There’s a wire service story running today about the death of Rob Partridge. It’s short, and I don’t think that URL will work forever, so I’m going to reprint it below in its entirety:
Man who signed U2 dies from cancer
The music PR who got U2 their first record deal has died after a two-year battle with cancer.
Rob Partridge signed the band to Island Records in 1980 when they were unknowns struggling for recognition. He remained the band’s publicist for many years and a friend of frontman Bono.
As Head of Press and later Media Director for the label, he dealt with artists like Bob Marley, Grace Jones, Tom Waits and Marianne Faithfull.
I don’t think that story really does justice to how important Rob Partridge was in U2’s development.
When I was researching U2 – A Diary, I spent a lot of time digging into the band’s early years — the late 1970s and early 1980s. That’s one of those gray periods with a lot of uncertainty about what exactly happened, when things happened, and how they happened. I managed to find some new articles and made some contacts with people that helped a lot.
At almost every turn, Rob Partridge’s name came up.
The short obit above talks about how he got U2 signed to Island Records, and that’s true. You may remember U2’s late 1979 tour of London clubs. It was pretty much their first and last chance to get a record deal from one of the major UK-based labels. This is the two-week tour that I describe on ppg. 25-26 of the book. It’s when they were called “Capital U2” at one concert, “V2” at another, and “The U2’s” at another. Edge cut up his hand two days before the first show. Only nine people showed up for one club date. And whenever record label execs announced that they were coming to a show, U2 were terrible. When it was just an audience of fans, they supposedly played terrific shows.
Here’s the diary entry for the final gig of that London tour:
– Windsor Castle, London. U2 wraps up its brief, inconsistent tour. Luck hasn’t been on their side: U2 thinks they’ve played their worst shows with record executives in the crowd, and great shows when almost no one is watching. The band is unaware that Rob Partridge of Island Records caught one of the good shows, and is spreading the word to others at the label.
Somewhere on that tour, Rob Partridge showed up unannounced at a gig and caught U2 at its best, while the other (announced) record execs caught U2 at its worst. It’s not at all a stretch to say that U2 wouldn’t be around today if not for Rob Partridge seeing one of those good shows. No other label was beating down U2’s door, and they were ready to throw in the towel after the early 1980 tour of Ireland — the one that ended with Island signing U2 to a major contract.
I knew Rob would have some amazing stories to tell about those days, so I tracked him down in July, 2007, and sent him an email asking for an interview. He wrote back, told me he was in treatment for cancer, and asked if I could check back with him in a couple months. I said I would and offered to say some prayers for his health. I waited until November of last year to try him again, but never got a reply. It’s one of my few regrets about researching the book that we never connected, but he obviously had far more important things to focus on.
Rest in peace, Rob Partridge … one of the most important people in the U2 story.