- 29 Jun 21
Ahead of Paul Casey's 'Back To The Future'-inspired ‘Wide Open Road’ video premiere this Saturday, July 3rd, Hot Press are taking a look back at 1985.
1985 was the year we witnessed U2 play Croke Park for the first time, and Live Aid was screened to millions worldwide. We saw the release of classic albums from Prince, Simple Minds, Talking Heads, Kate Bush, The Smiths and countless more, and of course, Back to the Future was released on July 3rd 1985.
Ahead of this Saturday's video premiere for Paul Casey's new single 'Wide Open Road', we'll be revisiting one of our finest '80s archive moments every day this week, starting today with our coverage of Bruce Springsteen performing at Slane Castle on June 1st, 1985. Check it out below.
Perfect weather, a huge, peaceful crowd, and of course, the peerless Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street band. A memorable day is reconstructed by Hot Press observers Niall Stokes, Liam Mackey, Declan Lynch, Dermot Stokes, Bill Graham, and Damian Corless, with the final word going to Fiona Looney.
Two days before the event, an evening drive to Slane seems like a pleasant diversion. The setting sun infuses the still countryside with a warm glow and a feeling of calm, of tranquility takes over. Summer has come.
It's only in Slane village that there's a foretaste of what's to follow on Saturday. The streets are lined with fast food stands, the purveyors of hamburgers and other dubious deep fried delights having started doing business already. The streets of the lazy Meath village are thronged with people - the atmosphere is almost carnival but everyone knows that this is just the build-up to the biggest explosion of mass enthusiasm Ireland is likely to see this year. More people will come to Slane Castle to see Bruce Springsteen than will attend the All-Ireland Final. It's that big....
Down on the site, things are pressing forward determinedly.
It's already past 10 o'clock and Jim Aiken is still here, watching the production crew begin to mount the huge video screens which will carry a running line documentary of the gig, for fans further back in the vast, picturesque natural amphitheatre. "The investment is phenomenal, "he says, "the Americans want do do things right. They've installed loudspeakers around the grounds which operate on spacial frequencies so that they're co-ordinated with the main sound."
It takes time, trouble and money - apart entirely from technical expertise - to get these details right, which is what sees Jim Aiken and crew burning the midnight oil for the week before the concert. More than anyone else perhaps, Jim Aiken is aware, that
it must be all right on the night.
MEN AT WORK
On Friday night, the last-minute hack hitched down to Slane to collect his castle pass. He picked it up at 6pm and ambled around to inspect the backstage site. Men swarmed like ants about the place and scampered like monkeys on the scaffolding. The Jim Aiken cabin was a hub of work while the Springsteen hut - draped in the Stars 'n' Stripes - was a centre of merriment.
Enough seen, the hack walked to the terraces outside the castle, there to sun himself and read a magazine 'till the 9.35 bus out. Of course he has earlier checked with CIE's information office that traffic restrictions would not cause it to leave from other than its usual place. No problem.
At nine he was waiting. By ten he'd had enough and started to thumb. No takers. He explained his predicament to a sergeant. The sarge flagged down a few cars but because of traffic controls they were all locals going a mile or two up the road. He thought of taking his chances, but it was cold after the sun went down and death by exposure wouldn't be fun.
He rang Aiken Promotions. "No problem", Clare Aiken reassured him, "Peter O'Kelly is going into town soon". Around the site all was organised chaos. Excited Northern voices clashed in the evening air, as last minute-hitches were identified and solved. It was action stations, in earnest and if you weren't pulling with the crew, you were pulling against them. "Who's that fuckin' around on that scooter?" someone shouts.' The pressure was taking effect.
Peter O'Kelly was also lifting the official Springsteen photographer into town. He'd been flying from LA for the past 24 hours with flight delays and was well knackered. On the way out of Slane the cops were stopping incoming cars looking for drunks and drugs. Ashbourne seemed as festive as Slane. O'Kelly sped on, on a mission of great importance. He was heading for the Westbury to buy twelve Chinese meals for Bruce's road crew. The cost? A cool £240.
