It was the summer of 1995 and REM, then one of the world’s biggest bands, had just played Murrayfield stadium, in Edinburgh. The show had gone well and the Scottish Rugby Union, the stadium’s owners, said it was not ruling out the possibility of further rock gigs taking place there.

''It would be nice to think the new-look Murrayfield could become a major badly-needed venue on the east coast”, said the SRU’s marketing manager. “We haven't ruled out the possibility of a further big-name concert next year”. Despite the presence of some 46,000 REM fans, the condition of the Murrayfield pitch did not seem to be too bad.

But not everyone was happy. One local councillor said she had received a barrage of complaints and had strongly opposed the concert when it came before the council for licensing approval. "Murrayfield", she told reporters, “is unsuitable for this kind of activity because of noise levels. Out-of-town venues such as Ingliston are far more appropriate”. A council spokeswoman said however that only a handful of complaints had been received from members of the public.

The stadium had previously hosted concerts by David Bowie (June 1983) and U2 (August 1987) - and both were major events. It was evident that, as the SRU marketing manager pointed out, Edinburgh and the surrounding area really did need a large-scale outdoor venue in addition to Ingliston.

U2 in 1987 at MurrayfieldU2 in 1987 at Murrayfield (Image: free)

Vic Galloway, the well-known radio and TV host and DJ, notes in his book, Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop, that it was in the 1980s that sports arenas began to be seriously looked at as a genuine alternative to more traditional venues.

In such arenas, Galloway writes, “you could create the atmosphere of a national football or rugby game, and make an extremely lucrative one-off spectacle for the groups in question … As the quality of sound-systems improved, security tightened and the necessary toilet and food areas were developed, realisation dawned that outdoor Scottish gigs could actually work”.

David Bowie’s 1983 show, part of his worldwide Serious Moonlight tour, took place on an unforgettable, rain-drenched evening, a few weeks after the release of his studio album, Let’s Dance. A preview of the concert in the Glasgow Herald said that, despite a recent run of media interviews, Bowie remained “pop’s most enigmatic, most unfathomable artist … Without doubt he is the most influential figure in popular music”.

Glasgow music journalist Billy Sloan interviewed Bowie backstage at Murrayfield, and in his recent book One Love, One Life, says of him: “Bowie looked incredible with his Princess Diana-style bleached blonde hair and powder-blue suit which became his trademark around the release of Let’s Dance, the most commercially successful record of his career”.

U2 sold out the venue just over in August 1987 in the course of their Joshua Tree tour, playing to some 50,000 Scottish fans. That year, wrote the Glasgow Herald’s reviewer David Belcher, “U2 are Planet Earth’s undisputed masters of the big rock noise, unsurpassed by the other megastar megabores, people like Genesis and Bowie”.

Simple Minds were due to play Murrayfield in August 1989, at a time when the Glasgow band were on a run of unprecedented chart and critical acclaim. But the group, strong supporters of the anti-apartheid movement, pulled out when the SRU failed to meet a deadline to reconsider a controversial decision to allow players to go to South Africa for the centenary celebrations of that country’s Rugby Board. Alternative venues for the concert including Tynecastle, Easter Road and Ingliston were considered, but in the end, Meadowbank stadium was chosen.


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This meant that the REM concert in July 1995 was the first to be staged at Murrayfield since U2 in 1987. Tickets were priced at £23.75. One hundred and seventy tickets for block 15 of the west stand had to be cancelled and reprinted after the originals were stolen.

The American band had been due to play two nights at Glasgow’s SECC that April, but those and numerous other concerts had to be cancelled after drummer Bill Berry suffered a brain aneurysm stage. Berry recovered, however, and subsequent dates on the tour, which promoted their latest album, Monster, were a success.

Eight environmental health officers monitored noise levels within Murrayfield, and the SRU said the results would be compared with the Bowie and U2 concerts “to see what difference the new enclosed stadium has made.’’ The REM show sparked an impressively long list of concerts by some of the world’s biggest stars, up to and including last weekend’s extravaganzas staged by Taylor Swift.

Last year alone saw gigs by Beyonce, Harry Styles and Bruce Springsteen.

The Eagles have played Murrayfield, as have Madonna, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, One Direction, Robbie Williams, Bon Jovi and the Rolling Stones. The Stones gig there in July 2018 was the last time that drummer Charlie Watts played live with the band in Scotland.

A previous Stones concert at the stadium, in June 1999, began so late that a journalist who was facing a 9pm deadline for her review for a London newspaper could only describe the first two songs, one of which she didn't even recognise. “I spent three-quarters of the review analysing the surprisingly pink stage-set. It read like a Stones review penned by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen”, she later recalled.

When Celine Dion played Murrayfield that same year, a Sunday Herald critic wrote: “When the cameras feeding the huge on-stage screens turn to the crowds, there are scores of rather embarrassed-looking blokes shuffling nervously while their partners' eyes burn with the evangelical light of love that is a Celine Dion concert”.

Taylor Swift at MurrayfieldTaylor Swift at Murrayfield (Image: free)

One of the highest-profile of all the shows ever staged at Murrayfield took place in July 2005. Live8 - The Final Push was one of a series of concerts held around the world, organised by Bob Geldof to highlight poverty in Africa and third-world debt, prior to a meeting of G8 leaders at Gleneagles.

Scottish stars including The Proclaimers, Travis, Texas, Wet Wet Wet, Annie Lennox all took part, as did Snow Patrol, Youssou N'Dour and Neneh Cherry, McFly, and Jamie Cullen and Natasha Bedingfield. Bono played with The Corrs. Celebrities such as Claudia Schiffer and George Clooney made brief appearances on the stage. The main headliner was James Brown, the ‘Godfather of Soul’, who would die in December the following year, aged 73.

Geldof himself received a rapturous reception from the 50,000-strong crowd. He was approached backstage by the radio journalist Colin Mackay, who asked him for an interview. "Who the **** are you?" asked Sir Bob. Unfazed, Colin replied: "I'm Radio Clyde. We used to play your records when you were famous.”

Geldof, it’s said, agreed immediately to an interview.