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Going Radio GaGa with Queen – Brenda Drumm

Writing.ie | Magazine | Monday Miscellany

Brenda Drumm

brenda drumm

Sunday 5 July 1986 was the day. Slane Castle was the place. Queen in concert was the occasion and my first ever big outdoor concert.

I was 17 and I had been nagging my parents for months to let me go to SLANE. In those days it was THE gig of every year here in Ireland.

To be honest I was completely stunned when my parents caved in and said I could go. There was a catch; in fact there were several conditions to their yes:

  1. I had to pay for the ticket myself
  1. I had to go with at least three people they knew and trusted
  1. If I came home drunk it would be my first and last trip to Slane

I decided I could cope with all those conditions. The ticket was £14.50 including a 50p booking fee. The bus was £10 return. I did the maths and decided that at least four babysitting sessions would be needed to pay for the concert and travel and maybe one or two extra for ‘refreshments’.

As soon as the tickets went on sale I bought mine. QUEEN was splashed across the top of the ticket in big gold letters. Harp Lager was the main sponsor. I had ticket number 1911270 and it said:

Slane Castle, Saturday 5th July 1986 – 2.00pm Gates open 1.00pm

No refunds No exchanges.

queen ticket 1986

As if I was going to want to exchange it for all the money in the world.

I was going to the concert with loads of people I knew but my buddy pack (for the benefit of my parents) included Colette, Lynn and Finola. We travelled from Cavan town by bus very early the morning of the concert. Ridiculously early considering we were only one county away and the concert did not start until 2pm.

The full line up for Slane that year was: The Fountainhead, The Bangles, Chris Rea and Queen.  The Fountainhead were amazing and I remember them as my favourite act of the day. They really got the crowd going and there was a great sense of Irish pride that they were supporting International acts like Queen and the Bangles.

It rained on and off for most of the day. I was covered in muck. When the sun came out it burned us to a crisp and then half an hour later the rain would fall in sheets cooling us down. Nothing could dampen our spirits though. The atmosphere was amazing and people were singing Queen songs in between the different acts, such was the anticipation.

The Bangles were great. The lads in particular were in heaven when The Bangles came on in all their short, tight gear. They sounded great too.

Chris Rea shook the stadium with his wonderful guitar solos. He created a Woodstock atmosphere when he played engaging with the crowd, encouraging us provide backing vocals on each song.

The grounds of the castle were a mud bath because of all the rain and at one point I looked around and up the hill to see two guys acting like human bowling balls rolling down the hill of Slane and knocking people over, like skittles, into the mud. I shouldn’t have laughed, it was horrible but very funny!!

Queen finally came on stage to a roar that surely must have been heard all the way back in Cavan by my parents. I really fancied Roger Taylor at that time and I was desperate for a good look at him. We were up the front in the crush of the crowd – something I would never be brave enough to do now.

Queen played to the crowd and they had us eating out of their hands. When Radio Ga Ga came on everyone in the grounds did the hand motions like the crowd in the Radio Ga Ga Video. We had seen it done so many times by Queen in their video on MTUSA and at Live Aid in 1985. That was a stand-out moment for me.

Then they turned to their older music and the wonderful Bohemian Rhapsody and the crowd went crazy. Queen played a shorter set than I would have liked but it was very clear to me and to everyone there that we were in the presence of greatness – Freddie Mercury especially.

It is a concert I will never forget and I am glad that I have my ticket and a little note in my diary to remind me of that day when as a 17 year old I fulfilled a certain rite of passage by attending my first ever Slane gig.

Brenda’s Diary – 5 July 1986:

brenda drumm in 1986

Amazing day. I have never had as much fun in my whole life. We arrived to Slane hours before the concert started. We had to walk miles. It was raining and I was regretting my choice of clothes – a bright luminous yellow short skirt (shorts which looked like a skirt) and a white vest top with luminous yellow trim. I had a rain coat but I was soaked through within an hour.

We made our way up the front of the venue for the first band which was The Fountainhead. They were absolutely brilliant. The Bangles were great. Me and the girls lost each other for a while which I didn’t mind as I was introduced to a gorgeous guy called Gareth. I danced to all of Chris Rea’s songs with him. The girls found me and dragged me away from him, leaving me with just his Queen t-shirt.

When Queen came on we went mad. We went Radio Ga Ga.

It was the best day of my life.

We arrived home very late – knackered, mucky and a wee bit full of drink (sorry Mam and Dad).

End of diary entry

About the author

(c) Brenda Drumm, June 2011

Brenda Drumm is a writer and blogger originally from Belturbet in Co Cavan but now living in Newbridge in Co Kildare with her husband and two children. Brenda worked in journalism and publishing for 15 years and she now works full time as a Communications Officer. She produces and presents a weekly religion, reflection and social issues programme on Kildare’s KFM and she is a regular contributor to Friday Fiction KFM’s weekly Arts programme.

Brenda is coordinator of an adult creative writing group in Newbride and from June 11 will be coordinator of a new creative writing group for young adults. Brenda has had poetry, short stories and prose published and she is currently finishing a non-fiction book relating to her diagnosis with a rare form of cancer four years ago. In 2006 Brenda produced and edited a book to commemorate 40 years of world communications day in the Catholic Church called ‘Communicating the Gospel’ (published by Veritas). Brenda does all of the above when she is not too busy living in the virtual world of social media so naturally you can catch up with her there as @brendadrumm on Twitter or Brenda Drumm on Facebook. Her blog is www.adifferentdrumm.blogspot.com

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