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Youth & Young Manhood Part 1

Joe Ambrose, on the 25th anniversary of a Rolling Stones show at Dublin's Slane Castle, looks back while not looking backwards

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by Joe Ambrose, Literary Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: July, 2008
Jagger took Richards by the hand and pointed to something he'd seen out in the darkness. We could hear them laughing as they returned to their jeep and drove back to where they'd come from.
by Joe Ambrose, Literary Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: July, 2008
Jagger took Richards by the hand and pointed to something he'd seen out in the darkness. We could hear them laughing as they returned to their jeep and drove back to where they'd come from.

Stan studied accountancy before he became Entertainments Officer at UCD and I adopted him as a blonde protege. When I took over the Irish Writer's Co Op two years later I needed somebody to administer the place with me so I turned to Stan.

Stan came into the Co Op offices one wet February 1982 Dublin day to tell me that he'd just been talking with Denis Desmond, whom we sub-let an office to. Denis was a rock promoter handling all the 1-2000 capacity gigs which went on in town then. Stan said that Denis had secured the rights, despite stiff opposition, to put on the Rolling Stones at Slane Castle, a pretty north-of-Dublin location complete with castle, rolling hills and river valley.

Summer came around and Desmond was selling the concessions on the gig. Did Stan and me want the hot dog concession? I didn't but Stan, an accountant despite Dylanesque curly blonde hair and funky t-shirts, did. So we rifled the Co Op's bank account, fat with Arts Council funds, to pay for the tinned sausages, bread rolls, cookers, ketchup, van, and other detritus involved in putatively supplying 60,000 Stones' fans with a dish I was not particularly fond of.

The gig was on the Sunday so the deal was that we'd remove the money from the Co Op account Friday afternoon and return it Monday morning, pocketing the in-between profits. That worked out pretty much OK. We didn't make as much as we thought we would but we made something.

We had to go on-site the evening before the show as there was a twenty four hour security lockdown leading up to the moment that the Stones hit the stage. To work our concession, Stan brought together the posse of smart girls and pretty boys who'd been his clique back in his Ents Officer days. We were all to meet up at the Co Op offices mid-afternoon on Saturday, when Stan would turn up with the hired van and drive us to Slane.

At the last minute there was a minor change in plan. My Aunt Mary rang my mother (her sister) and said that my cousin Corvin, then fifteen, was determined to go see the Stones and that wild horses (this was the term she actually used) wouldn't stop him from going. He was going to drive all the way from their south of Ireland farm to Slane, ticketless, and get into the gig. Mary was horrified, knew about my hot dog enterprise, and wanted me to bring Corvin with me. I liked my Aunt Mary and she was my mother's best pal so I couldn't refuse. In any case the proposal was that Corvin would pick me up in Dublin in the farm car and drive us to Slane. I had yet to develop my subsequent taste for van traveling so the car sounded like a good idea.

Late that night, reunited with Stan's gang, when the gas cookers had been set up, we had an on-site barbecue. Strictly no hot dogs. We all knew one another very well so there was a great deal of affectionate conversation as joints and cans of beer were passed around. The girls were nice to Corvin, whose first trip away from the farm that was. Eventually everybody went to sleep except for me and Stan. I was too excited for sleep and, anyway, I'd never slept in a sleeping bag, in the open air, or on the ground. And I never have.

We strolled through the site, illuminated by the half-mile long deserted stage which was entirely lit up, glowing in the dark like the Close Encounters spaceship.

Around 4am we were sitting on the hill opposite the stage, bright summer moon reflected in the river, when a jeep crawled out of the surrounding darkness and drove up to the side of the production area. Jagger and Richards got out and walked up the steps onto the stage where they separated, strutting around their space like petulant adolescent boys. Jagger paced the front of stage area like a cautious panther. Richards was more nonchalant. Once Jagger took Richards by the hand and pointed to something he'd seen out in the darkness. We could hear them laughing as they returned to their jeep and drove back to where they'd come from.

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Joe Ambrose
Literary Editor

Joe Ambrose has written 14 books, including Chelsea Hotel Manhattan and The Fenian Reader. Joe is currently working on his next book, Look at Us Now - The Life and Death of Muammar Ghadaffi, which is an expanded version of a story first published in the anthology CUT UP! Visit Joe's website for all the latest info: JoeAmbrose.co.uk.

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