herald

Thursday 20 September 2018

U2's Paul a giant in the world of music

CHEERS: Paul McGuinness is quitting
CHEERS: Paul McGuinness is quitting

IN a week when popular culture commentators worked themselves into a lather about student unions across the UK banning the song Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke (nope, me neither) and pondering the wisdom of Kate Moss posing on all-fours in a bunny costume, there was one event which stood head and shoulders above the rest. Paul McGuinness stepping aside as the manager of U2.

Looking back at that photograph of McGuinness and U2 in the Granary on the night they teamed up back in 1978 it seems like a world away and, in many ways, it was. The band look implausibly young – how the hell they even got served is beyond me – while McGuinness could have passed for one of their parents.

As things turned out McGuinness was leading them through some of the best business decisions ever made in the history of rock 'n' roll. In an industry crawling with Bengals and bandits of the lowest order the former manager of folk-rock outfit Spud kept focus through some hairy early moments.

FRUSTRATION

The frustration the band must have felt at missing out on a record deal for the best part of two years would have forced many a man's hand – but McGuinness stuck with it until they eventually persuaded Island that they were there for the long haul.

His decisions to finance the iconic film of the band performing at Red Rocks, a deferring of royalties due in favour of stock options (paying off handsomely when Island were bought out by Polygram) and a demand for extra funding with the express intention of cracking America would turn out to be inspired.

Even an avowed U2 agnostic like myself would be hard-pressed to recall a time when he was anything other than a gentleman and a thorough professional.

I could relate a story involving an airport lounge one morning in 1995 but it involves the slurping of oysters and pints of Guinness. Believe me, you don't want the picture of Paul McGuinness and myself necking shellfish and swilling porter in your head for the weekend. Enjoy the move upstairs, Paul.

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