People of a certain age love to wax lyrical about when the Beatles played Dublin’s Adelphi, but what about when the Rolling Stones hit Cork’s Savoy theatre, 50 years ago, writes John Daly
It was 1965. That January, the Rolling Stones toured Ireland for the first time.
They were fresh-faced, accessible and unified in their aim to overthrow great rivals, The Beatles, but with worldwide success just around the corner with the imminent release of ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’, it would be the last time fans would ever get so close to their idols.
The Riordans and Bunny Carr’s Quicksilver were tops on television, the GAA was holding firm on its foreign-games ban, and Butch Moore’s ‘Walking In The Rain’ scored fifth in our first ever Eurovision entry.
While the US heaved with the turmoil of Martin Luther King’s civil-rights marches and the assassination of Malcolm X, the group that would go on to have one of the longest, and most successful, rock-music careers kicked off the year with a three-city tour of the country.
They playing matinee and evening concerts each day at the Belfast ABC theatre, Dublin’s Adelphi, and Cork’s Savoy, from January 6 to 8 .
With a concert set-list that included gritty Delta blues classics like ‘Off The Hook’, ‘Route 66’, ‘Little Red Rooster’ and ‘I’m Alright’, the Stones arrived into an Irish music scene dominated by show-bands like The Capitol, Dickie Rock, Jim Doherty Trio and Brendan Boyer.
Asked by a reporter if he agreed that their long hair made them look like women, Jagger replied playfully: “That’s just a dirty lie.” Pressed on whether the Stones were better than the Beatles, he responded diplomatically: “We’re just different, we’re doing different things.”
He displayed glimpses of the canny social observer he would become: “In the last two or three years, young people have started a big thing. Instead of just carrying on the way their parents told them to, they’re anti-war and their sexual lives have become freer.”
Asked what it was like to perform in front of hundreds of screaming fans, Jagger replied candidly: “You have to be very egotistical.” As to how long he thought the Rolling Stones would last, he said: “We’ll probably be around for a year, or a year and a half. Then it’ll be over.”
Paddy Ryan, part of the Old Head Golf Club management team, remembers the Cork concerts: “The concerts at the Savoy were a huge event. Anyone who knew anything about the coming thing in music wanted to be there. My girlfriend, Anne, and I were always divided on the Stones and the Beatles,” he said.
“Most guys loved the edginess of the Stones, they had a kind of danger the Beatles just didn’t have. I remember that Brian Jones was the real hero of the group — as soon as he came on stage, the girls just went wild. His long blond hair and good looks had girls going mad everywhere he went. Jagger, at that time, was definitely in second place.”
While interaction between the band and the audience was encouraged, there was little disruption during the performance: “It was pretty well-ordered. A few people tried jumping on the stage, but it was no big deal. The music was the thing that got you — it was so exciting, so visceral. You could get right up to the stage. We had never seen anything like this before. It was mind-blowing,” he said.
Paddy remembers how the show ended: “They played ‘This Could Be The Last Time’ as the curtain slowly descended in front of them on the stage. Then, it raised up again as they played the final verse of the song, before coming down for the last time. And then the PA system announced — ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the Rolling Stones have left the building’. I’ve heard that line dozens of times, everywhere from London to Las Vegas, since, but that evening in Cork was the first place I ever heard it used.”
The Stones returned to Ireland for another short tour the following September, filmed for an ‘on the road’ documentary, Charlie Is My Darling. Playing to growing audiences everywhere they went, and with ‘Satisfaction’ steadily climbing the charts, the film offered footage of boozy hotel bedrooms, screaming girls, and electric performances from a band moving into the big time with a stage presence all of their own.
“Everything was raw,” said director Mick Gochanour. “It was very clear why the band would become who they eventually became. They had a real love and respect for each other and the music.
“Mick’s focus and maturity at 22 years old was quite remarkable and Keith was speaking through his music then, as he is today.”
The band breezed into the village of Castlemartyr en route to the Savoy. Emerging from the regal interior of their chauffeured Austin Princess, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts took tea at Mrs. Farrell’s Eating House while Mick, Keith and Brian slipped across the street to Barry’s Bar (now owned by comedian Pat Shortt)
“Kids are looking for something else, for different moral values because they know they’re gonna get all the things that were thought impossible 50 years ago,” said Jagger about the mayhem being created by the Stones in that breakthrough year before they became a global brand that still resonates 50 years later.
Memories from the front row
Richard Houghton has gathered together dozens of recollections from people who attended the Cork concerts for an upcoming book on the Rolling Stones, due for publication later this year.
“When they came to Ireland in early 1965, songs like ‘Not Fade Away’, ‘It’s All Over Now’ and ‘Little Red Rooster’ had all been top ten hits and the band were on the cusp of topping the charts around the world later that summer with ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’.
“The Stones played over 300 shows in both 1963 and 1964, regularly playing two sets a day, and were at the height of their musical powers with a repertoire of over 80 songs.
“Irish concert goers were lucky to see a band on the verge of becoming a global phenomenon.”
“I had just turned 16. The Stones really knocked me out. I was very impressed by the harp playing of Brian and by his pear shaped guitar. In those days Mick was just throwing shapes - the running around came later! The girls were just screaming.”
“I was there with my friend Daphne. We were only 12 so we went to the 6pm show. I’d say there were not more than 300 at the early gig.
“Daphne and I hid under the seats during the break and stayed to enjoy the second show too, which had closer to a capacity crowd.”
“I attended both performances at the Savoy. I even sat in the same seat in the front row for both shows.
“During the interval I went backstage and obtained all their autographs. Mick offered me a bottle of Coke.”
“I was 24 went I went to the concert. The Stones gave a thrilling performance with their driving, raucous sounds.”
“I was 15. I saw the matinee. There was no screaming and no shouting.My friend Jill brought a box of Milk Tray to throw at Mick Jagger.
“We thought if we got the box of chocolates on stage they would see us and want to marry us because we were the coolest girls in the place. Instead we nearly got thrown out.”
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