It was the 14th August 1983. A sleepy afternoon in Phoenix Park, Dublin. My brother Vincent, school friend, Milo and myself were squashed together among the masses as the golden sun started to take charge of the sky. We shoved and pushed our way through the crowd to improve our vantage point. My sister, Leona and boyfriend Kevin, found their own independence and we knew not to disturb them. Even if we had wanted to meet them again we would never have found them until the end. Those were the days when we had no mobile phones. When you got lost you got lost!
The sense of anticipation was electrifying and my heart was racing. I had been counting the days since I bought the tickets. For the previous five years every single Thursday night at 7.20 p.m. I had assembled in front of a television screen. It was almost like a religious ritual. I can still see the television on its high stand in the television room of St. Macartan’s College. Thursday night was Top of the Pops night. The boarders had to dash the corridors and risk their lives jumping the ‘big’ stairs to ensure they got seats in the front row. If you were a first year you never qualified for those seats as such privileges were the preserve of the senior students. We watched Blondie, The Jam, The Clash, Wham!, Dexys, Prince, Bowie, Human League, Boomtown Rats and an endless array of superstars as they bounced around in the studio miming to their hits. Their guitars never seemed to be plugged in and their vocal cords seemed to translate perfectly through their microphones no matter what angle they approached them. Indeed, sometimes their vocal cords beamed perfectly without the mike at all! We always hoped that Legs and Co wouldn’t get one of the best songs of the night because they pranced around like people who needed help. Those were the years when we bought Smash Hits magazine for the posters and NME for credibility. Music lovers talked about albums, charts and concerts. The word ‘download’ wasn’t in the dictionary yet.
In the Phoenix Park that evening we were about the witness our coming of age. Before our eyes our heroes would appear in their skin – blood, sweat and tears. The menu on offer that evening was phenomenal. Unrepeatable. It included Eurythmics, Big Country, Simple Minds and U2 as they basked in the glory of their War album. The crowd swayed. You had to watch yourself or you could be minced like meat. Milo had a big bushy head of curls. He looked like Art Garfunkle. Vincent also had big hair (still does!) and had ambitions to join the Boomtown Rats. ‘I hope U2 do Sunday Bloody Sunday’ I shouted but no one could hear me as Annie Lennox roared ‘Here Comes the Rain Again”. Actually the rain never came.
I was there for U2 but ensured we were on time to hear the other three mega bands on the bill. The atmosphere engulfed me. Simple Minds were the surprise package for me and rivalled U2 with a stunning live performance. I bought their album ‘New Gold Dream’ later that week in Conway’s Emporium in Carrickmacross.
U2 did sing Sunday Bloody Sunday ‘There’s been a lot of talk about this song, maybe too much talk’ shouted Bono ‘ This is not a rebel song – this is Sunday Bloody Sunday!’. I remember these sentences clearly as he carried a huge white flag around the stage. I had U2’s first album Boy on vinyl and on cassette. Cassette music was as portable as music got those years and a record player in a dormitory would never have worked out. I had belted out every track on this album for years in a conversion crusade of every boarder within ear’s reach. Now my heroes were belting their hits out to me. It was an amazing night. The only regret I have was not going to the loo before I got on the bus. My kidneys were tested in a way that they would never last nowadays.
Today I am savouring that special day from 1983. Scientific studies into to inner-happiness suggest that we should savour golden moments from our past more often. By working harder at learning to savour positive memories, we can cheer ourselves up when we’re feeling blue. Studies show that savouring positive events from the past is correlated with a greater sense of well-being, greater happiness, and even better health.
Part of life’s reality is its imperfection. Recalling special days from our lives re-energises us into the future and cultivates a sense of gratitude, which serves us well. Photographs or video clips are one way of reinforcing positive and uplifting memories. We can also store mental images and return to them to help us focus more clearly on the event and reap the positive feelings of those moments.
I met a woman who told me that she sends herself to sleep every night by recalling the happy times in her life. It probably helps her sleep more soundly. As I write this article the music of Simple Minds belts throughout my home. It vibrates through every room. I’m on my own so the music is very loud. I find myself back in the Phoenix Park. It’s 2017 but it feels like 1983 and I am energised for the weekend!
(c) Shane Martin