Johnny O'Keefe smoking a cigarette and holding a broom in the TV studio

Johnny O'Keefe and the Liverpool Sound

With Dusty Springfield, Gerry & the Pacemakers and more
 Simon Smith

In the clip below, Johnny O'Keefe performs 'When the Saints Go Marching In' with visiting overseas stars Dusty Springfield, Gene Pitney, Brian Poole and The Tremeloes, and Gerry & The Pacemakers.

The Liverpool Sound, 1964. Courtesy: Seven Network. NFSA title: 11030

The Liverpool Sound was the first music special of its type to be produced for Australian television. Premiering in Sydney on ATN7 on 7.30 pm Wednesday 27 May 1964, the program then screened around the country over the following week. Influential 2SM DJ Bob Rogers excitedly proclaimed it 'the best pop television show ever made in Australia' in his column for Sydney’s Sun Herald

With a title like The Liverpool Sound, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a special on The Beatles, aired only weeks before they landed on Australian soil. Yet it’s often forgotten that the Fab Four were not the first ‘Merseybeat’ artists to make the arduous southerly trek to Australia. In April 1964, promoter Harry M Miller’s Pan Pacific Promotions ‘Liverpool Sound’ package tour introduced Dusty Springfield , Brian Poole and The Tremeloes, Gene Pitney and Gerry & The Pacemakers to local live audiences.

While the tour passed through Melbourne,  ATN7 producer Kevin Ryder and his Sing Sing Sing production team flew south to helm a one-hour television special featuring the complete touring party. 'The kids will go wild over it', Ryder enthused of the results to the Sydney Morning Herald. 

Each of the visiting acts perform a selection of their most popular numbers. The hits performed live in this special include 'I Only Want To Be With You', 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' and 'Do You Love Me'. For reasons that are now unclear, the otherwise highly proficient live act Gerry & The Pacemakers mime their five numbers: 'I Like It', 'I’m The One', 'How Do You Do It', 'You’ll Never Walk Alone' and 'A Shot of Rhythm and Blues'.

The all-live finale features the unique spectacle of program host and ‘Liverpool Sound’ local tour support act Johnny O’Keefe kicking off an energetic all-cast rendition of ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’, each artist taking their turn at the microphone.

Sponsored by cosmetics company Max Factor, the special was well received with HSV7 Melbourne screening a repeat telecast the following week.

Unseen since 1964 and never sold abroad, The Liverpool Sound remained forgotten until recent NFSA digital work transferring the surviving 16mm picture and sound components. Gathering the cream of British ‘Merseybeat’ acts at the height of their popularity, The Liverpool Sound captures a moment in time when the driving sound of electric guitars and drums introduced mainstream Australian television audiences to a new direction in popular music.