Beatlemania: the Fab Four’s Irish concerts, 50 years on
Dublin had already hosted JFK in 1963, but nothing prepared the city for the arrival of four mop-top lads from Liverpool – and the riots and hysteria that followed
Twist and shout: The Beatles after arriving at Dublin Airport in November 1963, with Paul Russell (left) and Frank Hall of RTÉ. Photograph: Lensmen Photographic Agency/irishphotoarchive.ie
Many arrested as city crowds riot: the front page of The Irish Times from November 8th, 1963
The journey made by the phenomenon known as The Beatles was remarkably short – just nine years – but their winding road had its share of twists and turns. Soon after it began, 50 years ago, their route careered into Ireland and, just as quickly, out again.
This beat group, as they were then known, played two concerts at the Adelphi Cinema in Dublin on the evening of November 7th, 1963, and two more in Belfast the following evening. They were ready for more, but a few months later they were noisily welcomed by the United States. While they were in Ireland their manager, Brian Epstein, was in New York preparing the ground.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison had begun in Hamburg as rockers in tough leather jackets. They picked up a new drummer, Ringo Starr, along the way, and were tamed by Epstein in Liverpool into Beatle haircuts and snazzy suits with round collars. They ended up a little older but much wiser, if not saner, in embroidered jackets, velvet loons and acrimony. They had become part of the psychedelic counter culture, although nothing associated with The Beatles remained counter for too long: it was automatically swept into a widening mainstream.
During those nine years they recorded 12 LPs in a trajectory whose rise, like a climbing firework’s, was spectacular, then lost momentum at its zenith but finally exploded with a flourish – followed by a lingering fallout. The final time they performed together was January 30th, 1969, up on the roof of the Apple building, their London base, on Savile Row. Ironically, the number was Get Back.
At the start of the 1960s I and many other young people treated The Beatles with disdain. If we liked the sound of the moment it was from the US, from Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly. We also liked the cooler sounds of modern jazz – the cooler the better – which was less threatening to our lifestyles.
The Beatles’ rapidly increasing popularity seemed inexplicable. I remember a question asked by interview panels at the BBC at the time: “What do you think of the Beatles?’’ I thought it a trick question: if I said I thought them new and exciting I would be considered uncritical and shallow, but if I said I did not like them I would be considered old fashioned.
For me, and many like me, this disdain was conquered by a string of albums, as we were beginning to call them. Rubber Soul, Revolver (on which we marvelled at George Harrison on sitar) and, triumphantly, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band completed the conversion. I was so high on The Beatles by then that the offer of a job on their film Magical Mystery Tour was an epiphany.