Slane Rocks: 'This was the big time, no mistake, history in the making, and I was part of it'
SLANE AT 40!
Armagh man TONY FEARON fell in love with the Rolling Stones at Slane Castle and the venue where he saw many other giants of rock n' roll perform. Here are some of his Slane memories.
My first concert was Slane’s second in 1982, the Rolling Stones. I had won tickets on Jimmy Greeley’s show on what was then 2FM and had to drive down to Dublin from Portdown, Co Armagh, on the Saturday morning to the RTE Studios to collect them and drive back up to Slane, with my late brother, his Navan born fiancé and later his wife, Noleen Fitzsimmons, and a friend.
The whole event blew me away, the glamour, majestic settings, helicopters flying in and taking off, trying to spot celebrities watching from the castle, all dressed impeccably! This was the big time, no mistake, history in the making, and I was part of it. The biggest outdoor crowd I’d ever been a part of, since the Pope’s visit to the Phoenix Park three years earlier. How things have changed nowadays.
The show took place in daylight, with the Stones coming on Stage at 6pm. I also remember that there was no video screen available as the Stones only could access one and it was needed for their gig in Leeds the very next day! Also there was only one drinks outlet, in the entire arena, and on a warm summer’s day the queue was vast all day long!
There was no band merchandising stalls in those days, though a few enterprising entrepreneurs on the way into Slane village were selling a liquid called “Jagger Juice” in plastic cartons for 2 punts! God only knows what was in it!
As I say the entire occasion blew me away, I became a Stones fanatic after that, and have saw them on numerous occasions, at Wembley, Twickenham, the Point Depot, Croke Park and of course on their return to Slane, 25 years later in 2007!
The next gig was Springsteen’s Irish debut in 1985. The Boss was at the top of his game, the weather couldn’t have been better, and the three hours he played went by in a flash. A glorious day, and no hint of trouble after the sad events of the previous year. Again this concert was totally delivered in full daylight and I must say I prefer these to the more recent night time concerts at Slane, which mask the natural beauty of the surroundings in my opinion.
Would the video of the Boyne River flowing live on screen when Springsteen performed “The River” at Slane, have worked if this concert had taken place in the dark? I don’t think so! Strangely the Boss didn’t play an encore on this occasion, but he did play for three hours and it was where he undoubtedly developed his love for Ireland!
I was back again in 1986 for Queen. This time we were not so lucky with the weather. But my abiding memory was Brian May’s haunting playing of Danny Boy, solo, when the rest of the band had left the stage for a break.
I returned in 1987 for Bowie. His Glass Slipper tour was not him at his best, but halfway during the show he ripped up the set list and reverted to his old classics and this worked very well.
It would be 2004 before I would return to Slane, and Madonna. This took place on a Sunday evening in late August, bad weather all day, and the abiding memory is of various personnel sweeping the rain off the stage before she made her entrance from the roof! So bad was the weather that she feared electrocution and has apparently vowed to never play Ireland again!
My last concert at Slane was the return of the Stones in 2007, this time the concert was played in darkness and there were ample video screens etc. Mick Jagger referenced their previous appearance there in 1982, told us we had all aged well and addressed the crowd as gaelige as well! Keith Richards took the mike to perform a couple of his own songs, and started off by saying “It’s great to be here, it’s great to be anywhere!” On my way out however, on very wet ground, I slipped and fell going up the hill, although sore at the time, this was just part of the Slane experience!
I haven’t made it back to Slane for a gig ever since but I will return!