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Rolling Stones threatened to cancel Slane Castle gig over IRA bombings

Keith Richards letter reveals legendary band nearly pulled out of 1982 concert

By Claire McNeilly

Published 09/04/2016

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards perform at the legendary 1982 Slane gig
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards perform at the legendary 1982 Slane gig
Belfast Telegraph evening edition, July 24, 1982

The Rolling Stones threatened to cancel their legendary 1982 Slane concert at the last minute because of the IRA's bombing campaign in London, it can be revealed.

The world's biggest rock 'n' roll band ultimately agreed to be the first international act to headline at the iconic Co Meath venue after assurances that all profits would go to the victims of the Hyde Park and Regent's Park bombings on July 20 - atrocities that had occurred just four days before the concert. In the end, 100,000 fans attended the landmark event, which was promoted by Northern Ireland company Aiken Promotions and also featured the J Geils Band, The Chieftains and George Thorogood and the Destroyers.

It set the tone for Slane to become one of the world's foremost concert venues, later hosting the likes of David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Queen and Bruce Springsteen.

The hitherto unknown cancellation threat by the Stones emerged courtesy of a letter from guitarist Keith Richards to the group's European Tour promoter which is one of more than 500 original artefacts on display at the group's new exhibition at London's Saatchi Gallery, which opened this week. Richards was clearly angry at the devastation caused to his home city, when the Provisionals detonated two bombs during military ceremonies in the central London parks.

The explosions killed 11 military personnel - four soldiers from the Blues & Royals at Hyde Park and seven bandsmen from the Royal Green Jackets at Regent's Park.

Seven of the Blues and Royals' horses were also either killed in the attack or had to be destroyed later because of the severity of their injuries.

A Saatchi Gallery spokeswoman told the Belfast Telegraph the short missive begins "Dear Bill" - almost certainly the legendary rock concert promoter Bill Graham.

Hyde Park is a place clearly close to Richards' heart. In 1969, The Rolling Stones famously performed a free concert at the venue two days after the death of founding member Brian Jones, with the gig also serving as the introduction to new guitarist Mick Taylor.

The veteran band also recorded a live album there in 2013.

Regent's Park, meanwhile, was the setting for the Stones' celebrated 1964 photoshoot by renowned English photographer Terry O'Neill.

The Stones returned to Slane Castle, which is owned by the Earl of Mount Charles, Henry Conyngham, for a concert on August 18, 2007.

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