The U2 Riot, Dublin, 29 June 1985

The U2 Riot, Dublin, 29 June 1985

Photo: Facebook/Classic Dublin Gigs/Noel M

Doherty and Quirke went into Dublin for a street carnival i.e. a day on the beer. U2 played in the country’s biggest stadium Croke Park for the first time that evening, to add to the hype. Having a drink that night in the Berni Inn – long since Judge Roy Bean’s, across from Trinity – Quirke met a chap from home who’d taken a few punches after the concert, when one or more gougers snatched his U2 hat and he tried to get it back.

After midnight, Doherty and Quirke headed up towards St. Stephen’s Green, expecting a mere open air disco, as also advertised. There were thousands and thousands walking in the city but by then the fighting had started. There was a riot underway on Grafton Street. Police with riot shields were baton-charging this way and that. A wave of panic and confusion spread through the crowd every time they moved. Those not at the front could only see the crowd coming back on top of them and this only added to the fear. A saving grace was that the police did not lash out indiscriminately in response to those who were firing bottles. There were so many people that few knew what was going on. Gangs of young men were emerging from the side streets to attack before retreating again. It was chaos, confusing and frightening. Doherty saw a cop get a bottle stuck in his face. The sheer number of people in the way prevented the police getting at those who were pelting them.

The boys nonetheless kept moving towards the Green to see what was happening up there. They kept well to the side and passed by the waves. At the top of Grafton Street the whole area around that corner of the Green was covered in broken glass. There was nothing on but there the situation was relatively quiet. Evidently they had just passed through the shifting battleground.

They stood there looking around for a few minutes. The broken glass sparkled under the neon lights and the crunching of people walking on it mingled with the wail of sirens. They decided to make their way back down Grafton Street but by then much of the throng had dispersed and those remaining were getting down to full-on battle. The missiles were flying thickly and the cops were trying to advance towards the river. The boys dashed by shop windows with their hands protecting their heads and they ducked in doorways to avoid the batons and the bottles. “Quick, in here!” shouted Doherty as Quirke almost ran past a good niche during one charge.

In this way they made it as far as O’Connell Street where they began to wonder how to get home. Taking it from the top, they took a side of the wide boulevard each and walked back towards the bridge to see if anyone they knew was still in town. Doherty met two girls who said they could get them a lift but first they all had a toke as they sat beside the car on Bachelors Walk.

Across the river the fighting had come down Westmoreland Street and reached the far end of the bridge but, as isolated silhouettes ran in different directions, it could be seen to be petering out. Back in Doherty’s house the boys finished the hash and just fell asleep in the front room until it was bright.

Armed Robbery in the Eighties

Armed Robbery in the Eighties

Photo: model of getaway vehicle

For most of Ireland, the Eighties were a time of grime and crime. In May 1986, for example, burglars in the middle-class Dublin suburb of Clontarf beat an unfortunate man to death with one of his own golf clubs. Emigration climbed steadily until it passed the 100,000 mark in 1989, the year I cleared off too, for a while, to London, where I described my CV to a fellow alumnus – college, dole, unreal jobs (“as opposed to having a real job”).

Take the outline of a Christmas story: a forest in the morning; lochs of cold water; mud; an uncle on the back of a lorry; loading it with Christmas trees; two shady locals nervous about money. A cousin got jammed, stuck in the trees. Come on, move back there. Behind his father, the boy could not move. A minute or so passed. Come on. In the same mild, distracted tone, over his shoulder. Looking up, I was silently watching the boy struggling, twisting, packed up to his waist in rising Christmas trees, on the back of a lorry in the cold, dark, grey mess that was the forest. The lorry driver was from Cork. He then said something. There’s one born every minute.

