The Beatles played their first show in France on 15 January 1964. The previous evening three of the group flew to Paris from London.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison flew from London Airport to Le Bourget, Paris on the afternoon of 14 January. With them were Brian Epstein, Mal Evans, and various press representatives.
Ringo Starr was unable to join them in London as he couldn’t fly there from a fog-bound Liverpool. However, he joined the rest of the group the following day, in time for their warm-up show at the Cinema Cyrano in Versailles, Paris.
When John, Paul and George arrived in Paris they were greeted by 60 fans and the French press. More fans were waiting for them at the George V Hotel, where they stayed during their residency. That evening they were joined at the hotel by Bruno Coquatrix, the director of the Olympia Theatre, the venue where they were to perform for the next three weeks. They also met a representative from Odeon, The Beatles’ record label in France.
John and Paul shared a suite in the George V, because they had to write a number of songs during their stay: six for their forthcoming film, one for Billy J Kramer and another for Tommy Quickly. A piano was installed in the suite and they began work.
George Harrison, meanwhile, went to Club Eve with Derek Taylor, the Daily Express journalist who was ghost-writing George’s column fore the paper about the Paris trip. Taylor was to play an enduring role in The Beatles’ story in subsequent years, working for Brian Epstein, Apple, and for the solo members after 1970.
On 14 January 1964 we all flew to Paris from Heathrow, press and three Beatles (Ringo, fog-bound in Liverpool, followed later): we in Economy, they in First Class, but all of us united in our excitement. Neither George nor I had been to France before; John, Paul and my partners from the Express – Harry [photographer Harry Benson], and the London office’s showbusiness star, Peter Evans – had. I hadn’t wanted Peter there at all, but the London edition ‘needed’ a London writer to cover the trip. The people on the Foreign Desk treated me with indifference. They didn’t like pop music, or visiting reporters, and my reputation as the man who had ‘found’ The Beatles for the Manchester edition carried no weight at all with them. Peter Evans himself, however, was very pleasant and the situation could have been a lot worse, given the professional rivalry central to our relationship.
On our first night in Paris we went at George’s suggestion to a night-club, specifically to supply the populist London dailies with that hint of ‘ooh, là, là’ their readers were presumed to expect from Frenchness. Next morning we climbed the Eiffel Tower, Harry Benson and I with George Harrison and Bill Corbet, The Beatles’ chauffeur, and thoroughly enjoyed the climb, the air and ultimately the view. For George it was good to be out among people without being jostled or bombarded with jelly beans/babies; though Harry and I, for our part, would have welcomed un mobbing. I thought it was quite exciting but according to both Hunter Davies (The Beatles) and Philip Norman (Shout!), the French were withdrawn in their response. It is true that Paris did not respond with the warmth of ‘traditional Beatlemania’; but the, she has never loved any group the way she loves les Stones. Certainly the Versailles concert was a huge success, as I relayed in High Crazed prose of majestic sweep.
Fifty Years Adrift
Also on this day...
- 1970: Recording, mixing: Sentimental Journey, Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing by Ringo Starr
- 1969: Get Back/Let It Be sessions: day nine
- 1965: Live: Another Beatles Christmas Show
- 1963: Live: Civic Hall, Ellesmere Port
- 1962: Live: Casbah Coffee Club, Liverpool
- 1961: Live: Aintree Institute, Liverpool
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.