass guitarist.
The long hours spent honing the music in Hamburg were finally paying dividends. From the opening number, Little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’, The Beatles electrified the crowd, and there was a spontaneous surge towards the stage.
Litherland was an explosion in the fortunes of The Beatles. We were playing for dancing in a hall that could accommodate some 1,500 on the dance floor at one time, but they stopped dancing when we played and surged forward in a crowd to be nearer to us, to watch every moment and above all to scream. People didn’t go to a dance to scream: this was news.
Immediately after the show Brian Kelly booked the group for a series of future shows, for between £6 and £8 a time, in an attempt to stop any other promoter from getting to them.
The Beatles’ reputation in Liverpool was made overnight. After this first appearance at Litherland Town Hall they commanded a dedicated local following, with a number of fans attending every performance. From here the group never looked back.
Also on this day...
- 1967: Paul McCartney justifies Magical Mystery Tour
- 1963: Live: The Beatles’ Christmas Show
- 1963: The Times: What Songs The Beatles Sang by William Mann
- 1962: Live: Star-Club, Hamburg
- 1961: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (evening)
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.