Another case of going nowhere: the evening Foley crashed into a ditch near Durrow viaduct to avoid an old guy in a blue car coming against us. We tried to get the little truck back on the road. The old chap had an Italian accent. He sounded just like Chico Marx. A red minibus then got in the way. The road was narrow. The minibus driver was silent, trying to edge through, and Foley said to him, “Hey, don’t blame me if you tear the side out of your bus!” The corner of the truck was sticking out. “Will you hang on for a few minutes, will you?” When the Snozzler et al came along in a blue Mini, we all pushed it out of the ditch. Then the Snozzler turned to me. “You were great on television, lad,” he said, in his utterly adenoidal voice. He was the old man L. C. had hit over the head with an oil drum, for his wages, a few years earlier. Nearly killed him. Fractured his skull.

Dole Poem

November, 1984

This is Class Hall E. The time is 10.20 AM. It is a bright, mild morning outside while in here the professor talks about historical geography. Or geographical history. Does it matter? I have money worries again. They are nothing new here. This life may be hedonistic and paid for by someone else but I have to say I don’t care, don’t I? I have to make some excuse for living like this. There’s more to it than that, I know. I don’t fail exams. I must be malnourished or something to be thinking like this. I can’t see too clearly. I have no real problems to occupy my mind. I’m left to my own devices. This is a search for meaning, capital letters.

It is now near four o’clock. I’m in sociology. I’m looking out the window and it’s sunny out there. I’m depressed because of the winter too. We are heading into it and I don’t like the thought of Christmas. He’s talking about poverty and he’s making me think of money. The dole office was robbed here last week.

The dole office manager was carrying a briefcase of cash down the street for the day’s payments when two men in balaclavas pulled up beside him on a Honda 50. The pillion passenger levelled a shotgun at the manager, took the case and wished him a Merry Christmas. They took off again and vanished at top speed. It was the perfect job on the day but the two Napoleons of crime were caught after they neglected to sign at the dole office, the following week.

The Gigs Place

The Gigs Place

Dublin, twenty years ago. The nights spent darkening the door of the Gigs Place in later years – it could take some time to get in – can be counted on one hand but all the key details had been sketched at the outset.

1996

7th September, Saturday

Gigs Place: out of the corner of my eye I saw a young crew-cut slipping out with a Groucho Marx walk (a runner). Then there was the long-haired musical type who insulted me after roaring for pepper. Got into a slanging match over pepper, saw a guy do a runner, met two women: a fifty-one-year-old female Dorian and a doctor in the house (her niece). More wine. The pinch test: Dorian showed me the difference between the skins of ‘old’ and ‘young’ via the elasticity of the back of the hand.

8th September, Sunday

On Sunday morning the ends of long streets in their post-dawn haze – all cities look the same then. Awake, shake scenes from your awareness. Bed at 7.20 AM.

17th October, Thursday

Gigs: people crashing out left, right and centre. Of a group of four women across from us, the one good-looking one lost the plot after making a pudding sandwich with her toast. She had to be helped out, while I never saw what happened to another member of her group who’d dipped first.

Behind us, one of a group of three women lay stretched out like a corpse. I only spotted the horizontal human-like shape on rising to go to the toilets.

Over to my right, beyond the dried-leafy trellis, a ginger-haired fella rested his head on his table, with his clean fry-up and a tall glass of milk. Vermeer might have captured it. Every so often a waitress would make a token effort to wake him. The Gigs Place is some place.

21st October, Monday

Words for a review of the Gigs Place: fare with no exotica and no frills. Optional chips with everything. Bad wine, the list consisting of red & white.

16th November, Saturday

Gigs: the sight of the night was a fella puking like a muck spreader.

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Springsteen, Slane Castle, 1985

Springsteen, Slane Castle, 1985

On the first of June, preparations began quite early. Luke had the hash. For food he had a brown paper bag with half a pound of sliced ham from the shop. Just for the day he exchanged his van for a four-door saloon. The first stop was the shopping centre, for some slabs of beer and cider. As he, Doherty and Quirke pulled out across the forecourt of the petrol station in front, a woman pulling in to do her shopping started pointing upwards and beeping. Luke stopped. One slab was still on the roof of the car. It was a sunny day and they headed off. Bryan Ferry’s Slave to Love came on the radio as the breeze rippled through the open windows.

