McGuinness met U2 at a Dublin gig in 1978 – they were supporting a band his sister managed. “They were doing quite badly what they now do well,” he says. “Edge was playing notes rather than chords – this was punk and it was almost frowned upon to be playing individual melodies. Bono was very keen to make eye contact, and physical contact sometimes, with the audience. He was very hungry for making them look at him. He was then and is now an exhibitionist, as all great performers ought to be. It was just quite exceptional.”
McGuinness, who was managing a now forgotten folk rock band named Spud, signed them up in the pub next door, over pints the band members were too young to be drinking, and laid down some business rules. “I recommended very strongly that they split everything because I’d read about other bands where there were officers and men – the Rolling Stones being a classic example, and the Beatles – where the songwriting members of the group earned significantly more than the others.”
From their first deal, all four were credited as writers. “It has stood them in very good stead because it backs up the democracy of a decision if everyone’s making the same amount of money,” McGuinness says.
Unusually, McGuinness negotiated an equal share for himself. Do you still get 20 per cent, I ask? Apparently not. “That was, in fact, reviewed later,” he says. “I had to build the management company, and they had to build the production organisation that makes the records and does the tours. If our overheads were going to be intertwined, that would be to ignore the reality. There should always be a division between client and manager.”
Those rights McGuinness did not secure for the band at the start, he doggedly clawed back as deals came up for renewal, using the band’s strengthened negotiating position.
“It was partly a moral thing,” he says, sounding for the first time a little like Bono. “You’d see a writer complain helplessly when his work was used in an inappropriate way, and we were determined that would never happen to us.”