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.


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.

Doors nostalgia

Doors nostalgia

Photo © New York Times



Saw Ray Manzarek at HQ. M. got a couple of free tickets by phoning in about an Irish Times promotional offer. Vast quantities of alcohol were consumed by the crowd. The references to cosmic energy must have been over their heads e.g. “Play us a f*cking song.”

The quotient of cool was surprisingly high, as was the number of fine women. Blame the new venue. On Jim’s father’s desire that he join the Navy: he asked the audience to imagine Jim Morrison in charge of a battleship (“Hey man, point those guns over there ’n’ blow those suckers up”).

There was a nice instrumental version of The Crystal Ship. A music lesson on how they wrote Light My Fire.

Man I need a beer. Can somebody get me a beer?” The lad who handed him a pint of lager was named on the spot as the new roadie. He drank it fairly fast too. “Now can I have a cigarette?” He got one. He got a third item too and played to the gallery with it. “Man this is good shit.” Impromptu Back Door Man followed.

One wannabe black-leather demon invaded the stage but was really more interested in the crowd’s reaction, holding up his hand to give the peace sign as he was being hauled off. The crowd roaring a perfect rendition of the last verses of Light My Fire was quite memorable.

He performed some of Summer’s Almost Gone as part of his depiction of the famous scene on the beach in Venice in August 1965, when Morrison introduced him to Moonlight Drive. He described “Jim, in cut-off jeans, kicking up diamonds at the water’s edge”.

Beside me, a large black-clad Frenchman with a shaved head and a goatee had ordered a Black Bush whiskey but instead got handed a cocktail from the tray of one of the army of waitresses. He turned to me, perplexed.

What ze f*ck is ziss?

A Black Russian.”

Falco Calling

Falco Calling

Photo source (above):


In 2013 Youtube revealed a video of Falco performing Vienna Calling with an orchestra and band in Wiener Neustadt in 1994. This concert was meant to be captured as a live showpiece but they screwed up the recording of the orchestra on the night and it took until ten years after his death for it to be reconstructed for release. A big professional disappointment at the time, one supposes, but in all likelihood he grasped the bathos too, having described Rock Me Amadeus as the worst thing that had ever happened to him.

Vienna Calling is witty and cynical (“Du kannst auf mich verzichten, nur auf Luxus nicht”) (‘You can do without me, just not without luxury’) and the theme of international hookers may even be metaphorical but the verse that addresses Vienna itself is plain enough.

Wien, Wien
Du kennst mich up, kennst mich down
Du kennst mich
Nur Wien, nur Wien, du nur allein
Wohin sind deine Frauen?

In the biopic Falco: Verdammt wir leben noch, the actor is wrong, he belongs in an indie band, mumbling like a stoned vampire, and the project lacks charisma. Falco didn’t talk like that. Misguided efforts to recreate concert appearances do not help either. Falco was larger than life but it’s no wonder he looked like shit in the Donauinsel concert of 1993, in front of a hundred thousand people. According to the film he was practically comatose beforehand. At least for the symphonic concert a year later he looked much better, back in a suit, though still ten years older than he was.

Junge Römer really comes into its own too in the symphonic version, when it gains a kind of wistful pathos. It had been a bit too Bowie-ish for the Eighties time that was in it but the single nonetheless made the Austrian top ten and number two in Spain. The song only came into its own in popularity after the relative failure of its initial release, whereas Jeanny became just horribly ironic after Priklopil and Fritzl. Imagining a lady killer for a pop hit is one thing but he couldn’t imagine inflicting a living death, like they did.

There are gems elsewhere in the Euro trash. In Falco’s case, the most basic requirement for rising from the trash seems to have been a sense of humour, which he most definitely had. The Sound of Musik is the funny side of the rubbish. The Japanese number one with Brigitte Nielsen is pure trash, though, and done for the money, as he freely admitted in a pleasant 1996 interview with Heike Makatsch. In that interview he also indicated that the bathos of losing an empire was the basis of the sarcasm of the Viennese sense of humour known as Wiener Schmäh.

Apart from the junk, the wonderfully sleazy Wiener Blut is a dance record that rocks in more ways than one. The cynicism of the funky Monarchy Now remains resolutely liberal. The apocalyptic Ganz Wien is very good and really comes alive in the lush symphonic version. In the seventeenth minute of the film his character is writing Ganz Wien when he cracks it, the contradiction between speaking German every day and trying to reproduce the English language of pop culture. At such times the film is oddly moving, at others just a bit crass.

There are interesting pieces of non-musical Falco footage on Youtube too, such as a 1992 appearance on a German chat show. Falco Angriffe – ‘Falco Attacks’ – is the name of the longest clip. It is hosted by a woolly-haired chap who apparently graduated to being a sports presenter. Across the round table sits a motley crew of arseholes who presume to try to bait him. These include a few politicians, though Falco refuses to comment on German politics, adding that Austrian contributions had not always been successful there and that each country had its own problems. There is also a bespectacled professor named Ringel, who only wakes up during proceedings, and a woman called Alida Gundlach who gets a cheap laugh from the cheap studio audience by saying she understands why his wedding lasted longer than his marriage, while the glad eyes and intermittent giggling reveal what she’s really thinking.


All the while Falco keeps his cool, his only props being a cigarette and a glass of red wine as he wonderfully takes the piss out of them all, answering a question about Jörg Haider by talking in double entendres about Alfons Haider, a gay cabaret artist in Vienna. At the end the presenter asks him if he will just continue to ‘ride the decadence wave’ until the year 2000. Mein Gott wir haben die Dekadenz gepachtet, in Wien… Herr Professor weiss das (‘My God we have the lease on decadence, in Vienna… Herr Professor knows that’).

Another clip finds him in London near the end of the Thatcher era. It’s a rambling interview shot at night, partly on the street, in King’s Cross, where Falco calls over a tanked-up Geordie passer-by.

Interviewer: “Do you know this guy?”
Geordie: “Never seen ’im befo’ in me life.”

A policeman in the background won’t remain uninvolved, probably due to the SWP member holding up a “Break the Tory Poll Tax” poster behind them. The Geordie goes on to tell Falco in his Newcastle accent that his poll tax bill is £640. Let’s hope he never paid it. In the interview, when he’s not clowning around, Falco explains that he has come to London for inspiration and innovation. Despite the fact that his lyrical attempts in English rarely if ever share his flair in his native language – in a 1991 interview his mother said his school reports stated he was good at English but very good at German – he even says he feels more connected to the Anglo-American Sprachraum than the German one. As it happens the only flair in English shown in Männer des Westens is the phrase “McRonald’s Circus” but, had he been Irish, he would have grown up between England and America and probably not bothered with any other language, even his own.

Instead he says, Nichts ist tiefer als die deutsche Sprache und nichts seichter als die deutsche Rede (‘Nothing is deeper than the German language and nothing shallower than German speech’). That seems a very Austrian thing to say – Karl Kraus had already written something very similar – and the contradiction mentioned earlier remained incompletely resolved but there’s a kind of grass-is-greener innocence in the reason he gave for being there, in London, like someone believing in the Sixties. On the other hand he also finds the English funny before going on to remark on all the peculiar British symbols he’d seen in Australia. Moreover, the deep, genuine laugh, as displayed in London, is totally absent from Verdammt wir leben noch. Hans Hölzel was one of the boys. Alles klar, Herr Kommissar.

Wiener Blut 002