TV Reality: Early U2 TV Appearances
Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2022-01-17)
Here at U2Songs we continue to look back at U2’s history and try to sort through aspects that interest us. This time around we’re taking a look at U2’s earliest appearances on TV, those at home on the RTÉ network in 1978, 1979 and January 1980. We’ve seen a lot of information over the years as to when U2’s appearances were on television, and have questioned some of the information. We have gone back to original press reports, advertisements of show airings, and ticket sale information where available for information about these dates and shows.
U2’s first television appearance was as a four piece, while they were still using the name The Hype. The debut performance on television aired on March 2, 1978, just a few weeks before the band would head to Limerick for the talent contest where they would change their name to U2.
Youngline was a show oriented towards teenagers. It would highlight young people who were making innovations in the world, and would often feature young musicians as well. Youngline ran on RTÉ from the mid-1970s until May 1984. The show aired on Thursday evenings in 1978.
U2 talked their way onto the show, convincing a producer for the show to come check out their act at a rehearsal session. Once he was there the band played “Glad to See You Go” by the Ramones and asked if they had written it, Bono claimed they had.
Larry Mullen in U2 by U2 spoke about the performance, “It was like being brought into the cockpit of a plane, having never been in a TV studio before, it was much smaller than I thought it would be. It was white, with lights hanging from the ceiling. There was no audience…We couldn’t believe we were going to be on TV.”
Dik Evans was still part of the band at this point, but had been widely unavailable for a number of shows for some time, busy with his studies in engineering. He was unable to take part in this performance, and it was only a few weeks later Dik would leave the band officially.
U2 performed an original song on the show, “Street Missions”.
There has been some confusion on when this appearance took place, due to a second airing of the performance on June 1, 1978. That airing was part of a retrospective on the show, and the announcers on the June 1 broadcast mention that the band have changed their name since the performance took place. RTÉ have confirmed the March 2 air date of the initial show, as well as the June 1 rebroadcast date.
U2 was introduced on the program by one of the hosts, Conor McAnally.
1978-11-13 & 27 Our Times
U2’s next known television appearance was as U2, appearing on the show Our Times on RTÉ. The show aired on November 13, 1978, and U2 appeared again on November 27, 1978. The date the performance was filmed is unknown but it is likely that U2’s appearance was filmed in the week ahead of the first showing.
On the November 13 broadcast U2 appeared on the show with Paul Brady and The Undertones. On the November 27 broadcast U2 appeared with Tojam, Elton John and Rezillo and the Pirates. To our knowledge it was the same U2 performance both times.
Our Times was another program aimed toward young people in Ireland. It regularly featured music performances, and in a twist from other shows, the presenters themselves on the show were teens. The hosts included Deirdre O’Donoghue, Bernadette Bourke, Gerard Stafford, John Cantillon, Derek Nally, Jakki Moore, and Dave Heffernan. The show had debuted on RTÉ in September 1977, and was recorded at the RTÉ Television Centre in Studio 2. Ian Wilson was working on the show in 1978 had recommended to his producer on the show that he should get U2 in to record a piece. Wilson would later work as a radio producer on RTÉ Radio 2, including work on the “Dave Fanning Show”.
U2’s performance on Our Times saw U2 performing an original song, “The Fool” live in studio. Some sources have confused the date of this performance with U2’s first performance on the RTÉ in March 1978. That performance, however, was for the show mentioned above, Youngline.
1979-09-06 Aspects of Rock
U2’s next known television appearance was on Aspects of Rock in September 1979.
The show as a six part series on RTÉ and U2 appeared on the fifth episode of the show. Aspects of Rock was a half hour program, which looked at current popular music, through documentary style footage mixed with live performances. The script for the show was written by Dave Fanning, and it was presented by the host, Dave Heffernan (who had worked on Our Times as well.) The producer of the show was Bill Keating. The show started airing on Thursday nights in August 1979 at 10:25pm or 11:10pm depending on local programming.
The full schedule for the show was as follows:
- 1979-08-09: Rock Music: Rory Gallagher
- 1979-08-16: Heavy Metal Music: Status Quo, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath
- 1979-08-23: Reggae Music: Bob Marley and the Wailers, Matumbi
- 1979-08-30: New Wave Music: The Sex Pistols, Paul Cook and Steve Jones, The Ramones, Ian Dury, Oevo, Magazine
- 1979-09-06: Irish Music: Roach Band, U2, Southpaw, Brush Shiels, Bitches Crystal, DC Nein
- 1979-09-13: Rock Music: Dire Straits
U2 and all of the other performers had appeared on Our Times and the show framed the episode as a look at what those acts were up to after their Our Times performance.
U2’s performance on Aspects of Rock was an original song, “Life on a Distant Planet”.
1979-12-06 Cork Opera House Gigs
The Cork Opera House Gigs was an RTÉ television series, made up of eight episodes, which aired between November 8 and December 25, 1979. Each episode featured one artist, recorded for television at the Cork Opera House in October 1979.
The full line up of aired shows was as follows:
November 8: Horslips
November 15: Stockton’s Wing
November 22: The Phantom Opera
November 29: Freddy White
December 6: U2
December 13: Jimmy Crowley and Stoker’s Lodge
December 20: The Bogey Boys
December 25: Paul Brady
All of the episodes aired first on Thursday night, and would repeat on the Friday evening, except the final show which aired two days early on Christmas Day, and then again on the regular Thursday and Friday night slots.
The shows were filmed over three nights, in front of a paid audience. Tickets to attend were 1.50 Irish Pounds, and were sold in mid-October. The three shows happened on Monday October 22, Tuesday October 23 and Wednesday October 24. The published schedule for the shows featured The Bogey Boys, U2 and Freddie White performing on Monday October 22. Horslips and Phantom Orchestra performed on October 23, and Paul Brady, Jimmy Crowley and Stokers Lodge, and Stockton’s Wing performed on October 24.
U2’s performance was made up of nine songs, eight original songs, and then they returned for an encore to perform The Ramones’ “Glad to See You Go”. All of the songs were aired, and there are audio recordings of the broadcast which have circulated as bootlegs over the years. We haven’t seen a recording of the television program just audio, but it did air.
I know many will ask about the date of October 5, which has long been the suggested date of the performance. Early bootleg recordings circulated with this date, and it became the accepted date of the performance. It has even been published in U2 Live and on U2.Com over the years. Bootleg posters for the show exist as well, sold for crazy amounts, considering they are faked. Perhaps one of the most interesting appearances of this date? One of these bootleg posters has been turned into a T-Shirt sold at U2.Com and other retailers, which includes the incorrect date at the bottom of the T-shirt.
1980-01-05 The Late Late Show
The final show we will highlight for now is U2’s first appearance on The Late Late Show. Unlike today where the show airs on Friday nights, for the 1979 – 1980 season the show was aired on Saturday nights on RTÉ. The show’s air date of January 5, 1980 is confirmed by the RTÉ Archive of shows, and this show was episode 94D00125. (January 5, 1980 is a Saturday night.)
The episode featured a discussion of young people in Ireland, with a pannel of guests. Gay Byrne, the host of the show, asks one of these panel members, John McKenna to introduce U2. McKenna calls U2 “the band of the future”. U2 play “Stories for Boys”, a song they had recently released on the EP “Three” in late 1979, which they would re-record with Steve Lillywhite in 1980 for their album Boy.
For much of its early life The Late Late Show was filmed at RTÉ Television Centre’s Studio 1 at Montrose in Donnybrook, Dublin 4. This episode was no exception.