Ed. note: this feature was originally published on May 28, 2015
Kept the band’s road treks running smoothly for more than three decades.
BY FRED MILLS
In the rock world we rarely hear news about the passing of someone whose occupation was one of the behind-the-scenes roles; that’s reserved for the artists and the bandmembers, with only the occasional exception of a larger-than-life character, like Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant, or Elvis Presley’s mentor and manager Col. Parker. Unless you’re actually part of a band’s deep-in-the-loop fans you’d be hard pressed to even name one of the roadies, or guitar techs, or sound and light men.
But then, there’s never been a band quite like U2, and fans have long thought of the U2 extended family as a community of near-equals. That was certainly the case during the ‘80s when, as publisher and editor of U2 fanzine U2/USA, I came to know many of those behind-the-scenes names, understanding that for a big-time rock ‘n’ roll organization to run smoothly, those roadies, techs and sound/light men were nearly as integral to the show as the four musicians onstage. So while I’ve long since moved on and nowadays consider myself to be more of a passive fan (but a permanent fan just the same, make no mistake), it was a shock to learn today that U2’s longtime tour manager, Dennis Sheehan, passed away sometime late Tuesday/early Wednesday reportedly from cardiac arrest. The New York Daily News reports that Sheehan was found unconscious in his hotel room in Los Angeles (where U2 had been playing a five-night stand) and paramedics were unable to revive him.
From a statement posted at U2.com:
“We’ve lost a family member, we’re still taking it in. He wasn’t just a legend in the music business, he was a legend in our band. He is irreplaceable.” Bono
– “With profound sadness we confirm that Dennis Sheehan, U2’s longstanding tour manager and dear friend to us all, has passed away overnight. Our heartfelt sympathy is with his wonderful family.” Arthur Fogel, CEO Global Touring, Chairman Global Music Live Nation Global Touring
Sheehan had been with the band since 1982, and as Rolling Stone reports, he’d previously worked with Led Zeppelin on their ’75 and ’77 tours, additionally touring with Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Lou Reed and Siouxsie and the Banshees. That’s a life well-lived by any estimation, and the fact that he was U2’s go-to guy for more than three decades speaks volumes about his talents, and about his character and charisma.
This was driven home when, during the 1985 tour, Sheehan granted our little zine an exclusive interview. Conducted by my U2/USA co-editors Lisa Watine and Deb Padova, the interview ran several hours yet he never showed an ounce of boredom or restlessness, patiently answering all our questions with grace, good humor and humility. We subsequently ran the interview as a two-parter appearing in issues 5 and 6, and the response from fans and from the band itself was uniformly positive. Sheehan was clearly a special guy even back then, and I’d like to extend deepest condolences to U2 and to Sheehan’s family on behalf of us at Blurt. I’m sure that there are many, many people out there who could assume Sheehan’s duties with expertise, but there’s no question that as a person and an intimate of the band, he’s irreplaceable.
Below, then, please see our tribute to Sheehan in the form of the original 1985 interview. In the interest of timeliness I’ve scanned the actual nine pages (click on ‘em to enlarge ‘em), although I hope to find time asap to assemble all the text and post it here—no small task to do all that typing, considering that it was first done way back in the pre-word processing era. Okay, without further ado, I’ll turn the forum over to Lisa, Deb and the good Mr. Sheehan….
(photo credits: Sheehan via U2.com, Bono and Sheehan via Instagram, U2/USA cover shots by Deb Padova)