The day the Beatles rocked Dublin

An Irishman’s Diary: Meeting the Fab Four 50 years ago

‘It was immediately clear that these new Beatle chaps were sharp, witty and totally clued in to how publicity worked. You wanted a four-column photo? They obliged with a a wide-armed, leg-kicking “ta-dahh!” pose. Single column? They somehow put their heads atop each other on an adjacent table. The cynical snappers were utterly charmed.’ Photograph: File image/PA Wire

‘It was immediately clear that these new Beatle chaps were sharp, witty and totally clued in to how publicity worked. You wanted a four-column photo? They obliged with a a wide-armed, leg-kicking “ta-dahh!” pose. Single column? They somehow put their heads atop each other on an adjacent table. The cynical snappers were utterly charmed.’ Photograph: File image/PA Wire

Mon, Nov 4, 2013, 20:58

It was 50 years ago today (well, nearly), when the Beatles brought the band to play – at the Adelphi Cinema in Dublin on November 7th, 1963 – and I was among the handful of journalists who got to meet the Fab Four. I was much younger than most of the jaded hacks (some of them must have been at least 30!) who shuffled into the Adelphi that afternoon for a photo-call.

It was a different time. Nowadays you’d need several colour-coded badges to get near an artist. That day, cinema manager Harry Lush had sent around to Eason’s for a bagful of lapel badges that said things like Steward and Treasurer and Secretary. One of them would get you into the Adelphi boardroom to chat with John, Paul, George and Ringo.

A sudden flurry of screams at about 4.30pm announced their arrival in the foyer. They trooped upstairs to the mezzanine floor, dressed and coiffed as few others in Dublin were then. It was immediately clear that these new Beatle chaps were sharp, witty and totally clued in to how publicity worked. You wanted a four-column photo? They obliged with a a wide-armed, leg-kicking “ta-dahh!” pose. Single column? They somehow put their heads atop each other on an adjacent table. The cynical snappers were utterly charmed.

I wish I had some priceless quotes from that press conference. All I can remember is that Paul McCartney answered “We are just good friends” to most questions. This was considered extremely witty. I do recall asking John Lennon a deeply penetrating question about the difference between rock’n’roll and rhythm and blues. He gave it serious thought before declaring in his best scouse, “Rhythm and blues is black”. Richard Starkey patiently showed off his multi-ringed fingers to explain his nickname. George Harrison meanwhile slipped away to meet his Dublin relatives.

Outside in Abbey Street the gardaí were taken by surprise by the hundreds of fans who turned up ticketless, hoping to get a glimpse of the Beatles. Their screams (the fans’ not the guards’) were as nothing to those inside the 2,000-seater cinema. There was a package of other artists touring with the Beatles. Also on the bill were The Vernon Girls, The Brooks Brothers, the Kestrels and a big band called Peter Jay & the Jaywalkers. (Where are they all today? And where are the Beatle autographs I collected for the girls back at the office? )

As each act finished, the screams grew louder until they became a relentless chant of We Want the Beatles. The compere, a Canadian comedian called Frank Berry, finally gave up and joined in.

A guitar suddenly sounded the first chords of I Saw Her Standing There. The curtains slid back and they were there. The Beatles. In Dublin. Pandemonium. John Lennon straddle-legged on the right. Ringo at the back on a raised drum dais. And George and Paul together at one mike, shaking their fringes in unison. The girls, already standing on the seats, levitated higher and screamed even louder. The St John’s Ambulance Brigade were kept busy ferrying the fainted out to the foyer.

The Beatles sang All My Loving (from their new LP), Mr Postman, Till There Was You. Boys. And on they went . . . with their three hit singles culminating in She Loves You, which was just then topping the charts. By now they had reduced their audience to one huge, damp, perspiring, deliriously happy mass of humanity. And then John Lennon attacked the microphone with his throat-destroying version of Twist and Shout. After the final crescendo, the curtains abruptly closed. The crowd roared for more. People rushed the stage. But the Beatles had finished their set. And they
were gone.

Well, not quite . . .The whole thing was repeated at 9pm. By the time that show was ending there was a mini-riot taking place in Middle Abbey Street. But nobody outside got to see the Beatles leaving the Adelphi – while their last notes were still reverberating, they had fled out the back door into Prince’s Street and been bundled into the back of an Evening Herald van.

When Paul McCartney played the RDS a few years ago, you could text a mobile phone message to a big screen on the stage. The one that got most laughs said “Greetings to everyone who was in the Adelphi in 1963 – and the GPO in 1916”.

Both events had one thing in common: they certainly rocked Dublin.

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