It may be nothing but a car park now, but the nondescript white building on Middle Abbey Street on Dublin’s north side was once Ireland’s premier art deco movie and live music palace.
It was a place abuzz with glamour and entertainment – and, on one particular night, the scene of riots, mania, and a singular music event the likes of which our Fair City will never see again.
It was called the Adelphi, and the night in question was November 7th, 1963 – the night the Beatles came to town.
It was the legendary band’s first Dublin show: the year of ‘Please, Please Me’, ‘Love Me Do’, and ‘All My Lovin”. Beatlemania was a fever rampaging through the record shops and bedrooms of teenagers everywhere, and Dublin’s fresh-faced were no exception.
As the band took to the stage, screams of overwhelming adoration were answered the length of Middle Abbey Street by hysterical fans giving the Gardai a run for their money as they vied for just a look at the foursome; later the band would be trapped on stage as the crowd of over 2000 inside the Adelphi grew insatiable, demanding more songs, more reasons to go bananas.
Eventually the four lads from Liverpool did escape, sheltering in the nearby Gresham Hotel, in for the night for fear of being overrun by the frantic fans in the street.
For whatever reason, the Beatles never did come back to play Dublin.
The anticipation of that night; the fascination and infatuation; the sound of a new era being cranked up to the max right here in our own city centre, is a feeling consigned to memory – to the tales shared over teary-eyed chuckles and conspiratorially-whispered confessions of those who were there – to those who can only wish they were.
52 years later, and the Adelphi is gone, its grandeur removed, the building now nothing more than a really, really, nice looking car park.
Well, we kinda dropped the ball on that one, didn’t we?
Take heart, music fans, it’s not all bad news.
Three years ago Stephen Kennedy – organiser, playwright, music authority, and general man of fun – decided that the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ only show in Dublin should be marked somehow. Not one to sit on his hands, he decided to throw a festival.
You can just up and throw a festival, you ask?? You betcha. The Dublin Beatles Festival is now entering its third year, having found such huge success and warm reception in 2013 that the organisers decided to do it again – and again! youbloom annoyed* festival director Kennedy until he gave in to our meddling and shared some of his DBF highlights for your pleasure.
(*annoyed might be a gentle way of putting it).
Hi Stephen! Thanks for leaving your back door unlocked. So, this year marks the 52nd anniversary of the Beatles’ trip to Dublin to perform back in 1963. Do you or anyone you know have any memories or stories from that night?
Unfortunately I wasn’t born when The Beatles played in Dublin – but I have met a lot of people who saw them when they played here. One of my favourite stories about that night was told to me by Catherine Hansard, the mother of Glen Hansard. Catherine was about 16 when The Beatles played the Adelphi in Dublin. She knew the layout of the venue very well, and on the day of the concert, she managed to climb a drainpipe with two of her friends. They hid in a room which turned out to be The Beatles’ dressing-room. Many years later Catherine found herself in LA when Glen was receiving an Oscar for the song ‘Falling Slowly’ (from the film Once). Catherine ended up meeting Ringo that night at one of the parties after the Oscars and she told him all about the dressing-room in the Adelphi in 1963. He (gave) her a Ringo badge when he was leaving the Oscars party!
Where did they perform?
The Beatles performed two shows in Dublin on the evening of Thursday, November 7th, 1963. Both shows were played at the Adelphi Cinema on Middle Abbey Street. It is now the car-park for Arnotts.
Were the Irish as screamy as other audiences, or was it more “Ah, sure, The Beatles, aren’t they just lovely?”
No – it was screamy. Very screamy. Beatlemania had hit its full stride in Britain by the autumn of 1963 – and Ireland wasn’t far behind. There were even riots on Middle Abbey Street when The Beatles played here. In fact, there is footage online of Frank Hall reporting for RTE in the middle of the crowd outside the Adelphi. It’s well worth looking up. And the Welsh writer Alun Owen travelled to Dublin with The Beatles in 1963. Owen used the Dublin trip as research into Beatlemania and he used it to write the script for the film A Hard Day’s Night.
Your favourite Beatles album.
Again, the answer to that question is open to change, but today I’ll go with ‘A Day in the Life’. I think it’s a brilliant piece of music – written and recorded by The Beatles on top form. Every time I hear Lennon’s vocal on that song – I get shivers. Pure class.
And yes, favourite Beatle.
For this question I really will have to plead the Fifth Amendment – as they say in the US – because one of my plays (LENNON v McCARTNEY) is about two guys in a pub arguing about who is the top Beatle. So I try not to give my own opinion on that subject. I try not to give it away.
Leaving us in suspense, eh? This is the third year of the festival. What was the inspiration when it all began?
