Wednesday 18 October 2017

The Night Dublin Rocked The Beatles

Fifty years ago next week, Irish music fans were gripped by Beatlemania. Colm Keane recalls the incredible night the Fab Four appeared at the Adelphi Cinema

Touchdown: The Beatles arrive on an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin Airport as, from left, George, Ringo, Paul and John lark about on the tarmac before the concert. Photo:
Touchdown: The Beatles arrive on an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin Airport as, from left, George, Ringo, Paul and John lark about on the tarmac before the concert. Photo:
Ticket for The Beatles
The Beatles Irish Concerts, by Colm Keane, is published by Capel Island Press, price €7.99.

Colm Keane

Tthe worst-kept secret in Ireland was where the Beatles would be staying on the night of November 7, 1963. Anyone who glanced at the newspapers knew the answer. "They are not here yet," a spokesman for Dublin's Gresham Hotel was quoted in the dailies as saying. "But we expect them tomorrow for one night."

The Gresham was the perfect choice of hotel for the Beatles. Located on O'Connell Street, it was only a short distance from the Adelphi Cinema in Middle Abbey Street, where the group's back-to-back shows were scheduled for 6.30 and 9 o'clock.

Priced at 6s 6d, 8s 6d and 10s 6d, the total allocation of 4,608 tickets had sold out weeks in advance.

The hotel was also only a half-hour's drive from Dublin Airport, where the group had arrived at noon that day.

They had travelled from the airport in tour co-ordinator Paul Russell's red-and-white Chrysler Saratoga car.

"I was standing to the right, inside the door, when they came in," Gresham hall porter Diarmuid Flood recalled. "They brought them in through a small gap in the crowd of people packed outside."

The Beatles were led to their rooms by Charles Bentley, the hotel's assistant general manager.

Guiding them to their suites via the back stairs, he repeatedly advised them, "This way, Mr Beatles!" causing hilarity among the four musicians.

Shortly after four o'clock, the Beatles left the Gresham, escaping through the hotel kitchens and heading for a press conference at the Adelphi.

It turned out to be a mad, chaotic affair. Twelve-year-old Bob Geldof was among the gatecrashers.

Also present was poet Patrick Kavanagh, who had written about the group: "So far the Irish have not produced a guitaring ensemble of sufficiently outrageous codology."

By six o'clock, some 2,304 fans were crammed into the Adelphi, waiting for the first show to begin.

A pungent, steaming heat rose from the stalls.

The noise was the equivalent of a jet engine, registering well over 100 decibels of shrill, sharp, ear-splitting, nerve-jangling sound.

Master of ceremonies Frank Berry walked on to the stage wearing a dress-suit and bow tie.

Behind him was the half-curtain and behind that, as everyone knew, were the Beatles and their road crew going through their final routines.

"We could hear 'dong, dong, dong, dong, dong' from the guitars behind," recalls John Olohan, then aged 16. "Everybody knew what was going to happen."

Upstairs in the balcony, girls wept uncontrollably, roaring their heads off while pulling their hair to bits.

"I remember Frank Berry saying, 'Who do you want to see? I don't hear you. I don't hear you,'" remarked Sandra Grant, another 16-year-old, who sat alongside her friend.

"Everyone was screaming back the answer, 'The Beatles,' 'The Beatles'."

Eventually, the curtains parted and the Beatles launched into 'I Saw Her Standing There'.

"I screamed because everybody else was screaming," explained Phyllis Tyrrell, who was also 16.

"A lot of the girls were crying around me. They had their hands up and were roaring and shouting.

"They also went mad when Paul and George put their heads together and shook their hair."

Three girls in beehives and heavy mascara caught the attention of John Olohan. "They were Dusty Springfield lookalikes," he remarked. "After a while I turned around and the three girls were totally unrecognisable.

"They had been pulling at their hair and it was like big peaks of candyfloss. The mascara was running down their faces. They were like something out of a Hammer horror film."

That night, the Beatles performed 10 numbers – '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'.

After just 25 short minutes, the curtains had closed and the Beatles were gone.

It was fabulous." John Olohan added: "After it finished there was a kind of calm and everybody reverted to normal. However, the girls behind me with the beehives, because they had been hysterical and because of the make-up and hairspray, they couldn't revert to the way they were.

"I thought, 'Oh, my God, what a transformation.' There was no way back."

The Beatles Irish Concerts, by Colm Keane, is published by Capel Island Press, price €7.99.

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