herald

Sunday 23 September 2018

50 years on, our man in the audience recalls hysteria that shook the Adelphi walls

Police hold back the crowd waiting to get into the Beatles concert in Dublin
Police hold back the crowd waiting to get into the Beatles concert in Dublin

NOVEMBER 1963 will always be a memorable month for people of a certain age, for two happenings in particular – the assassination of John F Kennedy on Friday the 22nd and the visit of The Beatles to Ireland on Thursday the 7th. I was in the Adelphi Cinema in Dublin for The Beatles Show.

With two friends, I had queued a month or so previously for more than two hours to buy tickets for six shillings and sixpence each for their nine o'clock show, and then we waited for the day of destiny to arrive.

On the night of the show, we met in the Pillar Cafe in O'Connell Street, I think it was, before making our way the short distance to the Adelphi. As soon as we turned into Abbey Street from O'Connell Street, the magnificent mayhem began.

The street was jammed with people, some like us trying to make their way to the cinema, others trying to get out after attending the 6.30 show, and the rest – the great mass of people who had been unable to get tickets for either of the two shows but wanted to be part of the action anyway – packing the street from Easons' Abbey Street entrance all the way to the Adelphi.

My friends and I realised that the only way we were going to see The Beatles was to push and shove our way through the crowd, which we did until we found ourselves at the front doors of the cinema which were cordoned off by a line of bewildered guards. All who wanted to get beyond this human barricade had to show they had admission tickets.

After gaining entry, we made our way to our seats, and for the first time in more than an hour had the chance to fully let the sense of the occasion register. If we thought the noise and mayhem on the street was loud, the pandemonium inside was even louder and wilder.

Screaming

Young people, mostly girls, were running wildly around the auditorium, trying to get as near to the stage as possible. From the balcony above where we were sitting, scores of young girls were hanging over the front, screaming at the top of their voices. It was almost impossible to talk with all the noise, so we sat and took in the scene.

After 10 minutes or so of this unbridled enthusiasm for four young Liverpudlian musicians that none of us had ever seen or heard playing live, the house lights went down. If we had thought the place had been noisy up to then, we had heard nothing yet.

The cinema was now in darkness, apart from the lights illuminating the magnificent gold-coloured stage curtains embroidered with butterflies, and the audience was in full voice. As the curtains began to open, I don't believe there was one person in that cinema sitting in their seat at this point – everyone was on their feet screaming: "We want The Beatles! We want The Beatles!"

The refrain thundered around the auditorium. It was incredible – I didn't think it was possible for the human voice to make such a sound. The walls of the cinema seemed to buckle as the wave of sound hit them and was catapulted back into the ears of those of us making the noise. The support acts, which included the Vernon Girls, The Kestrels and Peter Jay and The Jaywalkers played out their sets to a constant refrain: "We want The Beatles! We want The Beatles!"

When at last compere Frank Berry announced The Beatles, what had passed for loud noise now seemed like the gentle rustling of leaves as the cinema erupted like a volcano and the four mop-haired musicians appeared in their trademark silver-grey collarless suits and black Beatle boots.

John, Paul and George beat time to the music while Ringo sat behind them with the drum kit bearing the legend "The Beatles".

It was unbelievable. I had never experienced anything like it.

From the moment The Beatles started their set with 'I Saw Her Standing There' until they finished with 'She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah', I don't believe anyone in the cinema could have heard more than a dozen words of the songs for the noise.

Smuggled

Then, suddenly, it was all over. The curtains closed and The Beatles left the stage and the safety curtain descended. The audience continued to chant: "We want The Beatles! We want The Beatles!"

But they were not coming back.

The Fab Four, were being smuggled out of the back entrance of the Adelphi and into an Evening Herald delivery van to be taken back to the Gresham Hotel.

We continued to sit in our seats, slightly traumatised by the events of the night as the audience began to realise The Beatles were not going to accede to their demands.

The hard day's night was over.

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