RTÉ Guide

From Abbey Road to Abbey Street

It was al­most 45 years ago to­day that The Bea­tles ar­rived in Dublin to play two chaotic con­certs at the Adel­phi cin­ema. Alan Corr re­ports on a new book cel­e­brat­ing the mag­i­cal night that John, Paul, Ge­orge and Ringo came town

- Entertainment · Dublin · The Beatles · Belfast · Cork · George Harrison · Drumcondra · Ireland · Patrick Kavanagh · One Direction · Tim Shaw · Pathé News

S “he had brought in a tray of cof­fee and cakes in a nice, nor­mal, sen­si­ble fash­ion, walk­ing across the room and set­ting down the tray. Sud­denly, she flung off her cap, dropped to her knees and cried, ‘I’m go­ing to pray for you, boys! I’m go­ing to pray for you!’” It was Novem­ber 7, 1963 and Beatle­ma­nia had hit Dublin. As that hys­ter­i­cal wait­ress served John, Paul, Ge­orge and Ringo up in the Gre­sham Ho­tel, around the cor­ner on Abbey Street all hell was break­ing loose out­side the Adel­phi cin­ema. That night, The Bea­tles would make their one and only live ap­pear­ance in Dublin, just one month af­ter the word Beatle­ma­nia had been coined.

The wait­ress episode is just one of the many anec­dotes in Colm’s Keane’s fab new book The Bea­tles Ir­ish Con­certs. Metic­u­lously re­searched and hugely en­ter­tain­ing, it’s packed full of de­tails about where The Bea­tles stayed, what they played and even what they ate (in Belfast the next night it was pork steaks all round in­clud­ing fu­ture veg­gie Paul). Keane, a for­mer RTÉ ra­dio pro­ducer and cur­rent lec­turer in com­mu­ni­ca­tions, was 12 at the time and liv­ing in Cork. “I was lucky in a way be­cause I was there for the whole of The Bea­tles, so I grew up with them,” he says. “But I would have been too young to see the Dublin show. But even at my age I knew what was com­ing. You could read about it in the pa­pers that mad­ness and may­hem was com­ing with The Bea­tles and we all knew of Beatle­ma­nia at the time. It did come as a shock, a shock that you wouldn’t ex­pect that re­ac­tion from young Ir­ish kids at the time.”

The Bea­tles Ir­ish Con­certs also cov­ers in equal de­tail the band’s shows in Belfast but the Adel­phi gigs are the ones that re­main in­grained in pop­u­lar imaginatio­n. Keane spoke to over 300 peo­ple who were con­nected with the gigs from Ge­orge Har­ri­son’s cousins in Drum­con­dra, the poor sup­port acts (“they were can­non fod­der” as one ob­server re­marks), air­port per­son­nel, the gar­daí, and to many of the fans who thronged the Adel­phi that night.

When they stepped on stage in col­lar­less mo­hair suits, the Fab Four were met with a rain of jelly ba­bies (Ge­orge’s favourite sweet) and the hys­te­ria erupted. The set list for both shows was I Saw Her Stand­ing There, From Me To You, All My Loving, You Re­ally Got A Hold On Me, Roll Over Beethoven, Boys, Till There Was You, She Loves You, Money (That’s What I Want) and Twist And Shout.

In the monochrome world of in­su­lar lit­tle Ire­land in 1963 it’s hard to be­lieve now how crazy Dublin went that night. Af­ter the first show “a good­na­tured” riot broke out on O’Con­nell Street and 250 gar­daí, 20 squad cars and a black maria were called. Good-na­tured or not, 50 peo­ple were in­jured, three hos­pi­talised and 12 ar­rested. “There was a mo­ment when I said, ‘Oh, oh, I’m in a war zone here’,” says one fan in The Bea­tles Ir­ish Con­certs. “‘Some­thing ter­ri­ble is go­ing to hap­pen.’ This crush started. I got ter­ri­bly claus­tro­pho­bic. All you could see was heads and bodies right up Abbey Street. Cars were over­turned.”

“The Morn­ing Af­ter The B-Storm” ran the front page of The Ir­ish Press. “A lot of peo­ple fainted in the crush dur­ing the riot,” says Colm. “Without a shadow of a doubt it was the big­gest con­cert ever to hit Ire­land and the most sig­nif­i­cant and also the most rau­cous in terms of the num­ber of peo­ple in­jured or ef­fected.”

Of course not ev­ery­body was as euphoric as the ri­ot­ing youth. A re­port by Pathe News, us­ing footage filmed by Gael Linn, be­gan with “Bea­tles make un­wel­come visit to Dublin”. Writ­ing in his weekly col­umn in the RTV Guide, poet Pa­trick Ka­vanagh was in steam­ing form: “A more un­tal­ented out­fit was never in­flicted on us,” he thun­dered. How­ever, the Guide’s pop critic, a hip young gun­slinger by the name of Gay Byrne was more on the money stat­ing that the squares just didn’t get it.

“Ev­ery­body I spoke to looks back on that night with great joy,” says Colm Keane. “Ev­ery­body knows it was a lit­tle piece of his­tory. Ev­ery­body knew they were part of some­thing im­por­tant and they knew it at the time.”

The Bea­tles re­turned to Ire­land to play Belfast again the fol­low­ing year but plans for fur­ther shows in Dublin, Lim­er­ick and Cork were over­taken by the global out­break of Beatle­ma­nia. But for one mag­i­cal rainy night in Novem­ber 1963 Dublin was truly fab. The Bea­tles Ir­ish Con­certs by Colm Keane is out now

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