Show Me The Way, Johnny B. Goode, Nights In White Satin, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Suffragette City. (incomplete setlist)
This is Feedback’s first paid performance and it was said to have lasted 40 minutes (solely composed of cover songs). Appearing later in the show are Rat Salad and the Arthur Phybbes Band. Feedback performs with two female backing singers, Stella McCormick and Orla Dunne (who also plays the flute during the show).
Hot Press, September 4, 2001
by Colm O’Hare
A Peter Frampton cover version, a flautist and female backing vocalists were all elements of Feedback’s first ever live concert performance, yet this was the outfit that would eventually become U2. Colm O’Hare recalls the event.
Almost a quarter of a century ago — April 11, 1977 (Easter Monday) to be precise — at approximately 8:30 p.m., the fledgling U2 (then trading as Feedback) took to the stage at St. Fintan’s High School, Sutton, on the north side of Dublin. They were third on the bill at a “rock concert,” organised by myself and a couple of schoolmates. The headliners on the night were a popular but long-forgotten Dublin pub rock band, the Arthur Phybbes Band with support from Howth hard rock act, Rat Salad.
It was U2’s first “real” performance before a paying crowd. Over the years, accounts of their debut have appeared in various biographies — some of which had them headlining, others which had them tagged (wrongly) as the Hype. The truth was that they were added to the bill at the last minute. Prior to the gig we had sold an impressive 400 tickets at 50p each but we needed a couple of hundred more punters to cover out costs. A schoolmate (Art O’Leary), who had defected to Mount Temple from St. Fintan’s a year earlier, mentioned this band, Feedback, who were interested in playing the gig. What’s more, he said, they had a following and would guarantee to bring a hundred fans along with them.
Not wanting to take any chances I requested to meet up with the band before consenting to their appearance. I can clearly remember the sight of an afro-headed, Afghan-coated Adam Clayton striding across the schoolyard on the Thursday before the gig. He presented me with a foolscap setlist that included a bewildering array of styles and genres. It included versions of the Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” and Peter Frampton’s “Show Me The Way” — songs united only by their collective popularity at the (legendary) Grove Saturday night disco at nearby St. Paul’s School in Killester. The only vaguely hopeful number on the list was Bowie’s “Suffragette City.” I agreed to have them on the bill — but with no guarantee of payment.
On the day, Feedback were the first band to arrive, along with about a dozen hangers on (all wanting to get in for free!). The late arrival of the Arthur Phybbes Band and their PA ensured only a cursory soundcheck for the support acts.
As show time drew closer, a nervous Larry Mullen approached me and suggested that it might be better if Feedback went on second rather than opening the proceedings. They would, he reasoned, provide a contrast between the two heavier acts. (U2 as easy listening anyone?) Rat Salad, however, would have none of it and insisted that Feedback open the show. They went on in almost total darkness and played a shambolic 40-minute set before a couple of hundred followeres who gathered around the stage.
Jack Dublin, then bass player with Rat Salad and later to join In Tua Nua (the first act to appear on U2’s Mother label) remembers the event. “There was a bit of a row between ourselves and Feedback over ‘Johnny B. Goode,’ ” he recalls. “We had planned to do it in our set but we heard them rehearsing it during soundcheck and we had discussions about who would do it. We felt a bit sorry for them and promised we wouldn’t do it. But we did it anyway!”
To say that Feedback were unrecognisable from the U2 of today would be an understatement of monumental proportions. The truth is, they were unrecognisable from the Hype of a few months later. To put it another way, if the Hype were the Silver Beatles, then Feedback were the Quarrymen. In that respect it seems pointless to make any meaningful comparisons with the band we’ve come to know and love.
For one, they had two female backing singers in their ranks. One was Stella McCormick, a sister of former Hot Press journalist Neil McCormick and a school friend of U2. The other, Orla Dunne, also a school friend, played the flute!
“We were all good friends,” Dunne remembers, astonished to be reminded of her part in the event twenty-four years later. “Before Feedback we had been part of a singing group in school — the Temple Singers. We had a wonderful music teacher, Albert Bradshaw in Mount Temple and he imbued us with real enthusiasm for singing. We were singing incredibly sophisticated stuff, a lot of romantic, renaissance music. We performed in big houses around the country. I’ve always felt that it would’ve influenced Paul’s (Bono) operatic style which he developed later on with U2.”
She recalls the St. Fintan’s gig as a big step for Feedback, who’d performed only a couple of times in Mount Temple for a captive audience.
“It was definitely the first proper gig we’d done and we were all pretty nervous,” she recalls. “We practised in Adam’s house out in Malahide the week before the gig. But it was all rather dull as far as I was concerned. I’d been classically trained and I thought I’d go deaf with all the noise from the guitars and amplifiers! The only other thing I remember is breaking up with my boyfriend that night after our performance. I think he got jealous when he saw me on stage.”
Shortly after their inauspicious debut, Feedback became the Hype and dispensed with the backing singers for good. However, a few years later Dunne was offered another opportunity to perform with her old schoolmates. “In the early ’80s I met Adam in Grafton Street. I hardly recognised him with his peroxide hair! He asked me would I play something with the band on their record but I turned down the opportunity.”
In any event the St. Fintan’s gig was a resounding success. All the bands were paid and we made a small profit, which we’d planned to put towards staging more concerts. But by then punk had reared its ugly head. A tragic death had taken place at a punk gig in UCD and rock concerts were banned in St. Fintan’s school hall. But not before we staged our own “punk” gig with headliners Bile, Puke and Mucus!
Where are they now?!
© Hot Press, 2001