- 27 May 15
The death of the former Led Zeppelin tour manager has rocked the music world. "He was a legend," said Bono...
U2 tour manager, Dennis Sheehan has died. The tragic news came through from Los Angeles, where the band are currently performing a run of five shows.
Dennis, who was in his late sixties, had worked for the band for over 30 years. He was widely regarded as one of the best tour managers in rock'n'roll - if not indeed the very best.
"We've lost a family member," U2 frontman Bono [pictured] said, in a statement. "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."
Arthur Fogel, head of the band's touring management company, confirmed the news. "With profound sadness we confirm that Dennis Sheehan has passed away overnight," he said. "Our heartfelt sympathy is with his wonderful family." And he called Sheehan "a dear friend to us all."
Dennis worked with many of the most iconic names in rock'n'roll, including Rory Gallagher, Led Zeppelin, Iggy Pop and Patti Smith.
The loss of their tour manager will be felt profoundly by U2. It has been a very rough six months for the band, beginning with the Bono's cycling accident in Central Park, which saw the singer sustain multiple fractures. More recently, in the week their Innocence & Experience tour was about to kick off, the sad news came through that Larry Mullen's father had died. Now, they have to deal with the loss of one of the most important members of the U2 family.
Dennis spoke about his introduction to U2 in an interview conducted by Hot Press for North Side Story: U2 in Dublin 19878 - 1983.
"A friend of mine, Robbie McGrath, who worked with The Boomtown Rats, said that he had heard that U2 were looking for a tour manager," he recalled. "He thought they'd be the ideal band for me to work with. I met Paul McGuinness in London at the Portobello Hotel. I wasn't the typical tour manager: I dressed in grey slacks or pants, a blue blazer, shirt and a tie, my hair fairly neatly cut. I turned up and knocked on the door of Paul's room and he opened it and looked at me and said 'are you a tour manager?' That were his first words and I looked at him and I said 'yes why?'. He said 'well you don't look like one'."
Apart from his impeccable dress sense, Dennis was also renowned for his sense of humour. He had seen it all in his role as tour manager with Led Zeppelin – and so U2 represented an oasis of sanity for him.
"They had a tremendous amount of respect," he said of the band, "and I think they also loved hearing the stories I told them about my previous life working with Led Zeppelin."
There were still hair-raising escapades with the Dublin band and Dennis had to rescue Bono on a number of occasions.
"We were doing the OS festival, outside L.A.," he remembered. "There were 300,000 people there: it was the biggest thing we had ever done and the stage was enormous. And it was covered. Since there wasn't a PA stand to crawl up, he decided to crawl up the side of the stage – and over the top. And I had to climb up after him to give him a mic. I was absolutely terrified. Bono had only just got married and this thing was 60 or 70 foot high and those structures weren't meant to take a lot of weight. I had a go at him afterwards saying 'you're absolutely stupid, you could have fallen off that, you could have been in a wheelchair for the rest of your life, I mean what would your wife think?'"
Throughout his career with U2, it was clear that he loved working with them – and that he loved their music. He was always hugely positive in his praise of them.
"Some bands say 'we want to get to the top'. With U2, there isn't a top," he explained. "…they have an amazing work ethic, on and off the road. If we have a couple of days off between shows they're not called 'off days' they're called 'no show' days – because they are still doing things: rehearsals, writing, interviews and Bono always has his humanitarian issues to deal with at the same time."
Ultimately, he was proud of the work he did with the band and very aware of the privileges involved.
"The people who tour with U2, we're very lucky and we know it," he said. "There might be the odd exception, but pretty much everyone agrees that it's a fabulous environment where group members go and talk to crew members, they sit with them, have meals with them and they make everyone a part of what's going on. They recognise that if it wasn't for all of us, they wouldn't be doing what they do. And that's been their attitude, right from the start."
No doubt the same thought is going through the minds of the four members of the band as they struggle to come to grips with the loss of one of their most important allies.
"Our sympathy goes out to Dennis' family," Hot Press editor Niall Stokes said. "He was an extraordinarily good and loving man and they will miss him desperately. He will also be hugely missed by the greater U2 family – because when you are on the road with a band, that's the kind of relationship that exists. It is all about family at every level. His loss is an enormous one and will leave a void in the lives of everyone who knew him.
"When you are preparing a tour on the scale at which U2 operate, you want the best eleven players on the pitch. Well, Dennis' name would always have been the first one on the team sheet. It is a terribly sad moment. May he rest in peace."