The Sun joins X Factor finalists
for a whistlestop UK tour
The lads were mobbed by hordes of fans in every city they visited on a flying tour of Britain this week to launch their debut single, What Makes You Beautiful.
And in Glasgow the five X Factor finalists had a lucky escape as they left a store signing.
I was with One Direction as their Mercedes van pulled away from the HMV shop and police struggled to hold back the girls.
As the people carrier stopped at traffic lights on a hill, the fans broke through barriers and sprinted between cars towards it.
It looked like a scene from a zombie movie.
The band sat open-mouthed as girls banged on the blacked-out windows and held up notes for their favourite members.
In the nick of time, seasoned tour manager Paul leapt out and held back the teenagers as the lights changed and we sped off.
It was just one crazy incident in a day of high emotion as the band faced fan-mania not seen since Take That’s heyday in the Nineties.
One Direction’s debut track is guaranteed to be No1 this Sunday and industry insiders are already predicting the boyband will have the top album spot at Christmas.
The lads’ book, Forever Young, charting their time in X Factor, became a chart-topping bestseller after its release in February this year, paving the way for a follow-up Dare To Dream, out today.
Yet the five — Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Niall Horan, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson — are stunned by the furore surrounding them.
Niall, from Westmeath in Ireland, tells me: „I get worried for the fans in case someone gets crushed. I’ve seen barriers just about to collapse with two or three hundred girls behind each section.„
Harry, at 17 the youngest, says: „We never expect to see those kind of scenes or to hear the screams.
„About 99 per cent of the fans we’ve seen today are girls. I don’t know why. Possibly it’s because they fancy us but I’d hope it’s for the music too.”
There’s no doubt the girls are buying their music.
Forty-eight hours after its release, What Makes You Beautiful had already shifted 82,000 copies — rising to 100,000 by the third day.
An undeniably catchy slice of pop crafted by writers behind hits for Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and Pink, it is on course to become the fastest-selling single of 2011.
The boys were already discussing their chart position when I met them at a helipad in London at 6am to board their luxury chopper. Zayn 18, the most laid-back bandmember, says he got a message from a fan 13 minutes after the midnight release telling him their single was No1 in the iTunes chart.
The boys are surprisingly enthusiastic for such an early start, gamely fooling around for The Sun’s snapper and Daybreak TV cameras.
Even during turbulence they fool around — until being told by their tour manager to sit down and put their seat belts on.
Two hours later we’re at Glasgow’s HMV, where people at the front of the queue had been waiting for 26 HOURS. Now there are 400 fans inside and at least the same number outside, unable to get into the building.
Police and Sony’s security team have to hold back barriers as they surge towards the band’s car.
Stood with three of her friends Danielle Cameron, 16, said: „Our parents don’t know we spent the night outside the shop.
„One Direction are amazing. Niall is my favourite — he’s so beautiful. I’ve brought him a love letter.„
Ninety minutes later, after signing CDs, hugging the young girls and posing with fans for photos they are done in Scotland.
Zayn walks away looking shellshocked.
„I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it,” he says. „It’s pretty wild. They give us chocolate and cards and notes with Twitter names and phone numbers.„
Back in the helicopter, after escaping the fans on the High Street, Liam grabs 40 winks.
On the face of it the Wolverhampton lad, 18, is the most sensible member of the band. He’s already being called „the leader” by the others because he tells them when to stop messing around.
„My face is tired from smiling so much,” he says. „I need to rest it while we are in the helicopter.„
It’s not a bad outcome for five lads who almost didn’t make it through the X Factor heats last year — one of whom had already been rejected once before.
In 2008 Liam reached the judges’ houses stage but Simon Cowell felt he wasn’t ready and asked him to return in a couple of years.
Good job he did.
Last year, he and the other lads auditioned as solo singers before guest judge Nicole Scherzinger, TV producers and Sony execs including Cowell decided to put them into a group.
They eventually finished third yet are now likely to outsell winner Matt Cardle and runner-up Rebecca Ferguson.
Harry reveals: „Simon said to us, ‘Go out and be the band that you want to be and enjoy it’. That suited us perfectly.„
Louis adds: „And he hasn’t been too strict. In fact we tell him to behave.„
Their debut album, featuring songs produced by some of the world’s biggest (and most expensive) writers and producers, is due out at the end of November.
While JLS and Cowell’s own Westlife have had huge success, One Direction have used social networking sites to build a fansbase before ever releasing a song.
On Twitter alone they have two million followers between them.
What’s most remarkable, considering they have known each other for not much more than a year, is that they are great mates.
In Manchester — relatively close to the homes of Harry (Holmes Chapel, Cheshire), Louis (Doncaster) and Zayn (Bradford) — the fans are even more frenzied.
In the street they sing What Makes You Beautiful and Happy Birthday for Niall — who turned 18 on Tuesday. As we step into HMV the screams are deafening. Most of the queue have homemade T-shirts and messages like „Marry me Harry” written on their cheeks.
One girl sobs and Liam gives her a hug, asking, „Are you alright?”
She shrieks, „My life is complete.„
After getting their CDs signed two more girls get a hug — one screams „Harry hugged me” the other hollers „Zayn called me babe„.
Amy Morgan, 15, can barely speak. Her mascara runs down her face and she’s shaking.
„They just make me happy when I’m sad,” she says between sobs. „I can’t put it into words. Meeting them has made my year. Zayn is my favourite — he’s gorgeous.„
Louis, the oldest member at 20 and the one with a Robbie Williams-like glint in his eye, surveys the scene and says: „This is what it’s about — it’s phenomenal.„
Back on the helicopter to their last stop, London’s Oxford Street, they wind each other up like they are characters in The Inbetweeners.
After making a rude joke about Harry’s mum, Louis insists: „We look out for each other.„
Niall continues: „We are only young kids and we’re getting to go up in a helicopter around the country to launch our single. What young guys get to do this?„
Harry chips in: „It’s better than coursework ain’t it?„
It certainly is.