Monday, December 21, 2020

Death of a teenybopper at the White City

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Years ago, one of my favourite trivia questions was to ask which stadium used in the 1966 World Cup no longer exited.

The answer was the White City stadium in West London, used because Wembley was needed for a greyhound racing that evening. The game held there saw Uruguay beat France 2-1.

Since then, however, both Ayresome Park and Roker Park, which between them hosted an entire group, have been demolished too. So the question no longer works.

In checking this, however, I have come across a sad occurrence I had quite forgotten.

The White City Stadium was built to be the home of the 1908 London Olympics. From 1927 until it closed in 1984 (it was demolished the following year), it was chiefly used for greyhound racing, though Queen's Park Rangers did have a couple of short spells playing there.

Other uses included pop concerts, and it was at one of these that a tragedy happened.

On 26 May 1974 David Cassidy, at 24 still a teenybopper sensation, played the White City. A crush at the front of the stage injured some 800 people and 30 were taken to hospital. One of them, 14-year-old Bernadette Whelan, died there four days later.

Dave Thompson on Goldmine relates the evening's events with verve:

Cassidy left the stage and the PA kicked into whatever lightweight pop was to hand in a futile attempt to calm the crowd. And now the tape becomes surreal. 
Against a backdrop of "The Wombling Song," the debut hit by a bunch of litter-collecting rodents, crushed and battered fans were calling, begging, screaming for help. One of the St John’s men later compared the scene to the Blitz.

The Seventies were a strange, strange decade and much nearer the second world war than they are to us today.

Do we have teenyboppers any more? I get the impression that young girls are more likely to attend concerts with their families now, and when they do they go to see young women who speak to their aspirations rather than young men or teenage boys who make them think of sex. I guess that is progress.

1 comment:

Mark Cox said...


You fail to mention that the White City Stadium was used extensively for speedway racing during the 70's, Indeed White City Rebels won the British League on one occasion.

You would need a good memory sadly to recall all the speedway tracks that have closed since 1966!!