You 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.
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.
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.