Inevitably, his comments were jumped on by media headline creators who were quick to equate the 19-year-old Londoner’s comments with those of John Lennon who in 1966 told a reporter that “The Beatles were bigger than Jesus” and thus enraged America’s Bible belt.
Styles’s comments are unlikely to be met with the same fury. Since The Beatles split in 1970 there have been a multitude of bands who have claimed the ‘big as The Beatles’ throne. Paul McCartney has given his blessing to many of them, including One Direction. Macca does this safe in the knowledge that although there are and have been bigger bands than The Beatles, they are unlikely to be matched in terms of quality, originality and overall cultural influence. Of course the boy band does have one up on The Beatles in that they have a true Irish member in Niall Horan.
Is One Direction talent? Extremely. Do I think they will ever be as big as the Beatles? No I don't, but who knows.— Beth (@beearedee) October 31, 2013
One Direction will not be as big as The Beatles as they had both female and male fans whilst 1D do not have a strong male base— dill (@_maisuria) November 3, 2013
The Fab Four’s Irish credentials are pretty good, though, and it seems apt that on the day the Dublin Beatles Festival launches, we have a quick look at their connections to this island.
By 1851 20% of Liverpool’s population was Irish. They’ve kept going there ever since and today 50% of Scousers claim Irish heritage. It’s no surprise, therefore, that three of The Beatles are linked to these shores. McCartney’s maternal grandfather came from Monaghan and his paternal great-grandfather also hailed from Ireland. Lennon’s paternal grandfather was a member of a music group in Dublin while George Harrison’s maternal grandfather hailed from Wexford.
Of all The Beatles it was ‘the quiet one’, Harrison, who had the closest connections to Ireland. His maternal grandfather, John French, was from Wexford but moved to Liverpool when his small holding was sold off. Harrison had cousins who lived in Drumcondra in Dublin, however, and he was a regular visitor with his mother Louise. A 10-year-old Harrison was snapped walking down O’Connell Street with his family by photographer Arthur Fields who was famous for standing in the same spot on O’Connell Bridge, almost every day for 50 years taking photos.
While recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967, Lennon saw an advert in the Daily Telegraph for the sale of an island in Co Mayo. Dorinish Island, which sits in Clew Bay, struck Lennon as an ideal escape from Beatle-mania and sent a representative to buy it for him at an auction in Westport. He visited the island twice; the second time with Yoko Ono who was attacked by seagulls. Lennon eventually gave the island to a group of hippies who lasted two years before moving on. Ono later sold the island and donated the money to Crumlin Children’s Hospital.
Music is all about the fans. Today, bands like One Direction can interact with their fans via Twitter and Facebook. Back in the 60s, the Fab Four had Freda Kelly, their Dublin-born fan club manager. Although The Beatles were together for less than 10 years, it is said that Kelly worked for the band for 11; responding to letters that came after the split. For years Freda kept schtum about the cheeky foursome but a new tell-all documentary called Good Ol’ Freda has just been released in the US.
Between them, John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote three songs about the Troubles in the North. McCartney’s ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ is a classic bit of upbeat pally pontificating which includes the lines “Great Britain, you are tremendous and nobody knows that like me. But really what are you doing in that land across the sea?”. Lennon’s efforts were even worse. On ‘Luck of the Irish’ Yoko Ono invites us to “walk over rainbows like leprechauns” while on ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ Lennon suggests putting “the English back to sea”. All three songs were banned by the BBC.
It is unlikely there are any photos of the event on his mantlepiece but in 2002, Macca went back to his roots and married Heather Mills in Castle Leslie, Co Monaghan. Three hundred guests were present, including Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr.
Of course, the whole point of starting this weekend’s festival today is because The Beatles played their first Irish concert in the Adelphi on Nov 7, 1963. The Fab Four arrived into Dublin Airport at noon to be greeted by a crowd of 300 fans. After their usual banter-filled press conference, the group went on to play the first of two shows at the Adelphi. Fans managed to keep fairly cool until the band broke into ‘Twist and Shout’. Cue pandemonium. The atmosphere carried through to the second show and eventually out onto Middle Abbey Street, where several young men were arrested and taken away in squad cars. It was a classic Helter Skelter day in the life of the most fabulous four ever.
* The Dublin Beatles Festival takes place from Nov 7–10 www.dublinbeatlesfestival.com