PSST! WANNA SEE SOME PICTURES
He came out of the pub and stood leering at us. About 55, bulbous nose, florid complexion and a blue v-necked geansaí. And an added touch - the front of his trousers was stained with piss. We were sitting outside, lazing in the morning sunshine, listening to The Pogues on tape, irrigating ourselves with cold bear. Things were looking good. He strolled over to one of the girls, and started to engage her in conversation. Then he produced the pictures. He was a keen photographer, apparently, and carried several samples of his work around with him, to show to people. The photographs were all pictures of semi naked women, usually topless, which our man had taken on various beaches throughout the world. For some reason he thought this was a fascinating exercise, and expected us to react appreciatively. We did not. Undaunted, he went over to his car and produced more samples "the really good ones." Really, the things youth have to put up with from their elders?
BLOWING IN THE WIND
1.30 AM in Slane village and a carnival atmosphere prevailed. Not that everyone was participating, mind. Despite the official warnings about overnight camping not being allowed, a sprinkling of visitors had obviously been in the locality since the previous evening and now they were easily distinguishable as the bodies lying prostrate or curled up on grassy verges, catching up on lost sleep and probably having their hangovers baked into the bargain. The unofficial merchandisers had already set up shop along the
road to the main entrance but business at this stage seemed slow enough. One trader did get rid of a significant number of posters but not in the way he'd planned. As he was carefully arranging them on a table, a sudden gust of wind took them flying down the road, where amid cheers and cries of "free posters", they were seized gratis and for nothing. The harassed trader, meanwhile, was left doing a convincing impression of an octopus as, arms flopping about, he tried to keep the rest of his stock intact.
The journey passed in the kind of party-atmosphere which Bruce presumed had prevailed all day - (he presumed because he couldn't remember). About ten miles outside Dublin the driver shouted good-naturedly to the revellers down the back "I'll turn on the lights now if someone will roll me a joint." The lights went on and Bruce, contemplating his mud-caked legs and scratched arms, wondered if next year would be as much fun.
THE MORNING AFTER
On the morning after, the work goes on for the promoters. Though the gig went off with unbelievable smoothness, the castle grounds now have all the appearances of a bomb site. The behaviour of the crowd on the day was impeccable. The running of the show was an exercise in tightness and efficiency. The police were, by and large, inordinately friendly - their positive attitude reflected in the message read from the stage at the end of Springsteen's set, congratulating one and all on making it such a successful and peaceful day.
That, at least, makes it easier - though not much to be truthful – when you’ve to dismantle everything you’ve set up, clear away the debris and leave the place looking spic and span with nothing to motivate you but the desperate desire for a long rest and a bit of peace and solitude.
But there's no rest for the wicked. Mickey Connolly has been helping with the cleaning of the village. Now he's back making sure the huge video screens and the expensive sound system are coming down, and rolling out smoothly. They're the priorities - after that comes the site. There's a couple of sell-out Chris de Burgh shows in Belfast to worry about later in the week. There's a Canon and Ball tour to follow that. And then, at the end of June, there's another massive exercise in organisation and presentation: U2's Croke Park date, where the crowd will again break the 50,000 barrier.
Jim Aiken has been up all night. In town to go through the figures with Springsteen's management, he finally can go no further without sleep. He takes a two hour cat nap before returning to the fray, at 6 o'clock.
When he's roused, Jim is in the humour for straight talking, He makes no secret of the fact that he feels betrayed - badly betrayed - by the people in Slane who opposed the gig. "It was totally worth while," he reflects. "You put a year’s work into it and then you get a day like that and a crowd like that…70,000 people attended that concert. We behaved ourselves, we enjoyed ourselves – it was a great event with the greatest artist in the world. This is what I became involved in promoting to achieve."
Which makes the attitude of the locals, who extracted a promise from Jim Aiken, during the fever pitch of anti-Springsteen agitation, that he'd never run a gig in Slane again, particular galling. Jim is emphatic that he won't run another Slane event unless there's some dramatic unexpected turnaround.
‘’Working as a promoter, I'm working with the youth of Ireland. But the bigots of Slane have condemned them in the eyes of the world. I'm going to tell them now what I think of their bigotry, of their moral superiority - this pedestal thing they're on, making moral pronouncements for everyone else. Their minds were the only filthy things in Slane."
Cleaning up in the town during the morning, a local enthusiast had told him it'd have to be Bowie next year. From behind a garden wall a voice rudely interrupted. "No way will David Bowie come here," it insisted.
Jim Aiken is not a man prone to confrontation. But at this stage, there's no point in pretending...