It was a Saturday. In 1984 the Slane concert had unwisely been staged on a Sunday, allowing the zombies a whole weekend to get tanked up enough to riot and besiege the local police station. That was the night before the concert. Things hadn’t improved much the next day as, backstage, Lord Henry tried to get Bob Dylan – who was caked in orange make-up – to get his act together and just go out there.

In 1985 the peaceful smoking of doobies and the eating of ham slices behind one of the goals on Slane’s GAA pitch was interrupted by the opening blast of Born in the USA, out of sight just down the road. A few songs later the three boys entered the concert over the vast panorama of the natural amphitheatre, the stage, the castle and the river. Springsteen was singing Trapped at that moment.

The sun was strong, beating down all day. The crowd was massive and Bruce told them they had never played to so many people before. For most it was just a day out and there was no festival atmosphere. Quirke hadn’t that much interest in the concert but Luke was on a different level, most of the time. He kept on and on about getting his hole. Quirke let Doherty talk to him.

When it was all over, they climbed back up the steep slope, grabbing tufts of grass, and Quirke glanced around to see hundreds of people tumbling back down the hill, left, right and centre. That much was a bit biblical. He fell asleep in the back of the car on the way home but woke up when they stopped for a minute. In the dark, Luke told Doherty to ask somebody for directions. It had been a long day. By the time he rolled up the window the passenger had forgotten whatever he was told.

The Irish Fight Clubs

The Irish Fight Clubs

The first credit on Na Chéad Fight Clubs means ‘Based on an idea by Michael McMahon and research by John Flynn’ (see above). In late 2007 I submitted a written proposal for a TV history documentary to an Irish production company that took it up with enthusiasm.

For a year or so it seemed I was in the loop. Then silence descended again, due to funding issues, I thought, until I discovered by accident in April 2010 that the thing had been commissioned by the Irish-language channel TG4 and was already in production. My father happened to be visiting an old friend who had whitewashed buildings in his yard when a location scout knocked on the door.

Legal advisers were then called in – a single letter from ours had the production company meekly offering to settle – and happily the project soon got put back on the rails, contractually. Plus we got paid. As did their very expensive lawyer. The legal lesson for all concerned was that copyright isn’t just about plagiarism, it also covers adaptation. Méaracha dóite is the Irish phrase for burnt fingers.

fight club beach

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Planet of the Naked Stranger

Planet of the Naked Stranger

…the Sixties trip viewed through the prism of three period classics: The Naked Ape (1967); Planet of the Apes (1968); and Naked Came the Stranger (1969). That two of the texts have a Taylor only adds to the minor challenge of quote attribution.

“You don’t seem too cut up about it…
It’s too late for a wake. She’s been dead nearly a year.”

“Ah, yes – the young ape with a shovel.”

“When a wife smashes a vase on the floor it is, of course, really her husband’s head that lies there, broken into small pieces.”

“Dammit, Taylor, if you break my chair,” he roared. But they didn’t hear him. For a moment Taylor lay there. “In a wheelchair,” his boss said softly. “That’s something, Taylor.”

“Taylor, don’t treat him that way!
Why not?
It’s humiliating!
The way you humiliated me? All of you? You led me around on a leash!
That was different. We thought you were inferior.
Now you know better.”

“I’d forgotten there was more to life than mowing a lawn.”

“Well, Taylor, we’re all fugitives now.
Do you have any weapons, any guns?
The best, but we won’t need them.
I’m glad to hear it. I want one anyway.”

“A belief in the validity of the acquisition of knowledge and a scientific understanding of the world we live in, the creation and appreciation of aesthetic phenomena in all their many forms, and the broadening and deepening of our range of experiences in day-to-day living, is rapidly becoming the ‘religion’ of our time.”

