Rob Partridge: 'Unsung Hero'

1 Dec 2008
Paul McGuinness, Bono and others have paid tribute to the late Rob Partridge. Rob was a hugely respected figure in the UK music industry, and played a pivotal role in the early days of U2. The first person in the British music industry, recalled Bono, 'to sing our praises.'

Paul McGuinness: "I first met Rob Partridge in Dublin about 1976 with Bill Graham of Hot Press magazine a bit before I met U2. I recognised his name from his Melody Maker days though when I met him he had already started working for Island Records running their legendarily cool press department. He was our first supporter at Island when U2 were looking for a record deal, Neil Storey, his lieutenant in the Press Office, and Nick (previously "Bill" or "Captain"...) Stewart and Annie Roseberry in A&R joined in with them later and we got signed. The Press Office was the heart of the U2 campaign; Rob used to let me use his phone. What a nice, clever, decent man. We will miss him greatly. My heart goes out to Tina."

Bono: "Rob Partridge was the first person in the British Music Industry to sing our praises. He not only had an eye for talent, he was a nurturer... a person who would educate you about the kind of obstacles you were going to meet."

Neil McCormick, longtime friend of the band, now music critic at the
Daily Telegraph in the UK, called Rob 'an unsung hero': "As head of press at Island back in the seventies, he was the earliest music business champion of U2, and helped persuade Head of A&R Nick Stewart that he should sign them when no one else in Britain thought them worth taking a chance on. His support was all about fandom, enthusiasm, instinct and generosity....

'It is really impossible to understate his importance in the U2 story. Mostly, as fans (and critics), we focus on the music and musicians who make it, and the impact they have on our lives. Yet without Rob it is likely that U2 might have fallen at the first hurdle, like so many other lost talents, and never even been signed to an international record deal at all. And it doesn't stop there, because Rob became a vital ally of the band and manager Paul McGuinness in those early years, helping guide them through choppy waters, and supporting them within the record company when others were ready to drop them for poor sales..."

Sean O'Hagan, another friend of the band, paid personal tribute in The Guardian: 'My first connection with Rob was when he took me to Dublin to see U2 play their big homecomng gigs at Croke Park in 1987 just as the global success of The Joshua Tree album pitched them into the ether. He was a generous host, self-effacing and quite shy until you got to know him. Then, the anecdotes came, great stories like one about how Bob Marley was summoned to meet Prince Charles, and replied that Charlie could come and see him if he wanted to. Rob had an in-depth knowledge of reggae and soul. He was a fan, an expert and an enthusiast, and not even his lone years as a press officer dealing with truculent journalists and neurotic performers, dented that enthusiasm....'


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