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  • News

COMMENT: Disco reunion has us reeling in the years

Monday, 4th September, 2017 7:59am

Story by Tony McCullagh
COMMENT: Disco reunion has us reeling in the years

The 50th anniversary reunion of The Grove was a huge success. PHOTO: DARREN KINSELLA

COMMENT: Disco reunion has us reeling in the years

The 50th anniversary reunion of The Grove was a huge success. PHOTO: DARREN KINSELLA

NO MATTER where you grew up in Dublin, we all have memories of teenage discos, many of which have since attained legendary status.

From ‘Wes’ and Mary’s on the Southside to Suttonians and the Cricket Club north of the Liffey, these institutions were simple, almost innocent events when compared to today’s social scene.

 A DJ, a double deck, some flashing lights and a hall full of sweaty, hormonal teenagers is all that was required to ensure a night to remember (or forget!).

Yet these events helped shape the hopes and dreams of suburban adolescent lives, informing our music tastes and giving us the (sometimes Dutch) courage to talk to members of the opposite sex.

If you grew up on the Northside of Dublin and, like me, are of a certain vintage, chances are you went to the alternative disco at The Grove at some stage of your formative teenage years.

First based in Belgrove Football Club in Clontarf, the iconic disco relocated to St Paul’s College in Raheny in 1975 after the original venue burnt down. 

 In recent weeks, a two-night reunion disco was held in the school to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Grove. Not surprisingly, given the place it holds in countless hearts, both nights sold-out.

The lead up to the event caused a buzz of activity on social media, with nostalgic anecdotes widely shared. Our report about The Grove reunion was one of the most popular online stories ever on this newspaper’s website.

The Grove was a well-known institution between 1967 and 1997. Despite the change in venues, the one constant throughout those years was Cecil Nolan,  the DJ – a man personally responsible for influencing the music tastes of generations of teenagers: from the swamp rock of Credence Clearwater Revival in the ’60s, through the Led Zeppelin classics of the ‘70s, the reinvigorated Bowie of the ‘80s and the grunge of Pearl Jam and Nirvana in the ‘90s, Cecil rarely missed a beat when it came to capturing the sounds of the time.

The highlight of any night at The Grove was the slow set, not only for the chance it gave you to get up close and personal with those you fancied (and were too shy or sober to talk to in school), but for the music itself. It’s still impossible to listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Freebird’ without thinking of The Grove. As the song would morph from ballad to rock anthem, the lads would cast aside their dance partners like rag-dolls to engage in a frenzied bout of collective head-banging, covering the floor with teenage sweat and dandruff. 

In all the years I went to The Grove or Suttonians, I never once encountered trouble, nor was I ever offered drugs. That’s not to say there wasn’t the occasional scrap going on in some corner of the hall; situations that were quickly diffused by the ‘bouncers’. 

As for drink? Well, yes, there may have been a few cans involved. Thank God for Polo mints.

The Grove closed its doors in 1997 but it lives on forever in our memories and record collections. Following the success of the recent reunion, I suspect we haven’t seen the last of Cecil just yet.

Read the digital editions of the Dublin People Northside East, Northside West & Southside here