“It lacks the element of challenge, luck and risk so essential to the hunting male.”

“There’s got to be an answer.
Don’t look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find.”

“Doctor, I’d like to kiss you goodbye.
All right, but you’re so damned ugly.”

“…faster, quicker, faster, needful… lost in immense, billowy softness and riotous colours and roaring winds; he was the sand, the sea and the star-pierced sky.”

“What will he find out there, Doctor?
His destiny.”

“It was easy enough to decipher loins, hores, bores, penny kings, panders, tapers and leapolds, but almost impossible to be certain of the species referred to as bettle twigs, the skipping worm, the otamus or the Coca Cola beast.”

“She was driving, floating actually, toward her new house, floating past the freshly butchered lawns dotted with the twisted golden butts that were the year’s first fallen leaves, past the homes built low and the swimming pools and the kempt hedges and all the trappings that went into the unincorporated village of King’s Neck.”

“The threat-faces of cars have become progressively improved and refined, imparting to their drivers a more and more aggressive image.”

“Ernie found what Cervantes and Milton had only sought. He thought the fillings in his teeth would melt.”

“Her skin, the colour of India tea at summer’s end, flowed nicely over a slender frame.”

“Imagine me needing someone. Back on Earth I never did. Oh, there were women. Lots of women. Lots of lovemaking but no love. You see, that was the kind of world we’d made. So I left, because there was no one to hold me there.”

“She knew she had aroused the creature in the torn, paint-spattered T-shirt.”

“In my world, when I left it, only kids your age wore beards.”

“He simply couldn’t. (He could.)”

“It is the white colour we have to watch for here: this spells activity.”

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“I’m pretty handy with this.
Of that I’m sure. All my life I’ve awaited your coming and dreaded it.”

“Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!”

“With that he thrust Gillian back onto the bed and made a flying leap with the clear intent of pinning her down to stay. But she swerved to one side and the holy man, stiff with lust, came down standard-first on the bedpost. For a full two minutes he did not rise; he lay there, crumpled up, hissing incoherently.”

“Anti-contact behaviour enables us to keep our number of acquaintances down to the correct level for our species.”

“She stretched the tiny member to its full length, and it seemed to shrink even more in embarrassment.”

“You are right, I have always known about man. From the evidence, I believe his wisdom must walk hand and hand with his idiocy. His emotions must rule his brain. He must be a warlike creature who gives battle to everything around him, even himself.”

“Our fundamental biological tendency, inherited directly from our monkey and ape ancestors, is to submit ourselves to an all-powerful, dominant member of the group”

“The pre-copulatory patterns are brief and usually consist of no more than a few facial expressions and simple vocalizations.”

“… faster and faster they communicated. Fingers on skin, teeth on skin, then great shudders of total communication, and explosions of understanding.”

“The screams were not meant for him, they were meant for the other girls in the audience.”

“If these non-stop grooming sessions are to be successful, a sufficiently large number of guests must be invited in order to prevent new contacts from running out before the party is over. This explains the mysterious minimum size that is always automatically recognized as essential for gatherings of this kind.”

“Then methodically she drained him a second time, emptied him, calmed him and gentled him.”

“On this planet, it’s easy.”

“And that completes my final report until we reach touchdown. We’re now on full automatic, in the hands of the computers. I have tucked my crew in for the long sleep and I’ll be joining them soon. In less than an hour, we’ll finish our sixth month out of Cape Kennedy. Six months in deep space – by our time, that is… the Earth has aged nearly seven hundred years since we left it, while we’ve aged hardly at all. Maybe so. This much is probably true – the men who sent us on this journey are long since dead and gone. You who are reading me now are a different breed – I hope a better one. I leave the twentieth century with no regrets.”

“She was at that moment gently massaging him at his point of greatest altitude with a bottle of pink Johnson & Johnson baby lotion.”

naked came the stranger