A day-by-day history of U2, now in its second edition.

When U2 Met Joe O’Herlihy

By on September 23, 2010 in Book Samples with 3 Comments

joe-oYou may have seen the reports from tonight’s concert in Brussels that the band celebrated their longtime sound engineer, Joe O’Herlihy. Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the day U2 met O’Herlihy, an amazingly long tenure that reflects the deep loyalty that exists in the U2 organization.

What’s not as well-known, though, is that O’Herlihy didn’t exactly “join” U2 32 years ago today. He worked for them occasionally for a couple years, but it wasn’t until Spring, 1980, when they could finally afford him permanently.

Here are the two diary entries from U2 – A Diary that talk about how O’Herlihy got involved with U2.

September 23, 1978
- Arcadia Ballroom, Cork, opening for D.C. Nien. U2 are one of a handful of bands on the bill. They meet Cork native Joe O’Herlihy, who owns a local sound-hire company, at this show. Though U2 is only a supporting act, they’re impressed by the attention O’Herlihy gives them and his efforts to make them sound good – a rare thing for supporting acts. O’Herlihy, though, is somewhat less impressed with U2.

[SIDEBAR]

Joe O’Herlihy meets U2 for the first time

“They barely knew how to turn on their own gear they were so inexperienced but we looked after them pretty well and they got a good sound. Things like that are noticed in this business….”

O’Herlihy works with U2 on a for-hire basis on and off over the next two years, sometimes renting gear for their use, and sometimes being their sound man. He doesn’t join the tour crew on a full-time basis until spring, 1980.

May 22, 1980
- Hope & Anchor, Islington, with Fashion. U2 opens its first tour since signing the Island Records contract in support of the ’11 O’Clock Tick Tock’ single. The band ask Joe O’Herlihy to be their sound engineer, but settle for a local sound crew when O’Herlihy passes.

[SIDEBAR]

Joe O’Herlihy recalls how he finally joined U2′s tour crew

“I gave them a price for doing the tour and they wouldn’t pay me the money. We had a fierce argument and I told them to f**k off – that was it. They basically had three and six to spend – I had a sound system worth thirteen and six and they wouldn’t pay! In the course of the band doing the tour, they went through approximately five different engineers in the space of a ten-day tour, so I was called up to go and work somebody else’s equipment. I went.”

O’Herlihy and McGuinness talk more about a permanent position handling U2′s sound. Confidently, McGuinness tells O’Herlihy “this thing’s going to go big”, and O’Herlihy eventually agrees to come along for the ride.

Around this time, U2 does an interview with French journalist Michka Assayas for Le Monde de la musique magazine.

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  1. Donal Murphy says:

    Nice article.
    I met Joe once in Cork, I had an hour long conversation with him. He’s really passionate about U2. It was around 2003 I think when I met him. He really sung the praises of the indoor U.S. gigs U2 do,(Elevation tour 2001) and it was an extra reason to go over there myself for some of the 2005 Vertigo gigs. Looking back, the most recent gigs U2 had done at the time included those MSG New York gigs which are among the best gigs U2 have ever done.

    It was because of Joe and other Cork members of the U2 crew that encouraged the band do a surprise free gig in Cork on August 25th 1985
    http://www.u2tours.com/detail.src?ID=19850825

    He describes how the gig came about in this @u2.com article, and discusses the early years.

    Joe has worked with many other bands also, including R.E.M., I saw him at the sound desk for those fanclub working rehersal gigs they did at the Olympia Dublin in mid 2007. yet another testement to Joe’s undeniable expert knowledge, was when he was an audio consultant on the accoustics for the new Wembley Stadium London during the period it was being constructed.
    http://www.vanguardiaconsulting.co.uk/joe.php

    Rock on Joe !

  2. madeline herlihy says:

    I’m the very proud cousin of Joe and can safely say he deserves every bit of the recognition you’ve given him! He’s also a great human being. Rock on Joe!

  3. DAVID WAYNE BAKER says:

    I was on the first US and Europe portions of the Joshua Tree World Tour with what we all called the Joe Squared Team consisting of, of course Joe – O and also Clair Bros’ Joe R. The fondest memories I have of Joe O was when we had surf n turf to celebrate his Birthday in 1987, Joe took a big bite out of the body of the Lobster, the part you normally do not eat, and green slime spurted all over his (then) dark colored beard. It was pretty disgusting, but that was our sound man, always good for some great fun and maintained a fun and yet professional manner throughout the tour. Only once did he nearly draw blood from my ears when he missed my being downstage at the start of a sound subfrequency system check. He was so apologetic but I couldn’t hear anything he was saying after that! LOL! Drop me a line sometime gang – this is doctor Dave your initial spotlight douser controls tech from the Nocturne crew! Still doing the music thing, except now I am on stage instead of backstage! Willie, nice work always brother!

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