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
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