We ran the Dublin Beatles Festival for the first time in November 2013 – because it was the 50th anniversary of The Beatles playing at the Adelphi. It was only supposed to be a one-off thing – but I had so much fun I ran it again in November 2014. We have no sponsorship, and no funding, so I’m not sure how long I can keep going. But the crowds are still coming in big numbers every year, and the venues are packed, and I am still enjoying it, so let’s see what happens.
What can a first-timer to a Beatles Festival expect?
You can expect to have a lot of fun. I know it sounds corny, but most of The Beatles’ songs are upbeat and positive, and if you spend three days surrounded by that music, you’re going to feel upbeat and positive too. And that’s no joke. It’s like taking a happy pill for your ears. You simply haven’t lived until you’ve stood in the middle of hundreds of people and screamed along to lines such as “And when I tell you that I love you / You’re gonna say you love me too / And when I ask you to be mine / You’re gonna say you love me too”. You can get full details of events over at the website for the Dublin Beatles Festival – but, in short, we have Beatles gigs, film, theatre, free events, table quiz, public interview, art, memorabilia, merchandise… and whatever you’re having yourself.
The festival lasts three days. If you had to choose a Top 3 Must See for 2015, what would be on it?
Again – that is a very tough question for me to answer – but, feck it, I’ll give it a go. I think The Rockits at the Workman’s on Saturday, November 7th, is going to be one hell of a big party gig – so I’d definitely recommend that for a start. The Rockits are a resident band at the Cavern in Liverpool and they really know how to put on a show. Their first set on November 7th is going to be the Hits of the 1960s; songs from acts like The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, The Kinks, The Who and The Small Faces. Their second set in the show will be songs exclusively from The Beatles. I can’t wait.
The next event I’d recommend is the award-winning documentary Good Ol’ Freda, followed by a public interview with Freda Kelly herself. Freda worked as secretary for The Beatles for over a decade – and it really is an honour to have her at the Dublin Beatles Festival in November. As George Harrison pointed out, “Freda was there at the very beginning and she stayed until the very end.” This lady is one of a kind. It’s no wonder she is worshipped by Beatles fans all over the world.
And finally, I’m going to be selfish, and plug my play PETE BEST OF THE BEATLES. The full two hour play won’t premiere until next February at the New Theatre in Dublin, but on the afternoon of Sunday, November 8th, at the Grand Social, we’re going to put on a sneak preview of part of the play, and it’s FREE in for the public. The play is going to be performed by Padraic McGinley. I saw him in rehearsals the other day – and he is amazing. It’s going to be a good show.
Can you tell us a little about how Freda became involved?
I got Freda involved in the festival sort of by luck. Basically, there is a couple from England called Steve and Gloria, (who) trade under the name Beatlesdays (selling memorabilia and merchandise at festivals all over the world). Anyway, Steve and Gloria come over to Dublin a few times a year, and one night in the pub they mentioned to me that they knew Freda. I couldn’t believe it. I asked them if it would be OK for me to give Freda a call, and they arranged it. The lucky thing for me is that Freda is Irish, and as soon as she heard my accent, we got on like a house on fire. That first phone call was only supposed to be for five minutes – but it lasted over an hour and a half. After that Freda was more than happy to come to the Dublin Beatles Festival. Actually, I met her for a coffee in Liverpool a couple of weeks ago – and I think I’m in love!
Ticket To Ride or Day Tripper?
Both are amazing songs. But I think I’ll go with ‘Day Tripper’. Simply because I was in the Garage in Dublin last Saturday night and they played that song and the place went mad. It was great to see 18 year olds singing their hearts out to The Beatles.
Hey, Jude or Let It Be?
I’m not a huge fan of either (sorry), but I’d probably side with ‘Hey Jude’.
Something or Yesterday?
I’d probably go with ‘Something’. It’s surely one of the greatest love songs ever written. And it’s nice that it’s a George song.
Help! or We Can Work It Out?
I think I’d go with ‘We Can Work It Out’ because it’s got a killer middle eight (“Life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend”). By the way, Lennon once claimed that he’d only ever written two good songs: ‘Strawberry Fields’ and ‘Help’.
Haha. Good choice. I think so, too. Finally, were the Beatles bigger than Jesus?
It’s very hard to judge that now. I mean, McCartney was the tallest Beatle, coming in at just under 5 foot 11 inches. How tall was Jesus?
Stephen Kennedy is the Director of the Dublin Beatles Festival. It runs from November 6th – 8th. Full details at www.dublinbeatlesfestival.com. Stephen’s play JOHN LENNON’S LAST DAY will be broadcast on BBC Radio 2 at 10pm on October 8th. And Stephen’s new stage play, PETE BEST OF THE BEATLES, will premiere at the New Theatre in Dublin in February.